The railway reached a temporary station at Laira on the eastern outskirts of Plymouth on 5 May 1848 and was extended to Millbay on 2 April 1849. At this time the station was just known as Plymouth as no other stations existed in the town. The station became known as "Plymouth Millbay" after other stations were opened in the town in 1876-7 at Mutley and North Road.
A separate ticket platform was erected just outside the station in 1851 and was used until 1896. This enabled all tickets to be checked while the train paused outside the station and the opportunity was often taken for the engine to be detached and sent to the engine shed at this time and the train was then propelled into the platforms by a pilot engine.