The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History

Click here to return to the Home page      Click here for more information about this website       Click here to go to the A - Z Contents page       Click here to go to the Links page       Click here to go to the Disclaimer page       Click here to link to the Can you help? page



Updated:  02 January 2012 

Although the branch railway from Plymouth to Turnchapel was built by the London & South Western Railway, the legal preliminaries were done by the Plymouth & Dartmoor Railway, acting as their agents.  They deposited the plans on November 30th 1882 and it was the Plymouth & Dartmoor Railway Act 1883 that received the Royal Assent on August 2nd 1883.  The proposal was closely linked with the Plymouth & Dartmoor's South Hams Extension Act for a line from Plymstock to Yealmpton.  [1]

Firstly a bridge had to be constructed across the River Plym and this was duly completed in 1887 at a cost of 32,000.  The line as far as Pomphlett was ready by June 25th 1888 so the London & South Western Railway started to operate freight traffic over it.  [1]

It was not until July 1st 1892 that the official opening took place and even then, because the signalling was not satisfactory, no public trains were operated until Monday September 5th 1892.  [1]

Eight passenger and trains and one goods train were run that day, many of the passengers then walking to Oreston and returning to Plymouth by the Oreston and Turnchapel Ferry.  The remainder of the week brought crowds of people attending the Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse Races at Chelson Meadow, which was but a short walk from Plymstock Station.  [2]

In the meantime, however, there were arguments going on between the London & South Western Railway and the Plymouth & Dartmoor Railway on the one side and the Great Western Railway on the other about the running of trains over the proposed line to Modbury.  The LSWR finally conceded with an agreement dated July 19th 1894 that allowed the GWR to have running powers over the Turnchapel line as far as Plymstock Station and in order for them to access their line to Yealmpton.  The section from there to Modbury was never constructed.  [3]

The LSWR thus completed their branch to Turnchapel and this was opened for traffic on Friday January 1st 1897, with trains running from their main-line terminus at Friary.  The contractors had been Messrs Pethick Brothers, of Plymouth.  [4]

One of the features of the line was the swing-bridge across Hooe Lake.  This was operated by hand and was supported at the centre by the pillar holding the swinging mechanism.  The signalman based at Turnchapel Signal Box used to have to walk on to the bridge to hand-crank the mechanism and he would be marooned there until he closed the bridge at the end of the operation.   [4]

Lucas Terrace Halt, between Friary and Plymstock Stations, was opened in 1905 to cater for traffic from the new housing estates on the eastern fringes of Plymouth.  The adjacent Motive Power Depot was opened in 1908.  [4]

As from January 1st 1923, when the LSWR was amalgamated into the Southern Railway, the Branch became the Southern Railway Turnchapel Branch.


[1]  Kendall, H G, "The Plymouth & Dartmoor Railway", The Oakwood Press, Lingfield, Surrey, 1968.

[2]  "News in the West", Western Morning News, Plymouth, September 6th 1892.

[3]  Schedule to the "Great Western Railway (No 2) Act 1894.

[4]  Kingdom, Anthony R, "The Turnchapel Branch", Oxford Publishing Company, Poole, Dorset, 1982, ISBN 0-86093-181-1.

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK

Any problems viewing this webpage should be notified to the webmaster at plymouthdata dot info