Foggintor and Princetown were part of Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt's plan for rail routes and rural development around the west Dartmoor area, linked to military, naval and civilian construction in Plymouth.
Early train lines were referred to as 'plate-ways', 'pall-malls' or tram-ways. They were operated by using gravity or through horses and mules drawing wagons, until the invention of steam driven locomotives in the 19th century. The pre-steam age railway system has not attracted as much historical research and public interest as its later counterpart but these early transport systems played a vital role in Britain‘s industrial revolution. Many early railways were entirely built to transport stone or coal from inland areas to the sea or ports. Examples include Whitehaven in Cumbria, a 'model' town built in the 18th century. The line used gravity to pull connected wagons full of coal on a 'pall-mall' or plate-way. In Bath the stone mines on Ralph Allen's lands above the main city centre also had an early plate-way, using horses, donkeys and mules to pull the wagons along the track. Bath's development as a tourist resort and spa-town was literally built upon advanced technology (by the standards of the day) and industrial 'progress'.
The train lines around Foggintor included specially wrought rails that had a bend at the end so that wagons could be tipped up and unloaded. The route through to Plymouth also connected other quarries, such as those at Cattedown, to residential areas and to the dockyards. The primary purpose of the line was to transport granite to the breakwater that was built in Plymouth Sound. The line now known as the North Devon Railway was also connected to quarries. Several railways in Wales were also built to transport slate, coal and stone.