Immediately after the Second World War several of the Volk’s fleet were deemed beyond economic repair and were scrapped. To make up the deficit the railway acquired two ex trailer cars in 1949 from the Southend Pier Railway. These two unpowered cars were built by Brush in 1899 and were still in very good condition. On arrival at Brighton the two cars were motorised and given the fleet numbers 8 and 9.
Although very different from the rest of the fleet they gave sterling service over the years, in fact they spent longer at Brighton than they did at Southend. However in the late 1990s it was decided to retire the two cars and they were withdrawn from service. Car 8 was offered to the Southend Pier Railway Museum who accepted it and put it on display on the pier. With the elements taking their toll on the car it was taken to Sandford Mill with the aim of it being restored and displayed at the new Chelmsford City Museum. In 2018 it was restored by Alan Keef Ltd., and is now on display in a large glass showcase in Chelmsford Museum.
The future of Car 9 was still very much in he balance and for several years it stood in the car sheds awaiting its fate. Space had always been at a premium in the old sheds and with the arrival of the Simplex and the plans for the new engineer’s train, Car 9 was in the way. At the last minute a deal was done whereby ownership of it passed to the Volk’s Electric Railway Association (VERA). Ownership was one hurdle out of the way, but what to do with it now was an even bigger hurdle to overcome.
Fortunately a garden centre in Hassocks was beginning to set up a heritage centre in which the car would be a major exhibit. So, in 2008 Southend 9 was hoisted on to a low loader and transported the 9 miles to the fledgeling South Downs Heritage Centre. Unfortunately, as with many such plans, the proposed Centre never really progressed to the extent envisaged and Car 9 remained hidden under a tarpaulin out of sight of the public for the next 15 years.
With the 140th Anniversary of the railway approaching discussions took place between the Association and Brighton & Hove City Council about returning the car to the railway as part of the planned celebrations. This led to several VERA members and the railway’s Assistant Manager going to Hassocks for an in depth look at the logistics of moving the car.
After a lot of hard work, more than a few blows with a sledge hammer, several cans of freeing oil, and barring the car slowly along the short length of track, it was decided it was strong enough to make the journey. The only problem was that the weight of the tarpaulin, no doubt helped by several heavy snowfalls over the years, had caused one end of the roof to sag badly, but a couple of ‘pit props’ solved that problem.
Collection date was set for June 7th and a flat bed artic and crane were ordered. A very large crane was necessary as Car 9 had to be lifted clear of all of the crates and bits and pieces stored by the garden centre, and then lifted over the fence on to the flat bed trailer.
There were one or two anxious moment as Car 9 became airborne but the work undertaken by the VERA members had paid off and it was safely swung over the fence before being gently lowered on to the low loader. Safely secured on the trailer and showing the ‘Save the Toastrack’ banner the convoy set off back down to Madeira Drive.
Arrangements had been made for Car 9 to be unloaded on to the south track of the East Loop. It was imperative that the service on the railway was disrupted as little as possible so perfect planning was needed to ensure power to the various track sections was switched off for the shortest time possible. The other factor was that trains would not be able to run on the Halfway to Black Rock section while the crane was in use. The railway’s Assistant Manager, Maurice, was on hand to liaise and ensure everything went as smoothly as possible.
The journey from Hassocks went smoothly with the low loader and Car 9 arriving at the railway at just after 9am with the crane arriving about 5 minutes later. With a bit of shunting around to get the vehicles in position as close as possible to the East Loop, the points were clipped so that any service trains used only the north side of the loop, and the power was switched off so the lift could start.
With all four wheels safely on the track it was time to wait for a break in service to tow Southend 9 back to the depot. This was going to be the big test as since it left the railway the furthest it had moved on rails was about 10 feet! Fortunately VERs Maurice took it nice and slowly, but there was a collective sigh of relief as the car finally came to rest in the back of the south shed at Halfway. With all moves completed succesfully it was decided that Southend 9 would be able to take its place in the calvalcade during the Volk’s 140th anniversary celebrations
But what of the future? Well VERA are soon going to start fund raising to restore the car to operational capability, but just as important there are plans afoot to convert two bays to be able to carry two wheelchair bound passengers without them having to get out of their wheelchairs – something that as an Association we are very keen to see through to an end. The sketch hopefully will give an iadea of what we are hoping to acheive. There will be more information over the next few months, so please keep an eye on the website or via our Facebook page.