The Volk’s Electric Railway holds a significant place in the history of electric transport and remains an iconic attraction in Brighton. Opened on the 4th August 1883 by Magnus Volk, a pioneering electrical engineer, the railway became the first electric railway in the United Kingdom and is the world’s oldest operating electric railway. 2023 sees the railway celebrate its 140th anniversary.
Magnus Volk drew inspiration from the success of electric trams and envisioned a similar system for transporting people along Brighton’s seafront. The initial track spanned just over a quarter of a mile, offering awe-struck tourists their first taste of futuristic electric travel. The railway employed a ground-breaking innovation—an electrified third rail—which can still be observed today in a modified and updated form on the mainline out of Brighton Station.
The railway quickly became a popular attraction, captivating both local residents and tourists alike. Over the years, it underwent several expansions (extending the line to its current length of one mile) and underwent renovations to adapt to changing times and needs. However, the railway also encountered challenges, such as storm damage and the repercussions of World War II, which resulted in its closure for eight years between 1940 and 1948.
Today, the Volk’s Electric Railway stands as a living testament to the remarkable vision and pioneering spirit of Magnus Volk. As it commemorates its 140th anniversary, the railway’s dedicated staff and volunteers remain committed to preserving Brighton’s unique railway as an integral part of the nation’s seaside heritage for generations to come.
For a detailed history of the railway, please take a look at the website of our volunteer association, The Volk’s Electric Railway Association.