Plymouth Friary railway station

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Plymouth Friary station.jpg
Railways in the Plymouth area
Laira Junction
Laira TMD
LSWR Turnchapel Branch and
Cattewater and Sutton Harbour
Plymouth Friary
Plymouth North Road
Plymouth Millbay
Devonport Albert Road
Devonport Kings Road
Albert Road Halt
Camels Head Halt
Weston Mill Halt
St Budeaux Ferry Road
St Budeaux Victoria Road
The only tracks remaining in 2007

Plymouth Friary railway station was the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) terminus in Plymouth, Devon, England.


London and South Western Railway trains first arrived at Plymouth on 17 May 1876, entering the town from the east. To get there trains had travelled over the company's line as far as Lydford railway station, then over the Great Western Railway (GWR) Launceston branch[1][page needed] via Tavistock and the South Devon main line to Mutley. They then continued over the new Cornwall Loop Viaduct (now known as Pennycomequick Viaduct) and a short section of the Cornwall Railway before reaching the company's line to its Devonport station. A new joint LSWR and GWR station at Plymouth North Road, a short distance to the west of Mutley, was opened on 28 March 1877.[2][page needed]

Friary Goods Station had opened on 1 February 1878 at the end of a short branch from Friary Junction near Laira on the GWR's Sutton Harbour branch.[3][page needed] On 22 October 1879 an extension was opened through a short tunnel beneath Exeter Street to North Quay on Sutton Harbour, from where wagon turntables allowed access to Sutton Wharf and Vauxhall Quay. A reversal at Friary allowed access to another branch to Cattedown, although this was not completed until 1888.

The LSWR established a route to Plymouth independent of the GWR on 1 June 1890, when the Plymouth, Devonport and South Western Junction Railway (PDSWJ) was opened from Lydford to Devonport.[4][page needed] For a short while LSWR trains terminated at North Road, but on 1 July 1891 a new passenger terminus station was opened at Friary. The station was close to the eastern side of the town centre, facing onto Beaumont Road but also with an entrance from Exeter Street. There were four platform lines serving two platforms. A 300 feet (91 m) by 100 feet (30 m) goods shed was situated to the south of the station, the side nearest Exeter Street.[2][page needed]

On 5 September 1892 a line was opened across the River Plym to Plymstock, and was extended to Turnchapel on 1 January 1897.[5][page needed] The GWR also served Plymstock from a direct line from Millbay via Laira en route to Yealmpton, but from 3 November 1941 until 7 October 1947 GWR trains ran from Friary to Yealmpton.

Passenger services were withdrawn on 15 September 1958 after which it became the city's main goods depot, allowing the space at Millbay to be used for carriage storage. General goods traffic ceased from 5 May 1963 but a freight concentration depot was built in 1966.[2][page needed] The main station building was demolished in 1976 and the remaining freight traffic was eventually moved out to Tavistock Junction.

The station site has been covered in houses and large retail units, but a track still comes as far as Tothill Road where a loop and siding is still in use to allow trains to reverse on their way to Cattedown. The station master's house on the corner of Beaumont Road and Tothill Road is now a doctor's surgery.[2][page needed]

Harbourside lines[edit]

Sutton Harbour & Cattedown Lines
Mount Gould and Tothill Halt
Lucas Terrace Halt
LSWR-GWR connection
Northey's Sidings
Friary Loco Shed
Corporation Wharf
Princes Rock
Friary station
Cattewater Tunnel
Victoria Wharves
Sutton Harbour

On 22 October 1879 an extension was opened through a short tunnel beneath Exeter Street to North Quay on Sutton Harbour, from where wagon turntables allowed access to Sutton Wharf and Vauxhall Quay; an LSWR office was established on the Barbican opposite the Fish Quay A connection from the GWR Sutton Harbour depot to North Quay was opened on 6 November 1879 and both companies then served the quays.[3][page needed]

A longer branch to Cattedown was started soon after the Friary goods branch had opened in 1878; it was completed in 1888. It served the Corporation Wharves just south of the Laira Bridge across the River Plym which had been served by the Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway (P&DR) for many years. It then continued to follow the water from along Cattewater to terminate at the Victoria Wharves, a short distance south of the GWR's Coxside Depot on Sutton Harbour. Along the way it served a number of sidings:[6][page needed] the electricity power station at Princes Rock; a Plymouth Corporation depot, Blight and White, Regent Oil, and the wharves at Cattedown; the railway's own goods depot at Cattewater; South West Tar Distillers; and Esso in Cattedown Quarry. There is a 48 yards (44 m) tunnel at Cattedown.

