The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History
GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY
1835 to 1841
The Great Western Railway Company came into being on August 31st 1835, when its Act of Parliament received the Royal Assent. On June 4th 1838 it opened the route from London's Paddington Station as far as Maidenhead. Trains ran throughout from London to Bristol on June 30th 1841.
From there the Bristol and Exeter Railway took the main line westwards to Exeter, reached on May 1st 1844, where the South Devon Railway took over and from April 2nd 1849 carried traffic through Newton Abbot and Totnes to Plymouth's new station at Millbay. The whole of this route, the product of three different but linked companies, was surveyed and engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Also, the whole of this route was laid to Brunel's "broad" gauge of 7ft 0¼ins.
Each of these three railways operated their own locomotives and carriages but this all changed on January 1st 1876 when the Bristol and Exeter Railway was leased to the Great Western Railway, with which it was finally amalgamated on August 1st that same year. Similarly, the Great Western started to operate the trains on the South Devon Railway on February 1st 1876 and eventually took over that Company as well.
Thus, the Great Western Railway only comes into the story of Plymouth's railway system on February 1st 1876, nearly twenty-seven years after the railway first arrived in the Town. At the same date it leased the Cornwall Railway system, although that Company remained in existence until it was dissolved on July 1st 1889.
1876 was a busy year in the Plymouth area for the Great Western. In preparation for the use of their system by the London & South Western Railway Company's trains from Lydford to Devonport, the first signal boxes appeared. In Plymouth these were at North Road East, North Road West, Cornwall Junction and Devonport Junction. They were installed by Messrs Saxby and Farmer at a cost of £2,504 14s 4d. They also built boxes at Tavistock Junction and at Laira Junction, where it controlled the Sutton Harbour Branch.
On May 17th 1876 came the opening of the London & South Western route into Devonport and Stonehouse Station, where a refreshment room was provided before North Road Station even existed. This required the Cornwall Loop to be constructed, bypassing Millbay Station and joining the old South Devon and Cornwall Railways' lines. Public services on this route commenced the following day, with the first Up train being drawn by the locomotive "Gem".
August 1st saw the amalgamation of the Bristol and Exeter Railway into the Great Western so they now had complete control of trains from Paddington to Plymouth and beyond.
Because the London and South Western had no station in Plymouth, only the one at Devonport, they proposed a new joint station north of the Town centre, to be named North Road. Plans were drawn up for a stone-built station but the Great Western prevaricated so long that the L&SWR became impatient and the station was eventually constructed of wood. North Road Station was opened on Wednesday March 28th 1877. The main tracks had platforms on both sides. A refreshment room was provided.
Plymothians were able to take urgent Royal Mail letters to Plymouth Station and hand them to the sorters on the mail train. But on and after November 1st 1882 the mail had to be placed in letter-boxes on the train, thus relieving the sorting clerks from being disturbed.
On August 11th 1883 the Princtown Railway Company opened their line between Yelverton, on the Plymouth to Tavistock line, and Princetown, high up on Dartmoor. Because there was no station at Yelverton, the service was actually operated from Horrabridge Station until 1885 when a junction station was opened at Yelverton. The only other station on the line was at Dousland, where there was a level crossing under the watchful eye of the Dousland Barn signal box, the only block section box on the line. This line was operated by the Great Western Railway until January 1st 1922, when they took over ownership of the Princetown Railway Company.
Sunday December 14th 1884
The report of an accident involving the Up mail train on the evening of Sunday December 14th 1884 gives interesting information about the working of the main line at that time. The train left Plymouth at 8.23pm and not long after rumours started circulating around the Town that it had been involved in an accident 'of a very alarming character', the train had been wrecked and that 'serious casualties' had been sustained. The truth was somewhat less spectacular. The mail train was drawn as usual by two locomotives as far as Hemerdon Junction, where the double track from Plymouth became single track forward as far as Rattery. The train was brought to a stand so that the pilot engine could be taken off and transferred to the Down line to be returned to Plymouth. The pilot that night was "Gazelle" and the driver was Mr W Harris. During the transfer she came off the rails in such a way as to block both lines, thus bringing traffic to a standstill. The news was telegraphed to Millbay from Hemerdon Junction Signal Box and at about 9.30om a breakdown gang were despatched. A local train from Plymouth (Millbay) Station to Ivybridge was brought to stand at the top of Hemerdon and the passengers for Ivybridge were transferred to the 7pm Down train from Exeter, which as it could not get through to Plymouth had to return as an Up train complete with all the passengers and mails off the stranded Mail train. The passengers from the local train walked through to the Mail train and both departed for their new destinations at 10.50pm. The Down passengers thus arrived at Plymouth (Millbay) Station at 11.15pm instead of 9.30pm. The line was cleared shortly after Midnight. Sadly, the name of the train engine was not recorded. 
