BRISTOL & EXETER RAILWAY
EXETER & SOUTH DEVON RAILWAY
EXETER & CREDITON RAILWAY
TEIGN VALLEY RAILWAY
GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY
BR WESTERN REGION
THE LONDON & SOUTH WESTERN RAILWAY
BR SOUTHERN REGION
EXETER ST DAVIDS
Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and first built as the southern terminus of the Bristol & Exeter Railway (B&ER) and opened in 1844.
on 30 May 1846 the South Devon Railway (SDR) opened a line westwards towards Plymouth in stages.
A carriage shed was built for the SDR at the south end of the B&ER platform but the goods sheds and locomotive sheds for both companies were to the west, between the station and the River Exe.
Next to arrive at St Davids was the Exeter and Crediton Railway on 12 May 1851, the junction of which was a little distance to the north of the station at Cowley Bridge Junction.
All these railways had been built to the 7 ft (2,134 mm) broad gauge, but on 1 February 1862 the 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) gauge London and South Western Railway (LSWR) brought a line into the station from their own central station in Queen Street. By this time the LSWR owned the Exeter and Crediton Railway outright and started to work the line for itself, although the broad gauge was retained for the B&ER to work goods trains to Crediton.
With two gauges and four companies using the single-sided station, it was in need of remodelling. A new double-sided platform opened on the site west side of the line and the original up platform at the northern end was closed. The original platforms had all had individual train sheds covering the tracks, and the opportunity was taken to replace these with one large train shed across all the main tracks and platforms. North of the station was a level crossing and just beyond this an additional goods shed was constructed. Unlike the earlier ones it was solely for transferring goods between the trains of the two different gauges. All of these buildings were designed by the Francis Fox, the B&ER engineer, and Henry Lloyd and the work was completed in 1864.
The B&ER was amalgamated with the Great Western Railway on 1 January 1876 and the SDR did the same thing exactly one month later. The main line from Bristol was rebuilt with mixed gauge track that allowed broad gauge trains to run through from London Paddington railway station to Penzance, while at the same time offering a standard gauge track for local trains from Bristol Temple Meads; the new line being ready by 1 March 1876.
The train shed was removed in 1912-13 and the platforms extended northwards towards the level crossing.
A second island platform was provided on the west side and this entailed the goods sheds being narrowed from two tracks to one at their southern end. The middle island platform was mainly used for LSWR trains while down GWR services used the original main platform and the new island platforms. Before Southern Region services to Plymouth were abandoned, passengers could see Plymouth-bound services of the Western Region and Southern Region leaving St Davids in opposite directions. The station has remained largely in this form since, but resignalling in the 1985 saw the ex-LSWR services moved to the main platform so that down ex-GWR line services did not have to cross their path at the south end of the station. A through line between platforms 1 and 3 was removed at the same time. The new signal box was built on the site of the old atmospheric engine house and replaced three older signal boxes.
There are still many remains of the earlier stations to be seen. The main façade dates from 1864 and the Great Western Hotel dates from the earliest days, as does the southern section of platform 1. The goods shed opposite platform 6 shows the angle where the southern end was cut back in 1912, and at the northern end part of the original goods shed still stands beneath later extensions. The 1864 transfer shed can still be seen beside the line beyond Red Cow Crossing.