Webpage created: August 15, 2018
Webpage updated: August 15, 2018
INAUGURAL OCEAN SPECIAL
Shortly before midnight on Friday April 8th 1904 a Marconigram was received by the London and South Western Railway Company that the American Line steamer "Saint Louis" was just approaching the Lizard Point, in Cornwall, several hours earlier than expected. The ship had charged across the Atlantic Ocean at a speed in excess of 20 knots, breaking her previous record. She was going to be the first liner to make use of the new facilities at Ocean Quay Station, on the Stonehouse Pool Branch.
The "Saint Louis" anchored inside the Breakwater at 3.08am. The Great Western Railway tender "Sir Richard Grenville" was first alongside, at 3.13am, followed 9 minutes later by the LSWR's "Victoria". The transferring of 57 passengers and their luggage from liner to tender was completed quite quickly and at 3.43am the "Victoria" set off for the shore.
At 3.52am the last mail bag was transferred from the liner to the tender and the "Saint Louis" set off for Cherbourg while at 3.53am the "Sir Richard Grenville" made for the Plymouth Great Western Docks, where an army of labourers was waiting to transfer the mailbags from the tender to a special train. The first bag was landed at 4.10am.
The "Victoria" berthed at the brightly illuminated Ocean Quay Station at 4.18am. During her short passage from the Sound the passenger's luggage was placed in specially constructed crates so that it could be swing by crane across to the shore and wheeled on trolleys into the examination hall.
First to start away was the Great Western's mail train. which passed Mill Bay Level Crossing signal box at 4.58am.
Over at Ocean Quay Station, the passengers were passing through the elaborately furnished waiting rooms and customs hall and boarding their special train, which departed at 5.03am. After traversing the Stonehouse Pool Branch, Devonport Station was reached at 5.13am. After a delay while an express locomotive was attached to the other end of the train, the Ocean Special departed from Devonport at 5.23am bound for London Waterloo.
The GWR mail train reached Exeter Saint David's Station at 6.12am and Bristol Temple Meads Station at 7.21am There the mails for the North were transferred to a special train and at 7.28am the London train was on its way again. London Paddington was reached at 9.17am, a journey of 4 hours 19 minutes, of which the actual running time was 4 hours 9 minutes.
Unfortunately the London and South Western Railway Company was having a few problems with their passenger train, in spite of having Mr Holmes, superintendent of the line, and Mr Drummond, locomotive superintendent, on board. It was intended to run the train with only one stop at Templecombe and the train left Exeter four minutes ahead of schedule. Eight miles to the east was Whimple Station, where some workmen had left a trolley on the railway line. The special hit it at high speed, smashing it to pieces. Luckily the train remained on the track and after an eight minute delay while it was inspected, it went on its way. It made up some time and was only four minutes late at Yeovil Junction. In spite of another unscheduled stop, the train reached London's Waterloo Station at 9.36am, a journey of 4 hours 23 minutes. After deducting stoppages the running times was 3 hours 53 minutes.
Some of the passengers off the "Saint Louis" wanted to
travel to Paddington instead of Waterloo so they were taken by road from
Ocean Quay Station to Plymouth
Station, where they transferred to another special train. It
departed at 5.28am and reached Paddington Station at 10.12am.