The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History
SOUTH DEVON AND TAVISTOCK RAILWAY
There had been several unsuccessful attempts to link Plymouth and Tavistock by rail but the one that was to become a success story first issued its prospectus on July 17th 1852 as the South Devon and Tavistock Railway Company. The capital of the new Company was to be £160,000 in shares of £25. They were proposing to construct a broad-gauge from a junction with the South Devon Railway near Plymouth to Tavistock and also a line to Lee Moor China Clay Works. The chairman of the Company was the Earl of Morley, who owned the Clay Works, and Mr Thomas Woollcombe and Colonel H B Harris, two directors of the South Devon Railway. The engineer was to be Mr Augustus Hamilton Bampton. 
Just a couple of days before, on July 13th 1852, the shareholders of the South Devon Railway had accepted a recommendation that they lease the Tavistock line and its intended branch line from the start. This proposal was to become law on July 12th 1858 in a miscellaneous South Devon Railway Act. 
Its first attempt to gain Parliamentary approval, in 1853, was thrown out, largely because the Government was undecided over the merits of the broad- versus narrow-gauge. A second attempt was made in the following session, 1854, when the Government, to cover their doubts, added a clause to the effect that if the narrow-gauge ever wanted to connect with the South Devon and Tavistock Railway, then it must be allowed to do so. The Company did not like this very much and considered opposing the move but having spent so much time and money on the Bill so far, they decided to accept the clause. As a result, the Bill finally received its Royal Assent on July 24th 1854. 
On June 5th 1856 a new agreement was made with Lord Morley that enabled the South Devon & Tavistock Company to give up the proposal for the branch line to Lee Moor . (This later became the Lee Moor Tramway).
Work was slow to begin because of problems raising the full amount of capital but eventually, on Monday August 25th 1856, the first sod was cut on land at Mrs Davey's Farm on Roborough Down. The work proper started on Wednesday September 24th 1856 and progressed with great speed, thanks largely to the co-operation of the local landowners. Unfortunately, their engineer, Mr Bampton, died in 1857 but the Company was pleased to secure the services of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. However, he was much more likely to have been engaged on the more important project of raising the Royal Albert Bridge and it was left to his chief assistant, Mr R P Brereton, and two Assistant Engineers by the names of Grose and Glennie, to oversee the work. 
Progress slowed a bit when the workmen encountered problems working the ground for the tunnels at Shaugh and Grenofen. However, the Engineer's Report presented to the Board in August 1857 stated that both the longer tunnels were in progress, with the shafts sunk and the headings driven. Parts of the tunnels had been excavated to their full size. The cuttings were in progress and a large part of the masonry piers for the viaducts had been completed. 
The following August (1858) it was apparently stated by Brunel that the junction with the South Devon Railway was finished and about three miles of track had been laid. Unfavourable winter weather added more time to the construction but in early June 1859 Brunel himself travelled over the line and found it to his satisfaction. 
The official opening of the South Devon & Tavistock Railway took place on Wednesday June 21st 1859. Stations were provided at Bickleigh, Horrabridge and Tavistock, all of which opened to traffic on Thursday June 22nd 1859. 
On Monday June 30th 1862 the Royal Assent was given to the Launceston & South Devon Railway Act. 
The northern section of the Branch, between Tavistock and Launceston, in Cornwall, was officially opened on Thursday June 1st 1865, although public services did not begin until Saturday July 1st. It, too, was worked by the South Devon Railway. Intermediate stations were opened that day at Mary Tavy & Blackdown, Lydford, Coryton, and Lifton. 
By authority of the South Devon Railway Act 1865, which received the Royal Assent on July 5th 1865, the South Devon & Tavistock Railway was amalgamated with the South Devon Railway. The last meeting of the Company was held on August 31st 1865. 
The Launceston & South Devon Railway was not amalgamated with the South Devon Railway until June 24th 1869.
The line thus became the South Devon Railway Launceston Branch.
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