Princetown

I lived in the Princetown station-masters house from 1956 until 1962. My father, who worked for the BBC at nearby North Hessary Tor, moved in with my mother and I almost as the last stationmaster moved out (stationmasters here).

The Princetown Railway was a short single track branch service in Devon, England, that once operated from Yelverton to Princetown on Dartmoor.

It opened on the 11th August 1883 and closed almost 73 years later on the 3rd March 1956.

Princetown Railway

A view of Princetown Station with the station-masters house being constructed, probably about 1890.

It was regarded as one of the most attractive lines in England, but scenic moorland beauty and Victorian tourism potential could never sustain the service. The line had a history of low passenger numbers. More than sixty years after the closure many look back on the service with affection – some even argue that had it been sold as an independent business concern it could well be alive today as a Dartmoor attraction.

On August 11th 1883 the Princtown Railway Company opened a line between Yelverton, on the Plymouth to Tavistock line, and Princetown, on Dartmoor. As there was no railway station at Yelverton, trains operated from Horrabridge until 1885 when a junction station opened at Yelverton. The only other station was at Dousland. This line was operated by the Great Western Railway until January 1st 1922, when they took over control of the Princetown Railway Company.

As a young lad I remember the station and various buildings stripped of railway track.

Princetown Railway

The Princetown stationmasters house in the late 19th century before the construction of other Station Road accommodation.

Princetown Railway

An engine, goods wagon and carriage waiting at Princetown Station in the mid 50’s. By now the writing was on the wall for this branch line.

I also recall the long walks we’d take along the former track. In later years I discovered many news reports chartering the early years before the railway opened, it’s time as a functioning rail service, the workers and finally its closure.

These news reports paint an interesting view of the railway and the Dartmoor village with one of the most famous prisons in the country (some research here).

Gerald Worth worked on the Princetown Branch line in the period up to its closure. Some of the pictures that he took of the line and the men that worked on it are here.