Dangers of building the Princetown Railway – 1882

What became the amazing Princetown Railway over Dartmoor from Yelverton to Princetown was fraught with danger during it’s creation.

During it’s building phase there were news stories of danger caused by the weather or those constructing it.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette – Friday 29 December 1882 reported an event of a ‘riot’ by some navvies which cost the nose of a Police-Constable:

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Friday 29 December 1882“TAVISTOCK. A Prisoner Rescued.—On Wednesday morning, while Sergt. Richards, of Tavistock, was conveying a prisoner from Princetown to Tavistock Police-station several navvies made an attack upon him, seizing the conveyance and overpowering the police-sergeant and driver with clubs, &c. The mob rescued the prisoner, who was got away. Forty navvies afterwards made their way to Horrabridge to intercept any police who might be sent for. All the police in the district were summoned, and twelve of the warders the Convict Establishment, by the permission of the Governor, volunteered their services. Firearms were served out to them and to a large force of police. The riot arose out of an assault on Police-constable Vanstone, made on the previous evening on his apprehending escaped prisoner. Vanstone had his nose almost bitten off, and Richards was severely cut about the head and face”.

The Princetown Railway was one of England’s most spectacular lines and was opened in August 1883. It sadly closed 73 years later in March 1956.

Ian Waugh
Old British News