Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: February 03, 2016
Webpage completely revised: November 17, 2019

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The main line railway from London Paddington Station had been opened as far as Plymouth Station, at Millbay, on April 4th 1849.  The South Devon Railway Company, who were responsible for the line from Exeter Saint David's Station to Plymouth, had promised to construct a branch line from Plymouth Station at Millbay to Devonport, where it would link up with the Cornwall Railway Company's projected line across the River Tamar by steam ferry and through Torpoint to Falmouth.

Land for this was purchased from the Saint Aubyn Estate and a contractor engaged to construct a viaduct over Stonehouse Pool but during their Bill's passage through Parliament it was rejected by the House of Lords, who said it would be of public advantage if they could avoid using the ferry to cross the Hamoaze.  The Company asked Mr I K Brunel, who had engineered the Great Western Railway and the South Devon Railway, to survey a new route.  He proposed crossing the Hamoaze at Saint Budeaux - Saltash but other than that altered the original plan very little.  A new Bill was submitted to Parliament and the  Cornwall Railway Act received the Royal Assent on August 3rd 1846.  The South Devon Railway Company were to subscribe 150,000, to the scheme, the Bristol and Exeter Railway Company, 112,000, and the Great Western Railway Company, 75,000.  The line was to be of the broad-gauge and Brunel persuaded the Board of Directors to go for a single line as this would be cheaper and could be constructed quicker.

By the end of 1852 some 37 miles of track had been laid from Truro eastwards to Liskeard and in January 1853 the contract valued at 160,000 was let to Mr C J Mare for the construction of the Bridge across the river Tamar.  Mr Mare had been the principle contractor for the ironwork of the Britannia Bridge over the Menai Straits between north Wales and the Isle of Anglesey.

Mr Francis Pickersgill Cockshott (1824-1896), Supwerintendent of the South Devon Railway, was appointed as Superintendent of the Cornwall Railway in 1858.  Both appointments lasted until 1865 when he was appointed to the Great Northern Railway Company.

On Tuesday April 12th 1859 the first train ran from Plymouth Station (Millbay), through Devonport Station and across the Royal Albert Bridge in to Cornwall.  After the Board of Trade had given its approval of the railway line, stations and signalling, the Cornwall Railway was officially opened by His Royal Highness, the Prince Consort, after whom the Royal Albert Bridge was, of course, named, on Monday May 2nd 1859.  Passenger trains started running (at a maximum speed of 30mph) on Wednesday May 4th 1859 and goods train started running (at a maximum speed of 15mph) on October 3rd 1859.  The carriages and goods rolling stock were owned by the Company but the locomotives were hired from Messrs Evans, Walker and Gooch, until the South Devon Railway Company took over the contract in April or May of 1867.

Initially the whole of the line in Devonport was single track but on Saturday June 9th 1860 the Western Morning News reported: 'Cornwall Railway - We understand that it is intended to double the line of railway between Plymouth and Devonport.  Mr Cockshott will accompany the government inspector over that portion of the line to-day'.  In his Engineer's Report to the Directors in August 1860, Mr R P Brereton stated that: 'The line has been doubled from the Plymouth junction to Devonport station' and also that: 'The works at the Plymouth Station necessary for the increase of the goods' accommodation are proceeding favourably, and are in a forward state'.

Within the Borough of Devonport a new Branch was opened on June 20th 1867 from Keyham Junction in to the Royal Dockyard.

On and as from Tuesday February 1st 1876 the Great Western Railway Company took over the Bristol and Exeter Railway Company, the South Devon Railway Company, the Cornwall Railway Company and the West Cornwall Railway and it was now possible to run a train right through from London Paddington Station to Penzance Station.  They subsequently bought out the shareholders of the Cornwall Railway Company, which was dissolved on July 1st 1889.

The main line continued to be owned and worked in its entirety by the Great Western Railway Company until nationalisation as British Railways on January 1st 1948.

Click on the following links for more information about the Engines Sheds, Goods Depots and Yards, Ground Frames, Halts, Junctions, Platforms, Sidings, Signal Boxes, Signalling, Stations, Tunnels, and Viaducts -