Loco shed[edit]

A two-road engine shed was provided at Friary from 1890 to replace the shed at Devonport for terminating locomotives, although Devonport was retained to house the locomotive used on the Stonehouse Pool branch. The Friary shed was situated to the south of the station.[7][page needed]

The shed was replaced in 1908 by a larger building east of the station near Lucas Terrace Halt. This now had three roads

The shed's allocation covered all the duties on the local branch lines as well as some services to Exeter Queen Street. For example, in 1933 it was allocated 27 locomotives.[7][page needed] There were 9 T9 4-4-0s for main line trains, 12 O2 and T1 0-4-4Ts for local services, 2 ex-PDSWJ 0-6-2Ts and 4 small B4 0-4-0Ts for goods trains.

On 1 February 1958 responsibility for Friary shed passed to the Western Region, but remained in use until May 1963.


The signal box that controlled Friary goods and the junctions with the harbour branches was replaced on 1 July 1891 with two new boxes.[8][page needed] "Friary A" was a 55-lever box at the junction of the passenger and goods lines on the approach to the station. A new 43-lever frame was installed in 1909. The box closed on 24 April 1966 when control of trains at Friary became the responsibility of staff on the ground, with the approaches controlled by the panel signal box at North Road.

"Friary B" signal box housed 45 levers and controlled movements within the passenger station. It closed on 21 July 1962.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anthony, G.H.; Jenkins, S.C. (1997). The Launceston Branch. Headington: Oakwood Press. ISBN 978-0-85361-491-3.
  2. ^ a b c d Oakley, Mike (2007). Devon Railway Stations. Wimbourne: The Dovecote Press. ISBN 978-1-904349-55-6.
  3. ^ a b St John Thomas, David (1973). West Country Railway History. Newton Abbot: David and Charles. ISBN 0-7153-6363-8.
  4. ^ Cheeseman, A.J. (1967). The Plymouth, Devonport & South Western Junction Railway. Blandford Forum: Oakwood Press.
  5. ^ Kingdom, Athony R. (1982). The Turnchapel Branch. Poole: Oxford Publishing Company. ISBN 0-86093-181-1.
  6. ^ Cooke, R.A. (1979). Track Layout Diagrams of the GWR and BR WR: Section 12, Plymouth. Harwell: R.A. Cooke.
  7. ^ a b Smith, Martin (1995). An Illustrated History of Plymouth's Railways. Caernarfon: Irwell Press. ISBN 1-871608-41-4.
  8. ^ Crozier, Larry (2000). Mechanical Signalling in Plymouth. Wallasey: Signalling Record Society. ISBN 1-873228-18-X.

Further reading[edit]

  • Leitch, Russell (2002). Plymouth's Railways in the 1930s. Peterborough: Railway Correspondence and Travel Society. ISBN 0-901115-91-6.
  • Mitchell, Vic; Smith, Keith (1997). Branch Lines Around Plymouth. Midhurst: Middleton Press. ISBN 1-873793-98-7.
  • Mosley, Brian (February 2013). "Plymouth Friary station". Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History. Plymouth Data. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2015.

Preceding station   Disused railways   Following station
Lipson Vale Halt   London and South Western RailwayWest of England Main Line   Terminus
Lucas Terrace Halt   London and South Western Railway – Turnchapel branch   Terminus
Lucas Terrace Halt   Great Western RailwayYealmpton branch   Terminus

Coordinates: 50°22′19″N 4°07′49″W / 50.3720°N 4.1302°W / 50.3720; -4.1302