Friday 14 December 2012

Plymouth's Lost Railways

As with any major city in the UK, former railways can be found with little effort & research. Lost to the decline in rail travel or modern developments, bridges, cuttings & old tracks now form a part of the urban landscape, enveloped by the need for more housing within the City boundary. Tales from forgotten tunnels, relics reclaimed by nature, with many a Janner having memories of places like Darkies in Devonport & Leigham AKA Cann tunnel. Stories of ghost hunts, a sneaky hideway for smoking cigarettes or snogging sessions with Angie Watsername have all surfaced during our research, but by far the biggest myth has to be the one that there is a tunnel full of locomotives, secretly hidden away & preserved in tip top condition!

An overgrown portal of one of Plymouth's forgotten railways

Granite sleepers bearing the grooves from the  once busy Plymouth & Dartmoor Railway
Part of The Plymouth Great Western Docks Railway remain to this day, the two buildings have now been demolished

Sleepers lie covered in moss - a reminder of what this cutting once was

Overgrown railway platform - imagine this as a once busy scene with the smell & sound of steam trains

Along the way we will feature some of the lost railways including the London & South Western Railway, Plymouth & Dartmoor Railway, Great Western Railway, Friary & Millbay Stations plus much more. From horse-drawn carrriages on narrow gauge rails to the days of the steam engine & beyond to diesel locos. Imposing viaducts, old station buildings & bridges of architectural importance lost to vast swathes of progress since the war, replaced by the expansion of housing & commercial properties.

Looking toward the former Ford viaduct that was demolished in the 1980's

Hooe Lake Swing Bridge - a stark remnant from the Turnchapel Branch Railway

Stonehouse Pool Viaduct

Another view of Stonehouse Pool Viaduct with Pennycomequick Viaduct in the background

Great Western Railway boundary marker

These former remnants of travel & transportation carry thousands of stories - from the people who designed & built them, the people who travelled on them or the childhood memory of watching locos during summer holidays. Journey's to the fringes of Dartmoor or seaside towns such as Looe were a common day out for families for years as was the transportation of thousands of troops, & we are looking for your memories & photos to add to the existing archive we have built, to keep the history of these once important structures alive. Get in touch with us via

An extremely rare sleeper from the Plymouth & Dartmoor Railway
Pitch black - Darkies
Lost & forgotten
A remnant of the last rails to Kings Road
Seeking refuge in the shadows
Alien like formations now adorn long forgotten tunnels

We have been tracing these lost routes for the past 6 years - from Plymouth to Tavistock, Dartmoor & Yealmpton & the industries they served such as quarries & mines. The website will feature these routes in more detail but we will keep you updated on the blog for follow-up research that is constantly ongoing.

If you have any memories or photographs of old railways & transportation in Plymouth, we would love to hear from you -


  1. This is brilliant, my all time favourites. Can't wait for further postings, I have always wanted to see inside the old tunnels, especially Yelverton and the old LSWR in Devonport which crosses under? the still in use GWR one.
    Many thanks

  2. the long lost trains not heard about that in years

  3. Slightly off topic, but related - Friary Mill is being redeveloped.

  4. Great stuff; I'm trying to find a way up onto the Shillamill Viaduct, near Tavistock, & maybe into the tunnel a bit if it's feasible. Will explore further if it ever stops raining! Has anyone done this?

    1. It's easy to get into the Shillamill tunnel, but nothing much to see. You had better hurry up too, because this line is well on track (excuse the pun) for re-opening between Tavistock and Bere Alston.