OLD DEVONPORT . UK
www.olddevonport.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: February 18, 2016
Webpage updated: February 12, 2021

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RAILWAYS IN OLD DEVONPORT  |  GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY COMPANY
MAIN LINE, PLYMOUTH STATION (MILLBAY) TO LISKEARD STATION

KEYHAM STATION

Keyham Station is located between Devonport Station, formerly Devonport Albert Road Station, and Saint Budeaux Station, formerly Saint Budeaux Ferry Road Station on the main line to Cornwall.  All the original buildings have long been demolished but the platforms are still accessible by a footbridge from both Saltash Road and Admiralty Street.

Keyham Station Up platform, viewed from behind loco number 6869 "Resolven Grange" on August 12th 1960.
the late H B Priestley.

The Station was built by the Great Western Railway Company and opened on Sunday July 1st 1900, a few days after the new Keyham Station Signal Box had been opened.  Not many people used the Station on its opening day but about 400 used it the following day.  The Station Master was Mr H Roberts.

Coal was unloaded at Keyham Station in 1917 to be transported by steam wagon or motor lorry to the Devonport Gas Works.  Messrs Cory Brothers & Company, of the Rhondda Valley, Glamorganshire, South Wales, had the contract to supply the coal.

In the 1920s Keyham Station was the terminus of a number of workmen's motor trains.  In the timetable that commenced on February 16th that year, the 5.45am from Plympton terminated here at 6.14 and the 6.23am from North Road Station did likewise at 6.39.  The final one in the morning was the 6.22am from Laira Halt, which terminated at Keyham at 6.47.  They returned as the 6.20am to Millbay, the 6.45 to Plympton and 7.05 empty railmotor to Plympton.

To prepare for the afternoon outmuster from the Royal Dockyard, the first empty railmotor arrived at Keyham at 3.33pm, the next at 4.20 and the third at 4.43.  In addition the 5.03pm from Laira Halt terminated here at 5.21 followed by another empty railmotor at 5.35.   These formed the 3.55 for Devonport and Millbay; the 4.30 all stations to Laira Halt; the 5.02 all stations to Millbay; the 5.25 all stations (except Mutley) to Plympton on Mondays to Fridays or the 5.40 to Millbay on Saturdays.

All these services were interspersed with the regular railmotors to and from Saltash or Wearde.  And Keyham was served by a goods train, which left Laira Junction at 3.45am -- yes, a.m. -- and arrived at Keyham at 4.10.  As it did not leave again until 5.30 there must have been some disturbance from the noise of shunting.

On and as from Monday April 1st 1929 the Great Western Railway Company took over the former Royal Mail Parcels' Office in the North Road Plymouth Station forecourt and established the Railway's own central Parcel's Office.  It would appear that from that date parcels were no longer accepted at or delivered from Keyham Station.  Milk traffic was dealt with as before.  However, seethe reference to "The Official Hand-book of Stations" for 1938, below.

Although Keyham had three platform faces, the Up platform being in effect an island platform, the outer one was rarely used by passenger trains although the line was known as the Up Passenger Loop or later as the Up Back Platform line.  In or shortly after 1937 this line was extended at the Devonport end to enable freight trains of up to 49 wagons to be held there.

According to the "The Official Hand-book of Stations 1938" Keyham Station dealt with goods traffic, passengers, parcels, miscellaneous traffic, live stock, horse boxes, and prize cattle vans.  It was equipped with a crane capable of lifting 1 ton 10 hundredweight (cwt).

It was at Keyham Station that on the night of Tuesday April 29th 1941 GWR locomotive 4911 "Bowden Hall" was paused during an air raid with an evening London to Penzance express, when a bomb fell so close that it damaged the engine beyond repair.  The locomotive and crew were at that time based at Penzance so it is assumed they took over the train, the 3.30pm from London, at North Road.  At 10pm the train was brought to a stand at Keyham Station and the crew took shelter underneath the steps of the signal box.  A bomb fell a few feet away from the driver's side (right side on GWR locos) and destroyed the locomotive.  The driver was apparently Mr B Yelland and the signalman was Mr Charles Austin, who lived nearby at number 22 Renown Street.  "Bowden Hall" was removed to Swindon and scrapped.

GWR number 4911 "Bowden Hall" at Keyham Station
 showing the bomb damage, April 30th 1941.
From the author's collection, probably Great Western Railway Company

 

Keyham's small goods yard was the scene of an heroic display of courage during the Blitz.  Mr Frederick J Harris was an Acting Parcel Porter there when he was confronted with a situation from which many men would just have retreated quietly.  Being the Station for access to the Royal Dockyard, the yard and goods shed were filled with wagons of high explosives and oil. 

On the third night of the Blitz this highly inflammable collection was joined by a truck-load of pigs, on to which fell some incendiaries.   With the roof of the truck alight, and the pigs about to be roasted alive, they were in something of a frenzy.  The simple solution was to just open the truck and let the pigs out but they would then have no doubt run wild.  Mr Harris remarked to others helping with the fires that: 'They are in the Company's care and we must not lose them'.  He therefore chose the much riskier option of getting inside the truck and putting the fire out, which he did.  For this display of courage, not to mention his loyalty to the Great Western Railway Company, Mr Harris was awarded the British Empire Medal.   It is noted that his loyalty went even further than that: he lived right next door to North Road Station.

In May 1941 a new junction was laid in to enable Southern Railway Company freight trains from Saint Budeaux to have direct access to the Royal Dockyard.  This worked in conjunction with the other new link between the Southern Railway and Great Western Railway at Saint Budeaux Station.  The connection was removed again in 1956.

On Thursday December 18th 1947 four special trains left Keyham Station carrying Royal Navy men from the first watch going on Christmas leave.  The first was due to depart at 7.55am and was expected to be carrying nearly 900 men to Liverpool and Manchester.  Another 900 or so men would be carried on the 9.15am departure to the same destinations.  At 10.45am the third special train was due to leave for the Midlands and South Wales carrying 944 men while at 1.55pm the last one was due to go with another 957 men for the same destinations.  Other special trains were due to leave Friary Station by the Southern Railway Company.  This was to be repeated on Tuesday December 30th for the second watch New Year leave.  The men were due to return to the Royal Naval Barracks on Monday December 29th 1947 and Saturday January 10th 1948.

"The Official Hand-book of Stations 1956" repeated the same facilities as the 1938 edition referred to earlier.

For enquiries about train times and tickets Keyham Station's telephone number was Plymouth 53201.

Keyham Station was closed to goods traffic from Monday July 19th 1965 although the siding to the goods shed was not taken out of use until Friday April 22nd 1966.  It was reduced to an unstaffed halt from Monday May 19th 1969.

The station is still open but has just waiting shelters.   The goods shed was demolished a couple of years ago and the site is now covered by housing.

Keyham Station was the furthest point westward on the British Railways' Western Region main line that a locomotive of the famous "King" class was permitted to work.