Passenger carriages were lit by oil lamps at this time. Then on Thursday March 1st 1889 the Great Western suddenly started to change over to gas lights. The "Zulu" express, more properly called the 3pm from Paddington to Plymouth, was the first train to Plymouth to be lit by gas. This came as a surprise to the officials at Exeter St David's Station, who continued to provide lamp men to place oil lamps in the carriages only to find they were not needed.
On July 1st 1889 the Cornwall Railway was amalgamated into the Great Western Railway although the latter had been leasing the Cornish main line since February 1st 1876.
The London and South Western Railway continued to have its access to Plymouth via the Great Western's Launceston Branch until June 1st 1890, the day after on which their independent line, the Plymouth, Devonport and South West Junction Railway, was opened. Their trains now arrived from the west and terminated at North Road Station.
Up until now the Great Western Railway in and around Plymouth was of the broad 7 feet 0¼ inch gauge. But the growth of the standard 4 feet 8½ inch gauge meant that the Great Western was becoming more and more isolated and a barrier to lucrative through traffic. It was therefore decided to convert the broad gauge to standard (or narrow) gauge and this work was carried out between Friday May 20th and Monday May 23rd 1892, the bulk of it on the Saturday and Sunday. The last Down train was the 5pm Paddington to Plymouth. The final Up train was the 9.45pm from Penzance, upon which the Chief Inspector of the Plymouth Division travelled to check that all broad-gauge locos and stock were out of the area before he gave the engineers permission to start the conversion.
The first narrow-gauge train to leave Plymouth on the Monday morning was the Down Night Mail, which had travelled from Paddington via the London & South Western Railway but proceeded into Cornwall on the new track at 4.40am.
Rail travel had grown in popularity since the days of the South Devon Railway and one of the problems the Great Western had to deal with was to improve the track so as to take more trains. The solution was to introduce a second track; to double the line throughout. Working slowly westwards, they completed the work on the Rattery to Hemerdon section in 1893. The line from there as far as Devonport Station was double track already. Hemerdon Junction signal box, where the old single track joined the double line, was closed on May 14th that year and replaced with a new one named Hemerdon Sidings.
Some major stations on the Great Western Railway, and Plymouth Millbay was one, had the unusual layout of having a ticket platform placed outside the station where the trains stopped to have the tickets checked and collected. The train then pulled forward into the main platform to disgorge its passengers. Exactly when this practice started is unrecorded but it ceased in 1896.
In that same year a small signal box was brought into use at Mutley Station but it served no useful purpose as the Station was so close to the end of the platforms at North Road Station that the signalling was largely irrelevant. Certainly it is likely that Mutley Signal Box could not accept a Down train until it had been accepted by North Road East as the latter's facing points were within the Mutley clearing point area.
The GWR was good on using the initiative of its local staff. This is demonstrated by the commencement, on May 1st 1897, of an excursion train every Wednesday and Saturday from Plymouth Millbay Station to Ivybridge Station. Wednesday was early closing day so by timing the departure from Millbay at 2pm shop workers could avail themselves of the opportunity of a few hours with friends at Plympton or in the country at Cornwood (for Awns and Dendles, a pleasant watering hole) and Ivybridge.
In 1899 work started on doubling the old Cornwall Railway main line from Devonport Station towards Saltash. On March 15th 1899, during blasting operations in the cutting at Keyham Barton, a lady by the name of Mary Elizabeth Greening, of 22 Park Street, Plymouth, was killed and her daughter, Florence Mary Thomas, was badly injured by flying rocks.
By June that year a small siding had been added to the main line on the Keyham side of the viaduct across Weston Mill creek. This was for contractor's traffic during the conversion of the viaduct from timber to brick and steel. The new one was constructed by Messrs J Charles Lang, of Liskeard, Cornwall, and the track here was raised by 15 feet to lessen the dip in the main line as it approached the viaduct.
