South Devon Railway Company

South Devon Railway Company

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South Devon Railway Company

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The South Devon Railway Company built and operated the railway from Exeter to Plymouth and Torquay in Devon, England. It was a broad gauge railway built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel


  • 1844 South Devon Railway Act passed by parliament
  • 1846 opened to Newton Abbot
  • 1847 opened to Totnes, atmospheric trains start running
  • 1848 atmospheric trains withdrawn, Torquay branch opened
  • 1849 line completed to Plymouth
  • 1876 amalgamated with the Great Western Railway



The South Devon Railway was a broad gauge railway engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

The first section of the line to be opened was from Exeter to Teignmouth on 30 May 1846. The line was extended to Newton Abbot on 30 December 1846 and reached Totnes on 20 June 1847. It reached a temporary station at Laira on the outskirts of Plymouth on 5 May 1848 and finally reached the permanent terminus at Plymouth on 2 April 1849. The company built its offices outside this station.

The line was extended the short distance into the new Plymouth Great Western Docks in 1850 and in 1853 opened a branch to the older Plymouth harbour at Sutton Pool by converting a part of the Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway to broad gauge.

Atmospheric trains

The railway was designed to be worked by atmospheric power which enabled a cheaper route to be taken, making use of steeper gradients and smaller curves than was considered practical with steam locomotives at that...
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