Keyword Search: 
Part No. Search: 
OO Scale N Scale G Scale Z Scale HO Scale Slot Cars & R⁄C

Your shopping basket is empty.  To add an item, click the "Buy" button

prodigy advance
Gaugemaster Controllers
O Scale Wargaming Architectural Narrow Gauge Tools+
Right Lines e-Zine

The Smaller Gauges

Part 3: Brighton

Martin Lovell

MARTIN LOVELL visits the Volks Electric narrow gauge railway on Brighton Seafront.

Volks Electric Railway

On a particularly glorious day I decided to venture a short way down the coast to Brighton, and while there, renew an acquaintance with an unusual railway, namely the Volks Electric Railway – the oldest operating electric railway in the world.

This line, the first of its kind was designed by Magnus Volk. It was originally built to 2ft gauge in 1883, and ran for a quarter of a mile (402m) between what was known as Swimming Arch (opposite the Brighton Aquarium) and Chain Pier (the future Palace pier).

Volks Electric Railway

The drivers cab.

50v DC electrical power was supplied via the two running rails, much the same way that we power our model trains today!

In 1884, the line was extended a further half a mile (0.8km) to what is now Halfway station, and re-gauged to 2foot eight and a half inches (825mm). The power was increased to 160v DC, still using the two running rails, but because of leakage a third offset power rail was added in 1886.

Volks Electric Railway

Black Rock Station.

In 1901 the line was again extended to Black Rock, and ran quite happily till 1935, when a lido was built which caused the line to be cut back by 200 yards to accommodate it.

The new Black Rock station was built in 1937. In 1940, the Brighton Corporation took over the line, but with the threat of invasion, defensive measures caused closure of the line until 1947, when the line was rebuilt using heavier rail, and Black Rock station was rebuilt, the original having suffered during the war years. The line re-opened to the public in 1948.

Due to the increase in traffic, two car multiple operation started in 1964. In 1995 the Volks Electric Railway Association was formed to council. Due to a storm water storage scheme the Black Rock end of the line was cut back, the 1948 station was demolished and replaced by a new single platform station, which was opened in 1998.

Volks Electric Railway

The new Depot.

Since then, a new visitor centre and ticket office have been built at Aquarium station, and also a new depot with a viewing gallery at Halfway, with money granted by the National Lottery Heritage fund.

The present cars on the line were built in 1901 on site at the Paston Place works (now the site of Halfway station) with Compagnie Electrique Belge 8 hp 6kW motors as the power plant.

Today’s line is still the 2ft 8 1/2 inch gauge, but the power is 110v DC, and is one mile long. It is single track, with a passing loop at Halfway station, and two more passing loops midway between the termini and Halfway, but these are rarely used in service.

Volks Electric Railway

There are currently seven cars in use plus a 1988 Motor Rail diesel (formally from the Butterley brickworks) but now used for maintenance and inspection duties at times when the power rail is switched off.

A token system is used, ensuring that only one car is in each section at a time. However, in busy periods multiple cars can occupy one section, but the token system is still used.

So there we are, a unique little line along the seafront at Madeira Drive, dating back to the beginning of the 20th Century, and still going strong today. A very pleasant way of spending a couple of hours, especially on a nice day, as you can see from the pictures, with informative and friendly staff as well.

For opening times etc. there is a website

Happy Modelling


Take a look at Martin's previous articles on the Littlehampton Miniature Railway and the Hastings Miniature Railway.

Fordhampton Kits
Graham Farish
Oxford Diecast
Deluxe Materials
Revell Paints
Humbrol Paints
Train Tech
DCC Concepts
Facebook Instagram Twitter

We are always looking to make improvements to our website to try and improve the quality of your visit.  We would welcome your feedback and suggestions, so please do not hesitate to e-mail our webmaster with your comments.  Alternatively call us on 01903 884488.

Home  Cookies  Privacy Statement  Terms & Conditions  Site Map  Site Guide
WEEE Regulations  Glossary  Careers & Jobs

Tel –  +44 (0) 1903 884488  Fax –  +44 (0) 1903 884377  E-Mail us –  click here is a trading name of Gaugemaster Controls Ltd.
Registered in England No. 2714470, Registered office:
Gaugemaster House, Ford Road
Arundel, West Sussex, BN18 0BN, United Kingdom

VAT Reg. No. 587 8089 71

Copyright © 2003-2014 Gaugemaster Controls Ltd. All Rights Reserved.