On October 22nd 1899 the double track from Devonport to Keyham Viaduct was brought into use and a small signal box was opened at the Devonport end of the viaduct to control the junction and provide protection during the reconstruction of the viaduct.
Keyham Junction and Keyham Viaduct signal boxes were closed on June 25th 1900 and a new one opened named Keyham Station Signal Box when the double track was extended as far as the Weston Mill Viaduct.
The new Keyham Station, the first stopping place to be built between Devonport and Saltash, was opened on Sunday July 1st but not many passengers used it, possibly because the official opening date was not until the following day, when about 400 people used the station. A small goods yard was provided.
Another building operation that was carried out in 1900 was the reconstruction of Millbay Station.
On Sunday October 6th 1901, at the instigation of the Plymouth Mercantile Association, The Great Western Railway ran the first Sunday excursion train from Plymouth to Princetown. The 'largely patronised' train started at 2pm from Plymouth and returned from Princetown at 5pm. [0a]
Over the night of Wednesday January 1st/2nd 1902 the Great Western Railway ran the first Great Western Travelling Post Office made up entirely of vehicles for the use of Royal Mail and not including any passenger carriages. [0a]
1903 must have been an interesting year for Plymothians living in the Weston Mill area. Not only was the embankment road across the creek being finished and the Devonport & District Tramway extended across it to Saint Budeaux but the new brick and steel viaduct across the Creek was also finished (on July 3rd) and the double track railway line to Saint Budeaux Station brought into use (on July 5th).
The timing was not a coincidence, however. On Tuesday July 14th 1903 their Royal Highnesses, the Prince and Princess of Wales made an historic train journey from London to Grampound Road Station in Cornwall, the whole trip taking 5 hours and 50 minutes for the 292¾ miles. Actually the historic part of the journey was the non-stop run from Paddington Station to North Road Station, 246½ miles in 4 hours 30 minutes, an average speed of 54.7 miles per hour. The train left London at 10.40am and was due to arrive in Plymouth at 3.10pm, where six minutes were allowed to effect a change of locomotive and an examination of the train before it proceeded into Cornwall. 
On Saturday July 18th 1903 the GWR introduced a week-days only train to Plymouth which only stopped for eight minutes at Exeter Saint David's Station, completing the journey to Plymouth in 4 hours 50 minutes. This was to beat the LSWR's fastest service by two minutes. It departed from Padington Station at 10.40am, five minutes before the "Cornishman", and was due to arrive at North Road Station at 3.30pm, fifteen minutes before the "Cornishman". The first train consisted of nine 8-wheel carriages, which were heavily laden, and it arrived at Plymouth seven minutes late. It left again at 3.46pm, six minutes late. The eleven carriages of the actual "Cornishman" were also heavily loaded. 
The Up service was expected to start on Monday July 20th 1903. 
After a couple of years of relative calm, the next development for the Great Western Railway in the Plymouth area came on June 1st 1904 when the new suburban service between Plympton and Saltash started. Halts were opened at Laira, Lipson Vale and Wingfield Villas and Platforms were put in at Ford and St Budeaux.
Exactly a month later, on July 1st, came the inauguration of the London to Plymouth non-stop run, with the new 10.10am express from Paddington to Penzance.
There is some confusion as to when the Laira Motive Power Depot was erected. It is thought they were built in 1906 (although some authorities say 1901) on reclaimed land, with the walls and radiating roads being supported on brick arches.
The tracks between Laira Motive Power Depot (MPD) and North Road Station were getting so crowded that an extra break-section signal box was required. This was opened in 1905 at Mannamead, between Lipson Junction and Mutley. It was only a small box but it was one of the busiest on the line and became famous because there was only one occasion per day when the Down distant signal was ever pulled "off" -- the arrival of the above-mentioned non-stop express from London.
Two extra stopping places were opened during 1905, Defiance Platform, for HMS Defiance, just outside Saltash Station, and Dockyard Halt between Devonport and Keyham.
A major event outside of the Plymouth area had a great benefit to the local people when on July 1st 1906 the route via Westbury was opened. It cut 20 miles off the journey from London to Plymouth. Later that month, on the 21st, the Cornish Riviera Limited began using this shortened route and tickets for the Cornish portion were coloured red, presumably to enable staff to spot people in the wrong part of the train.
Hemerdon Sidings were converted into loop lines and a new signal box was opened on April 2nd 1907.
