The band was founded on 15th October 1944 by a group of railway workers who formed a sub-section of the Southern Railway Recreation Club. This club lent them £100 to purchase a set of instruments and the first official rehearsal was held on 12th January 1945 and from that date, rehearsals have been held nearly every Tuesday evening, only allowing for occasional concerts on that evening.
The founding name of the band was "Exeter & District Southern Railway Band" but when the railways were nationalised in 1948, the band changed its name to British Rail (Western Region) Band. Subsequently, with changes of regional control, it was decided to use the title Exeter British Rail Band.
Although the band has been self-supporting from the start, it had been very fortunate to have the use of a rehearsal room on Tuesday evenings at Exeter Central Station. This facility continued by courtesy of the Railtrack contractors, Amey Railways, until 1997 when they were asked to vacate the Conference Room. Storage space for music, spare instruments and jackets is still provided in an adjoining room. Subsequent moves have been to British Red Cross HQ in Butts Road and in 2003 to John Stocker School (now called Bowhill Primary School) where the Band currently holds rehearsals.
The railway logo, consisting of two parallel lines with embedded arrows, is immediately recognisable on road signs and maps denoting railway stations and was previously used by British Rail. Use of this logo is now controlled by the Government's Department of Transport so the band enlisted the help of local Member of Parliament, Ben Bradshaw, who wrote to the Secretary of State, Gavin Strang, to obtain the necessary permission. This was immediately forthcoming by means of a letter from Glenda Jackson, the then Transport Minister. The band members chose the name "City of Exeter Railway Band" and decided to include the castle motif from the city coat of arms. Councillor Chester Long was most helpful and the permission plus the official copy of the crest were obtained.
Regular concerts have been held in the summer and at Christmas for the last 27 years. The annual Mayoral Christmas Concert in the Exeter Cathedral featuring the band, the Police Choir and various school choirs has been given for the last 18 years, the first at short notice as the Royal Marine Band had to go overseas.