The ex-Southend Cars 8 & 9
Following the scrapping of Cars 1, 2 and 5 in the immediate post-war years there was a hole in the fleet that needed plugging quickly and cheaply. It just so happened that Southend Corporation were replacing the rolling stock on their pier railway and a lot of trailer cars – from a similar era to the existing Volk’s fleet – were surplus to requirements.
The Corporation eventually purchased two cross-bench open control trailers. Built in 1899 by the Falcon Works at Loughborough they had been rebuilt by Brush in 1911 with end bulkheads. Although fitted with a controller and brakes the cars had no motors so it was a little time before they entered service.
As the three numbers made spare by the scrapping had been filled by simply re-numbering three of the existing fleet the ‘new’ cars were given the numbers 8 & 9. Car 8 was fitted with two 140 volt motors – one for each direction of running – with belt drives to the axles. It entered service in 1950. Car 9 didn’t come into service until 1953 and was fitted with two 60 volt milk-float motors in series both capable of driving in either direction. The cars were certainly faster than the other stock but both had defects that would make them less forgiving than the Volk’s cars.
As can be guessed when two car operation came to the Railway the two ex-Southend cars were coupled together and ran as a dedicated set. Although Car 8 had proved little or no problem Car 9 suffered from brake problems caused by the brake system having no compensation between the front and rear brakes. This, added to a rather bouncy suspension and short wheelbase meant that in the event of heavy application of brakes the car would ‘dig in’ at the front end thus lifting the brake shoes off the rear set of wheels and halving the braking potential.
When coupled together the rear car’s brakes were worked on an over-run principle similar to that of a car and caravan, so the less efficient the braking of the front car the less over-run on the second. With negligible braking from the second car the set became almost impossible to stop. Car 9 was coupled at the east end of the set so stopping at Black Rock was a question of coasting for most of the journey from the last crossing into the station. Eric Masters nicknamed them the ‘intercity set’ as they were so fast, and driving turns on them were limited to a few trusted drivers.
By the 1990s both of the cars were getting very tired and it was obvious that some serious money was going to have to be spent on them soon. Just before the Millennium it was decided to return Car 8 to Southend where it now forms part of the collection of the Pier Museum. Unfortunately it has not found room in the main exhibition and has been relegated to an open position on the pier itself – how long it will last is anyone’s guess. In 2008 a home was found for Car 9 at the new South Downs Heritage Centre in Hassocks, where it forms part of a display about Magnus Volk organised by the Association.