1908 was the year of developments around the North Road Station area. The Station itself was enlarged and a new brick built signal box was installed at the east end, which also took over working the signals at Mutley Station so that the Mutley signal box could be demolished.
Sunday August 4th 1912 saw the introduction of a new pay scheme under which most workers at locomotive depots would work a ten hour day, exclusive of meal times, and the majority of signalmen would work between eight and ten hours a day. Examples of the new rates applicable to staff in Plymouth were: Lad Porters, 10s to 15s per week; Ticket Collectors, 22s to 26s per week; Porter Guards, 23s to 25s per week; Passenger Guards, 26s to 33s per week; and Goods Guards, 26s to 34s per week. Signalmen were on a minimum of 23s per week increasing to 28s for those on lightly worked lines, 31s for those on secondary lines and 38s for those on main lines outside London. At the depots, Carriage Cleaners outside of London were to get 3s 4d per day; Greasers, between 2s and 2s 8d per day; Coalmen, 4s per day; and Engine Examiners, 4s 2d to 4s 8d per day. [a]
1914, at the start of the Great War, a link was provided between the Great Western's Sutton Harbour Branch at the London & South Western's Cattewater Branch, independent of the LSWR's main line. This was removed again in March 1923.
Also, in April of that year authority was given for the quadrupling of the main line from Lipson Junction into Plymouth, including Mutley Tunnel. This was estimated to cost £27,500 plus an extra £4,400 for the provision of new signal boxes at Lipson and Mannamead. Work was started at the Lipson end and a retaining wall was built but the work ceased when the War started. It was never completed.
On August 4th the Great War started and the railways were taken over by the Government under the authority of the Regulation of Forces Act 1871.
During the War there was a munitions factory at Prince Rock and sidings to serve the factory were installed in 1916 on the Down side of the main line at Number One Curve, Laira, at the foot of the retaining wall there. In the same year, on January 17th, the new Up and Down marshalling yards and goods loops at Tavistock Junction were brought into use, together with a new signal box, resulting in the closure of the old junction box. On June 2nd the branch linking the main line to the Government Ordnance Depot at Bull Point was opened, along with its controlling signal box, St Budeaux East.
From Monday May 1st until Wednesday May 3rd 1916 one of the Great Western Railway's new ambulance trains was on exhibition at Millbay Docks. The Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Plymouth, Aldermen T Baker and E Blackall, paid an official visit at Midday on the Tuesday. Built at the Railway's Swindon Works, the train consisted of 16 coaches amounting to 960 feet in length and 442 tons in weight. Accommodation was provided for 592 patients, 102, lying down, 472 sitting and 18 infectious cases. The medical staff amounted to 45 people. Throughout the train the gangways were wide enough to enable stretchers to be carried from the ward cars to the treatment rooms. All of the beds were capable of being used as stretchers. In addition to opening windows, fixed and portable fans provided ventilation while candle brackets were installed for use in the event of a failure of the electricity lighting. Hot water was provided and supplied hot shower baths. It could also be used for heating when the train was in a siding and not connected to the locomotive. Mr W Rowed, the divisional superintendent of the GWR stated that a complete train could be built in six weeks. 
There was a plan in 1919, after the end of the War, to link the Great Western and LSWR at St Budeaux but because of the work on the Bull Point siding the Great Western were apparently reluctant to pay for more so the plan was dropped. It was to re-emerge again in 1939.
Wingfield Villas Halt was the first to succumb to competition from the local tramway network and closed in June 1921.
On August 15th 1921 the railways were returned to their private ownership.
Four days later, on 19th, the Royal Assent was given to the Railways Act 1921 which provided for the grouping of the railway companies into the "big four.
Until December 31st 1921 the Railway had run the train service over Dartmoor for the Princetown Railway Company. From midnight the line became the Great Western Railway Princetown Branch.
Increasing freight traffic, especially china clay and sand, brought the laying of sidings between Skew Bridge at Plympton and the Woodford Bridge, at the bottom of Cot Hill. Some 20 to 30 acres of land on both sides of the main railway line were acquired from about a half a dozen different owners. The work was authorised by the Great Western Railway Act of 1925.
The locomotive shed at Millbay, just before entering the Station, was closed on July 23rd 1924 although it had to be reopened on May 18th 1925 as a stabling point for ten engines because of problems getting locos from Laira along the heavily used track.
