Michael L. Roach.
North Road runs from Eldad Hill roughly east north east for about one mile to the top of North Hill which is on the original road route from Plymouth to Tavistock. Up until 1971 North Road crossed two railway lines just north of Cornwall Junction on the railway heading north from Millbay to North Road Station. Millbay was the main passenger station for Plymouth from when the South Devon Railway arrived in 1849 until closure due to bomb damage in 1941. The first station out of Millbay on the SDR was Mutley situated a short distance west of Mutley Tunnel. Millbay served the Town Centre and Mutley the northern outskirts of the town in Victorian times. The arrival of the Plymouth, Devonport and South Western Junction Railway / LSWR line in 1877 from the opposite direction to the SDR upset the status quo. Plymouth was expanding rapidly in the second half of the nineteenth century and the centre of gravity was moving northwards. The SDR and the PDSWJR (backed by the GWR and LSWR) decided that a new joint station should be built between Cornwall Junction and Mutley Station. The original double track broad gauge line through the area passed through fields and at the site of the future station was on a low embankment before passing over Pennycomequick Hill which carried the railway over one of the major routes leaving the town (it did not become a city until 1928). The 1877 station had just two through platform lines which was expanded to four through platform lines in improvements carried out in 1908. The layout of the station after the 1908 improvements can be seen in the attached diagram. Note the tram route including a spur into the station forecourt.
Major rebuilding started just before the 1939 – 1945 war when more through lines and platforms were added but the work was not finished until 1962. Each time the station expanded northwards involving more filling and when viewed from the north side the station appears to be constructed on a huge embankment. Meanwhile the original 1877 entrance on the south side remained in use until 1958 by which time it was showing its age.
The new joint station was opened on 28 March 1877 and named North Road Station after the road running roughly parallel a short distance away. The SDR had been absorbed by the GWR in 1876 although it had been one of the four “Associated Companies” and the trains operated by the GWR for some ten years. Plymouth North Road was one of those stations where trains to the next large city up the line could depart in both directions out of the station. The first three photos attached show Southern Region trains heading west into the station for a destination that was 45 miles away by road to the north east of Plymouth i.e Exeter. The rail distance was 52 miles via Newton Abbot and Dawlish and 58 miles via Tavistock and Okehampton. The writer's grand parents lived in the first property in Sydney Street, just off North Road, for several decades prior to 1939. The house and adjoining builders yard survived the war but sadly the grand parents did not with one dying as a result of enemy action. I never met either of them. My grandfather was one of the 1,174 civilians to die as a result of the bombing of Plymouth. More than 3,000 civilians were injured.
The last photo in this group shows another item of plant in use on the Forder Valley Link Road in the spring of 1962. In Part 10 we saw a Cat 933 traxcavator. Image 7017 shows its big brother a Cat 977 traxcavator which had a huge appetite for work. The diesel engine of the 977 had three times the horse power of the 933 and the bucket capacity was more than 2.5 cubic yards. The driver was a character who had previously used the 977 on the improvements to the A374 between Saltash and Trerulefoot to prepare the road for the opening of the Tamar Bridge, when the road became the A38. On the steep hill bewteen Notter Bridge and passing the village of Landrake is an enormous cutting on quite a sharp bend. The cutting is long, wide and deep and this driver was there excavating the cutting with the 977 for many months in 1960. It was his boast that he could load a lorry so quickly with his 977 that there were 27 lorries taking away the spoil. Strange how one remembers some characters so well even after more than 60 years. In this case its not because of his driving ability or because of his wellington boots turned down at the top but because of his walk when he climbed down from the 977 and strode across the site with such a swagger. There was no doubt that of the 10 or 12 plant operators on the site he was the king of them all with the biggest machine. The 977 weighed 21 tons and its size can be judged from the figure stood at the back of the machine in image 7017. He was Don Butler, and he was supervising the construction works on behalf of the City Engineer of Plymouth. Don was about 1.9 metres (6 feet 3 inches) tall.
MLR / 17 March