The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History

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Updated:  08 January 2011 
In March 1812 a twenty-five acre site at Oreston was purchased from the Duke of Bedford for 10,000 and opened as the Breakwater Quarry for the supply of limestone used in the construction of the Plymouth Breakwater.  It is said that the first limestone block weighed 7 tons.  To convey the stones to the pier head a tramway of 3 feet 6 inch gauge was laid.

At the pierhead the stones were loaded on to one of the ten specially converted sailing barges and dropped some 30 feet onto the seabed on August 12th 1812, the Prince Regent's birthday.   

The remains of the Breakwater Tramway were rediscovered in 1948
  These remains of the Breakwater Tramway were discovered in 1948

These barges were able to make four trips a day from the Quay at the Breakwater Quarry out to the Breakwater.   There were also 45 smaller vessels that carried the smaller stones in holds cable of storing up to 50 tons of material.  The contractors for this part of the operation were Messrs Billings.   

Eventually the rails were even laid on the surface of the Breakwater.


Thomas, David St John, A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain: Volume 1 - The West Country, David & Charles Ltd, Newton Abbot, Devon, 1973, ISBN 0 7153 6208 9.

Coxon, Helen L, "Train Ferry to the Breakwater", Christmas Cheer, Plymouth Guild of Social Service, Plymouth, Devon, 1959.

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK

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