An interesting exchange of locomotives took place in 1925. Sir Felix Pole, General Manager of the Great Western Railway, instigated a friendly interchange of data and ideas with the London and North Eastern Railway. The GWR provided their loco 4074 "Caldicot Castle" while the LNER sent the then unnamed 4474, a Gresley Pacific, to the Westcountry. She first did the London to Plymouth run, a distance of 225.7 miles, on April 27th 1925 at an average speed of 54.8mph and consumed 50lbs of coal per mile. This compared very unfavourably with the "Caldicot Castle" run a few days later, on May 2nd, when the same journey was done at an average speed of 58.4mph with a coal consumption of only 46.8 lb. per mile -- and the train arrived in Plymouth fifteen minutes ahead of schedule.
Soon after 5pm on Friday April 30th 1926 the GWR received orders from the Government to run two special trains from Devonport to Bury, in Lancashire. The General Strike was about to begin and the Government needed to move 600 naval ratings, plus horses and vehicles, as quickly as possible. Shortly afterwards a further order required another special train to carry 248 men, thought, this time, to be troops, from Plymouth to London, terminating at either Paddington or Waterloo. Whether these trains ran and how it was achieved has not yet been recorded.
A similar request was made on Monday May 3rd 1926, when a special train carrying six officers and 253 naval ratings left either the Royal Naval Barracks or Keyham Station at Midday for Paddington Station. The General Strike started at Midnight. There was apparently another naval special, seen crawling slowly over Keyham Viaduct in the charge of men in ordinary brown coats rather than driver's overalls.
On summer Saturdays in 1927, the "Cornish Riviera Express" ran non-stop from Paddington to Devonport Junction, a distance of 226.9 miles, where engines were changed. This was to avoid occupancy of valuable platform space in North Road. The time allowed for this run was actually 3-minutes shorter than the normal week-day run to North Road only.
A Pullman train made its first ever visit to Plymouth on Friday May 10th 1929. The Great Western Railway borrowed six Pullman carriages from the Southern Railway's London to Brighton service and ran them as a test train to Plymouth's Millbay Docks. The train left Paddington Station at 9.15am, headed by a King class locomotive, and arrived at the Docks at 1.15pm, having not been checked by signals anywhere on its journey. Less than two hours, the train left again for London, this time headed by "Caerphilly Castle". The only passengers were officials of the Great Western Railway Company.
The first closure of a local GWR branch line came on July 7th 1930, when the line to Yealmpton ceased to operate passenger trains, resulting in the closure of not only stations on the branch but also of Laira Halt. Lipson Vale Halt was used by Southern Railway trains only from that date. On October 27th 1930 came the closure of Defiance Platform.
Laira Locomotive Depot was extended in 1931 by means of a straight shed and the one at Millbay was finally closed. A new exit road and crossover was provided on Number One Curve as from September 18th 1931.
During 1934 the Great Western Railway renewed the girder bridge taking the main line over the Southern Railway line at St Budeaux. An 80 feet long girder that had been removed from the old bridge had been lifted and placed on a low truck, which had then been transported to a small siding nearby for the night. On the morning of Sunday April 22nd 1934 the girder was fixed to grappling hooks fixed to two 36 ton cranes at each end of the girder ready to transfer it to a special cradle. The cranes lifted the girder and moved around to deposit it in the cradle but when they stopped the momentum took the swinging, 40 to 50 ton girder out over the edge of the embankment and started to pull one of the cranes with it. The driver of the second crane hastily lowered his end of the girder in an effort to prevent the inevitable but the girder and one crane went crashing down the embankment, tearing about six feet of earth away on its journey. The crane driver managed to jump free and shouted a warning to the other workmen. His crane ended up on its side half-way down the embankment. Repair work was started immediately and within four hours the crane and girder were back in their proper positions. No men were injured and the whole mishap was viewed as 'an unfortunate incident'. 
Another unusual visitor to the Great Western main line was the Southern Railway's Number 859, "Lord Hood", which in 1934 used the GWR between Exeter and Devonport Junction to get access to Devonport Station, where she was exhibited between August 7th and 9th 1934 as a part of Navy Week.
