Webpage created: June 02, 2018
Webpage updated: June 02, 2018
STONEHOUSE POOL BRANCH
When the London and South Western Railway Company took over the Devon and Cornwall Railway Company, it agreed to respect the undertakings given by that Company, one of which was to improve to foreshore near the Devonport terminus. Indeed, the Lord of the Manor of Stoke Damerel, Sir John Saint Aubyn, had given the Company the land upon which the Station was built on the condition that a line be run down to the foreshore. The Stonehouse Pool Improvement Act received the Royal Assent on July 13th 1876.
Preliminary work was already under way in January 1878 and at the beginning of October 1878 the line was reported as being ready for use in about three weeks time.
The branch commenced at the five-arch road bridge just to the east of Devonport Station and then ran into a cutting and then a tunnel beneath the goods shed. Provision had already been made for this when the Station was erected. Emerging from the tunnel, the line then crossed the road leading to the old rectory house and ran beside the road on a rubble embankment. The line gradually fell to the point where it ran underneath the main Stonehouse to Devonport road on the Devonport side of Stonehouse Bridge. It terminated a few yards beyond that point, in a 20-feet deep cutting beneath the Bluff Battery.
Mr Brady, of Barnstaple, north Devon, was the contractor. The tunnel under Devonport Hill/Stonehouse Hill was constructed without interruption to the vast amount of traffic using that road, including the trams. Stone from the cutting was used in the construction of the bridge.
It was then up to the Stonehouse Pool Improvement Company to arrange the construction of the lines on the foreshore for the benefit of unloading vessels at the quayside.
The London and South Western Railway Company was quick to realize that this Branch could be adapted for ocean liner passenger traffic, in competition with the Great Western Docks at Millbay. This they did and commenced renting the line on the quayside from the Improvement Company on Friday December 25th 1885. The Board of Trade's Inspector approved the use of the line for passenger traffic around the same time.
It was announced on Monday February 15th 1886 that: 'The Devonport New Quays and London & South Western Railway Station, Stonehouse Pool' were now open for traffic. The Quays had a depth of water at ordinary low spring tides of 18 feet, although this went to 60 feet a few feet out. There was, of course, a long list of landing rates, ranging from 6d for a hundred deals, or for bulls, cows and horses, down to ½d for a hogshead of beer or cider, or for a quarter of wheat, malt or barley. Foreign vessels lying at the Quays had to pay 4d per registered ton.
Williams states that the line opened for goods traffic on March 1st 1886. Given the announcement referred to above, placing the opening in mid-February, this may have been the date upon which the first traffic was recorded. It also suggests that although the line was ready in 1878 it may not have carried any traffic until the completion of the New Quays in 1886.
During 1903 and 1904 the London and South Western Railway erected a passenger station to cater for transatlantic liner traffic. It took the form of an island platform, some 350 feet in length, with one side used entirely for mails and baggage. All the usual offices were provided, including two waiting rooms and a refreshment room.
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.
The Ocean Quay Station was opened until Saturday April 9th 1904, when the inaugural Ocean Special departed at 5.03am.
Early on the morning of Sunday July 1st 1906, one of its 'ocean specials' was speeding so fast through Salisbury Station that it reeled on the curve in the Station and collided with a train of empty milk trucks. Of the 43 passengers on board 24 were killed.
As from July 1st 1907 the LSWR took over the property of the Stonehouse Pool Improvement Company and immediately extended the island platform so that it could take two trains at the same time. In 1908 they introduced luxurious sleeping cars on the service as part of a drive for quality and comfort rather than speed. But they were not popular and in 1910 they were sold to the Great Western Railway.
The LSWR ceased to use the Stonehouse Pool for passenger traffic from May 28th 1910.
A return submitted on November 17th 1927 to the Southern Railway Company by the station master at Devonport indicated that the signalling was removed at the time of closure to passenger traffic. By 1927 the station buildings were being used for general storage and other buildings were being let for the curing and packing of herrings. The station master reckoned that about forty wagons could be held at the quayside; any more would have been impracticable.
Freight traffic continued and Stonehouse Pool Signal Box at the level crossing over Richmond Walk was still manned until Wednesday February 1st 1928.
From March 25th 1934 until further notice the special instruction for working this branch were as follows:
A 3-ton crane, purchased in 1926, was provided at Stonehouse Pool, with a maximum lift of 20 foot.
The station buildings were completely destroyed during the Second World War, when the manager of Messrs J Lyons & Company's store was killed while fire watching.
With the Ocean Quay Station buildings having been closed since 1910 and destroyed during the Second World War, the line's fortunes steadily declined and in 1966 the branch carried its last revenue earning traffic. Official closure is said to have been on Saturday May 30th 1970.