7 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Volk’s Electric Railway

Credit: Ron Fisher

If you’ve been to the seafront there’s no doubt you’ll have seen the little yellow train running up and down the coast. Volk’s Electric Railway is as historic as it is lovable and has earned itself its place on Brighton’s shores. Dating back to the 19th century, how much do you know about the railway’s humble beginnings?

Magnus Volk in his electric dog cart. Image courtesy of Brighton History Centre via mybrightonandhove.org.uk

Magnus Volk in his electric dog cart. Image courtesy of Brighton History Centre via mybrightonandhove.org.uk

1. It Was Built By Magnus Volk

As you may have guessed from the name, a man called Volk was accountable for the invention of Volk’s Electric Railway. Magnus Volk was a pioneering British electric engineer from Brighton. He is most well known for creating the electric railway that now stands on Brighton’s seafront but he was also commissioned to create a time ball for Brighton’s famous Clock Tower, as well as several other projects.

Image via Volk's Electric Railway website

Image via Volk’s Electric Railway website

2. It Was Completed In 1883

…Or at least the first section of it was completed in 1883. As you can imagine, building one of the world’s first electric railways was no easy task, so it took some time to be completed fully. In 1884 the line was extended further.

Credit: Ian Boyle

Credit: Ian Boyle

3. It’s The Oldest Operational Electric Railway In The World…

Volk’s Electric Railway is the world’s oldest operational electric railway to this date!

The first electric tramway. Image via wikipedia.com

The first electric tramway. Image via wikipedia.com

4. …But It Wasn’t The First Of Its Kind

It may be the oldest operational electric railway in the world, (which is quite impressive) but it certainly wasn’t the first of its kind. Volk’s invention was preceded by Werner von Siemen’s 1879 demonstration in Berlin as well as Gross-Lichterfelde’ Tramway of 1881. Despite beating Volk to the punch, neither of the two aforementioned railways are operational now, meaning Volk’s maintains its special title.

Image via coolplaces.co.uk

Image via coolplaces.co.uk

5. It Originally Ran For Just A 1/4 Mile

Originally the electric railway only ran for a quarter of a mile, between ‘Swimming Arch’ (what we now know as the entrance to Brighton’s Sea Life Centre) and adjacent to the site of what is now Brighton Palace Pier.

Image via visitbrighton.org

Image via visitbrighton.org

6. The Line Closed In World War II

World War II defensive preparations caused the Volk’s Electric Railway line to close in 1940. A new Black Rock station was then built to replace the original after irreparable damage was done to it during the conflict.

Credit: Dr Neil Clifton

Credit: Dr Neil Clifton

7. The Heritage Lottery Fund Invested In It

In 2014 the Volk’s Electric Railway was invested in by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The fund supplied a grand total of £1.6 million to the attraction, with the clause that the money had to be spent by March 2017. Some of the planned uses of funding included: A new ticket booth, a visitor centre, a viewing gallery and new educational materials to be produced.

 

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