During the night of Wednesday October 10th 1934 the show train belonging to "His Master's Voice" rolled into North Road Plymouth Station. It was open to the public on the Thursday and then quietly steamed off to Torquay. Captain Sidney Moon, of Messrs Moon and Sons, the Plymouth radio and record dealer, helped Mr G M Fenwick of HMV to conduct the Deputy Mayor of Plymouth, Mr W L Bastard, and his wife through the exhibition. [4a]
Passengers waiting for their trains at North Road Station on Thursday March 28th 1935 were witnesses to another unusual visitor. Promptly at 12.25pm the Great Western Railway's streamlined locomotive "King Henry VII" pulled in on the 5.30am train from Paddington. At Newton Abbot the London crew had been changed and driver Mr James Prowse and fireman Mr John Easton had brought the new-style locomotive on to Plymouth. Mr F Sheldon, a chief inspector at Swindon Works, had accompanied the train throughout. "King Henry VII" left North Road again at 3.55pm bound for Bristol Temple Meads. 
On Sunday June 28th 1936 a party of holiday-makers from Taunton used one of the new diesel railcars to journey through Plymouth to Newquay in Cornwall. This was the first recorded visit of a diesel to either county. The passengers were well satisfied with the comfort and the driver with its perfomance. When a GWR official was asked if the new type would be used on the Plymouth to Saltash suburban service he replied that it was unlikely until the new extensions to Seaton and Downderry were completed. The railcar worked so well on its return journey that it arrived back at Taunton at 9.21pm, twenty minutes early. 
During 1937 the viaduct across St Levan Road was reconstructed and over the weekend of January 22nd/23rd 1938 North Road West signal box was physically moved to make way for a new line. This latter event was the start of the rebuilding of North Road Station. It was to have seven through platforms, most of which were designed for bi-directional working. However, the War intervened and it was not completed until the 1960s.
Mutley Station, just a fraction to the east of North Road Station, was closed from March 2nd 1939, prior to the new North Road East signal box being brought into operation on June 25th.
Anticipating the declaration of War that was about to come, the railways were once again brought under Government control by The Railway Control Order (Statutory Rules and Orders 1939 No. 1197).
Following the start of the Second World War on September 3rd 1939, the Great Western Railway dusted off plans for the connection of the line with the Southern Railway at St Budeaux. If it were brought into existence, it would enable the direct transfer of traffic between the Royal Dockyard and the new Royal Naval Armament Depot at Ernesettle.
Early in September 1940 the Docks Manager at Millbay, Mr E W Gould, retired. 
In the meantime, on February 12th 1941 a new depot for the War Department had been opened at Coypool, adjacent to Marsh Mills Station on the line to Launceston.
The connection between the Great Western and Southern Railways at Saint Budeaux Station was brought into use during March 1941.
The blitz on Plymouth and Devonport in March and April 1941 certainly claimed three railway victims. Millbay Station was closed to passengers from April 23rd after bombing. Saint Budeaux West signal ox was put out of use on April 28th by a direct hit, and on April 30th the Great Western's locomotive 4911 "Bowden Hall" was damaged by bomb blast after being brought to a stand at Keyham signal box during an air raid. Millbay was destined never to reopen, Saint Budeaux West signal box was replaced with a new one on November 5th 1941 and "Bowden Hall" was scrapped.
Trains to Yealmpton started running again on July 21st 1941 when unadvertised workmen's trains were put on. The branch was officially reopened on November 3rd but the service ran from Friary Station instead of North Road.
On November 6th 1941 Ford Halt on the line between Dockyard Halt and Keyham Station was closed, following bombing of the surrounding area.
It was observed in February 1942 that the number of trains to and from Plymouth worked by King-class locomotives was at a record low level. They normally operated the 12.50am News, the 10.30am, 1.30pm and 4.15pm passenger trains from Paddington and the 11.15am, 12.30pm, 3.50pm passenger and 7.30pm Perishables trains in the Up direction, as well as the 11.30pm overnight service. However, it was also noted that frequently a Castle-class engine would be used instead of the King except on the Cornish Riviera Expresses. [TRO156]
Another casualty of the War was Lipson Vale Halt, between Mutley and Laira, which was closed from May 4th 1942 and dismantled because its wooden platforms were considered a fire risk.
