Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: February 03, 2016.
Webpage updated: May 16, 2017

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The main line railway from London had been opened as far as Plymouth Station, at Millbay, on April 4th 1849.  The South Devon Railway Company had promised to construct a branch line from Plymouth Station at Millbay to Devonport.  Land for this was purchased from the Saint Aubyn Estate and a contractor engaged to construct the viaduct over Stonehouse Pool.  But when the Cornwall Railway Company changed their mind about where to cross the River Tamar it was decided to sell the land and the rights to them so that they could use it for their main line to Saint Budeaux.  The agreement was signed on May 9th 1854.

On May 4th 1859 the Cornwall Railway Company opened their continuation of the main railway line between Plymouth and Truro.  It commenced at Cornwall Junction, on the South Devon Railway's line, and with only one stopping place at Devonport Station, crossed the river Tamar over the Royal Albert Bridge to Saltash Station.  In 1867 a junction was made at Keyham to the Dockyard Railway.

From the outset trains were worked by the South Devon Railway Company but on February 1st 1876 the Great Western Railway Company took over both the South Devon and the Cornwall Railway Companies completely and in time substituted their own locomotives and rolling stock.

On May 18th 1876 the Cornwall Loop was opened by-passing Plymouth Station at Millbay to enable the London and South Western Railway Company's trains from Lydford and Tavistock to get to their new terminus at Devonport and Stonehouse Station.  Their track was of the Narrow Gauge (4 feet 8 inches) whereas the Great Western Railway operated on the Broad Gauge of 7 feet 0 inches so a third rail had to be added.  This problem was overcome when the Great Western Railway changed in 1892 to what became the Standard Gauge.  A new station at North Road was opened in 1877 largely for their benefit as they had no stopping place in Plymouth but this eventually allowed trains from Cornwall top by-pass Plymouth Station entirely on their way to London, which saved a great deal of time.

The main line continued under Great Western Railway Company ownership until nationalisation as British Railways in 1948.