First public electric railway in Great Britain

The Volks Electric Railway was the first public electric railway in Great Britain. It was the brainchild of local inventor Magnus Volk and was opened on 4 August 1883.

Originally the line ran for 300 yards along the beach from the Aquarium to the old Chain Pier, but it in 1884 it was extended to the Banjo Groyne. A second car was introduced in 1885 and by the turn of the century there were five in operation. A further line extension to Black Rock occurred in 1901.

Following Volk’s death in 1937, the Corporation took over the track. Although closed during the war, it was restored and re-opened in April 1948. All year round trains ceased in 1952, but the line continues to be popular with tourists and visitors in the summer

Comments about this page

  • There is a lot of good information on your pages.

    By Bernard Volk (28/12/2006)
  • Bernard Volk, eh? A relation, I assume? Good for you, sir. You must be proud to have Magnus Volk as your antecedent. I recall the railway with great affection from my childhood in the 1950s. There have been so many changes, although we must be grateful that it is still with us after the vacillations of the 1970s and 80s. I recall the cars being painted in a uniform dull brown varnish, without the yellow trim and VR logos which have considerably improved their appearance. They always used to run singly rather than in pairs, and consequently you could be sure of passing manoeuvres on both loops, the one between Pier terminus and Peter Pan’s, and the other between the latter and Black Rock. Eastward cars always had priority. Instead of the current siren, the driver had a treadle-operated bell with a mellifluous sound not unlike an alpine goat’s bell, which of course was not terribly audible at any distance. Both termini had twin platforms, and it was common to see both occupied. I recall at least one car being of “toastrack” construction without side panels, which to my young mind seemed rather scary for its passengers. Ah, great days!

    By Len Liechti (05/05/2008)
  • I see this railway was featured in the 2002 Nena video for the new version of ’99 Luftballons’:

    By Max Vitesse (28/06/2009)

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