Some locomotive exchange workings between Plymouth and Exeter were noted in 1942. GWR 7321 worked the 2.25pm from Plymouth Friary to Exeter and returned on the 7.05pm from Exeter Central while number 6385 had also been noted on the 4.40pm from Friary. The latter ran light back to Exeter Saint David's Station rather than working a train back. Southern Railway number 1408 worked the 11.25am from Exeter Saint David's Station on Friday June 19th 1942. [TRO161]
The "Cornish Riviera Express" left Plymouth North Road Station at 12.30pm on September 1st 1943 hauled by numbers 2947 and 2950. Normally drawn by either a "King" or a "Castle", it was some 16 years since a "Saint" had been seen in charge of this important train. [TRO177]
During the period between December 23rd 1943 and January 1st 1944 the 10.25am from Bristol reverted from running over the Southern Railway main line from Exeter to Plymouth to the GWR one. It was said that this was because the load was too heavy for the Southern locomotives available at the time. [TRO180]
On March 23rd 1944 United States' 2-8-0 number 2847 was noted at Laira Shed, resplendent with the allocation letters 'LA' on the bufferbeam. It was apparently being run in prior to being sent to South Wales for storage and inadvertently got taken on the permanent stock at Laira. [TRO188]
The Liverpool to Plymouth train was apparently a pretty poor time-keeper, usually running anything up to two hours late. However, on September 7th 1944 it arrived in Plymouth only 16 minutes late despite a journey of 10 hours 46 minutes during which 2 hours and 14 minutes were spent at stations. [TRO188]
It was claimed that during 1944, for the first time on record, all the "King" class locomotives visited Plymouth. [TRO194]
January 9th 1945
On January 9th 1945 the London-bound "Cornish Riviera Limited" was hauled out of Plymouth North Road by 6009 piloted by 3446 and on January 10th 1945 numbers 6014 and 5077 fulfilled the same duty. [TRO192]
In the early months of 1945 LMS locomotive number 8435, which was allocated to the GWR's Penzance Depot, was almost exclusively occupied in running freight traffic between there and Tavistock Junction Marshalling Yard, Plymouth. [TRO194]
January 25th 1945
What was claimed at the time to be the last visit to Plymouth of a War Department 2-8-0 took place on January 25th 1945, when number 7217 was noted. [TRO194]
January 26th 1945
On January 26th 1945 the previous evening's 7.05pm from Liverpool Lime Street to Penzance, due at Plymouth at 11.05am that morning, arrived at Plymouth at 7.30pm and still had a further three hours journey ahead of it to Penzance. [TRO194]
Saturday August 4th 1945
Southern Railway locomotive number 1871 was noted working the 11.25am from Exeter Saint David's to Plymouth exchange working on Saturday August 4th 1945, piloted from Newton Abbot to Plymouth by GWR 3446. [TRO200]
Wednesday August 8th 1945
1871 was noted on the 4.35pm Plymouth North road to Exeter Saint David's on Wednesday August 8th 1945. [TRO199]
August Bank Holiday Monday
A London, Midland & Scottish Railway locomotive, number 8433, was an unusual visitor to Plymouth on the August Bank Holiday Monday, when it brought the first part of the down North Mail into Plymouth North Road Station. [TRO200]
Saturday September 8th 1945
The 6.10pm Marsh Mills to Saint Austell unadvertised workmen's train on Saturday September 8th 1945 was hauled by number 6513. This was the return working of the 5.20am from Saint Austell and was for the benefit of the china clay workers. [TRO200]
Friday September 14th 1945
2-8-2 tank locomotive number 7224 was noted at Plymouth on Friday September 14th 1945. [TRO200]
Wednesday October 31st 1945
On Wednesday October 31st 1945 No. 1000, the first of the new "County" class, paid its first visit to Plymouth, arriving with the 5.30am from London Paddington. The following day it left Plymouth at the head of the 1pm to the North of England. Normally that train was double-headed but on this occasion the 11-coach train left with no pilot engine. [TRO202]
In April 1946, at the height of the Cornish broccoli season, 19 trains were despatched from Penzance and Marazion Stations in one day. Among those locomotives recorded as hauling these special trains wer numbers 4927; 4971; 4978; 5957; 6840; 6857; 6862; 6874; and 6878. [TRO208]
April 8th 1946
The 15-coach Up "Cornish Riviera" was hauled on April, 8th 1946 by an unidentified Bulldog-class piloting King-class 6010, when the King failed at Tavistock Junction. It was replaced with number 5095. The train was over an hour late arriving at Paddington. [TRO208]
It was noted in June 1946 that 2-6-0 numbers 9301, 9312, and 9313 had all been seen working through Plymouth into Cornwall. [TRO208]
On June 10th 1946 number 6911 blew off her left cylinder head at North Road Station when passing through on an Up parcel train. Number 6942 came from Laira to take forward the parcel train and number 4703 was used to remove the failed engine to Laira Shed. [TRO209]
With the Cornish broccoli season at an end, no fewer than 17 Cornish potato specials passed through Plymouth on Wednesday June 12th 1946. [TRO209]
A 'New Fast Restaurant-Car Train to London' was advertised by the Great Western Railway in June 1946. It left North Road Plymouth Station at 7.20am and was due to arrive at London Paddington at 12.15pm. The service was run on weekdays until October 6th 1946. 
