Volks Electric Railway, Brighton

A break in Brighton took us to the Volks Electric Railway.

It runs in a rather idyllic location, along the seafront, between the town and the beach.

Opened in 1883, it wasn’t the first electric railway to be built but it is the oldest continuously running electric railway in the world.

The coaches remind me more of tramcars that railway carriages.

Just over 1 mile (1.6km) long it travels between two termini ‘Aquarium’ and ‘Black Rock’. The intermediate station, appropriately named ‘Halfway’, is the headquarters of the railway. Here you’ll find the sheds, the workshops and a nice bit of railway clutter in the yard.

Originally built to 2 foot (610mm) gauge it was regauged in 1885 to an unusual gauge of 2 foot 8 1/2 inch (825mm). There’s an interesting history of the railway here.

It’s a 110V DC system with a third rail. The driver’s controls are wonderfully simple. Nothing like the ‘control stands’ you find in modern electric locos 🙂

It’s nice to be out in the open air as you travel along by the sea and it’s good to know you’ve ridden a piece of railway history.

The VER was created by Magnus Volk. Born in Brighton, the son of a German clockmaker, he was an inventor fascinated by electricity. He build electric road ‘carriages’, a fire alarm system and the Brighton and Rottingdean Seashore Electric Railway where the passenger car ran through the sea supported by 23 ft (7.0 m) long legs. Yes, really, check out this video. What a pity this didn’t survive!


  1. Are you aware of the short lived Volks Railway machine named Daddy Longlegs, that actually took passengers into the sea?


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