Volk's Electric Railway

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Half-way station
VER Carriages
Detail of the tracks in front of the carriage shed showing the electrified third rail.

Volk's Electric Railway (VER) is the oldest operating electric railway in the world. It is a narrow gauge railway that runs along a length of the seafront of the English seaside resort of Brighton. It was built by Magnus Volk, with the first section being completed in 1883.

Today the line runs between terminal stations at Aquarium (adjacent to the Palace Pier) and Black Rock (adjacent to Brighton Marina), with an intermediate station and depot at Paston Place. The line has a gauge of 2ft 8½in (825mm), is electrified at 110 V DC using a third rail, and is 1¼ miles (2 km) long.

The initial 1883 line was intended as a temporary summer attraction and ran for only ¼ mile (400 m) between Swimming Arch and Chain Pier. It was built to a gauge of 2ft (609mm) and electrical power was supplied to the cars using the two running rails, at 50 V DC. In 1884 the line was extended from Chain Pier to Paston Place, the gauge widened to 2ft 9in (838mm), and the electrical supply still was 110V DC. In 1886 a third rail was added to avoid power loss along the extended line, and the gauge tightened up to its current 2ft 8½in.

In 1896 the unusual Brighton and Rottingdean Seashore Electric Railway was built by Volk. This was unsuccessful and closed in 1901, when the Volks Electric Railway was extended from Paston Place to Black Rock. In 1933 the line was cut back from Swimming Arch to Aquarium.

In 1938 the Brighton Corporation took control of the line. It was closed during the Second World War but reopened in 1948. Winter operation ceased since 1954. 2-car multiple operation was introduced in 1964. There was a decline in visitor numbers due to package holidays. In 1995 the Volk's Electric Railway Association was formed to help preserve the line.


  • Iain Frew (ed) (1983). Britain's Electric Railways Today. Published by the Electric Railway Society and Southern Electric Group. ISBN 0-85534-021-5 or ISBN 0-906988-12-8. Pages 81-82.

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Volk's Electric Railway

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