It was reported that 0-6-0T number 5403 had for a few days worked as the North Road Station pilot. It was believed that it was also used on the Saltash motors. Another of that class, number 5412, had been to Swindon and Taunton but was now back at Laira Shed. A Saint Blazey loco, 2-6-2T number 4407, had been on loan to Laira to work the GWR Princetown Branch while both 4402 and 4410 were being repaired. [TRO209]
The GWR/SR interchange workings were reported in September 1946 as being:
For the past six months the Laira engine had been 2-6-0 number 5361 but on August 8th 1946 "Bulldog" class number 3401 "Vancouver" was used instead. Permission had been granted for GWR locos of the "Star", "Hall" and "Grange" classes to run over the Southern main line between Cowley Bridge Junction and Devonport Junction in an emergency subject to a speed limit of 25mph. [TRO211]
"County" class number 1019 "County of Merioneth" was in 1946 shedded at Penzance and it was recorded in October 1946 that it was regularly employed on the 7.40am Penzance to Plymouth, where it waited until 1pm to pick up the 10.10am Penzance to Liverpool and take it as far as Newton Abbot. It returned to Penzance heading the 10.40am from Wolverhampton. 'The engine is kept in spotless condition with all the brass work highly polished', reported the RCTS correspondent. [TRO212]
It was also reported in October 1946 that during the summer an Exeter-based "Castle" or sometimes "Star" class number 4054, was booked to arrive at Plymouth around 8am on a parcels train. After a short visit to Laira shed it would return in time to take the 11.20am Plymouth to Penzance stopping train onwards into Cornwall. It would then work back to Plymouth on the 10.10am from Penzance and at North Road transfer to the 1.30pm departure (10.40am off Penzance) which it headed back as far as its home shed at Exeter. Every Saturday the locomotive did the Down run as usual but did not return until the Monday. On the Sunday in between it did a trip from Penzance to Plymouth and back. [TRO212]
November 16th 1946
"Saint" class number 2929 was recorded as working the 11am Plymouth to Penzance train on November 16th 1946 instead of the usual Exeter-based "Castle" or "Star". In the same month the "Cornish Riviera" between Plymouth and Penzance was worked by Laira-based "County" class locos including 1004 and 1009. [TRO214]
February 1st - 3rd 1947
The winter of 1946-47 was one of the worst on record and not surprisingly this badly affected the Princetown Branch. Princetown was cut off by drifts as high as 14 feet. A snow plough was despatched from Plymouth with food supplies for Princetown on the morning of Saturday February 1st 1947 but it did not reach the village until 8.45 that evening. On the way it stopped to deliver food to isolated farms and cottages. After unloading at Princetown the plough was turned and the short train started off back to Plymouth. The blizzard was still raging, however, and about two miles from Princetown, at around about 11.40pm, the train found the way impassable. On the Sunday morning the team managed to extricate their plough and took it back to Princetown while a relief plough made its way from Plymouth and eventually reached Princetowen late on the Sunday afternoon. Both ploughs then made their way back home to Laira Depot after some 34 hours of snow clearing. 
October 7th 1947
The Yealmpton branch was once again closed to passenger traffic on October 7th 1947.
December 31st 1947
The Great Western remained an independent railway company beyond the amalgamations of 1923 that created "the big four" and was the only company to retain its original title. It only ceased to exist from Midnight on December 31st 1947, following which its system became the Western Region of British Railways, under the terms set out in the Transport Act of August 6th 1947.
Locomotive number 5037 "Monmouth Castle" hauled the last Great Western Railway train out of London Paddington Station, the 11.50pm to Penzance. [TRO228]
|© Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK|
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