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Car Fleet

Echoes from the past

Car 1 was delivered in 1884 as a four window per side saloon. Width was 5′ 6″, overall length 20′ 8″ and height was 7′ 8½”. The enclosed saloon, was accessed by doors set centrally in each bulkhead and seated 18 persons. 12 others could be accommodated on the open platforms. A Siemans D2 size series wound motor, rated at 6HP drove  a single axle via a belt drive. Sometime after 1905 the  4window arrangement was altered to 2 windows.  It was scrapped in 1946 after damage during wartime storage.

Car 2 was delivered in summer 1885 and was of similar dimensions to car 1 but was fitted from new with the two-window option.  Like Car 1 it was fitted with a Siemens D2, series wound 6hp electric motor driving one axle through a belt driven countershaft. Open stud controllers of the type used by the railway until the 1960s were fitted in the roof above the driver, with reversing achieved by use of a detachable handle at each end of the car. Braking was effected by use of a tram type handwheel. Scrapped in 1946

Car 3 entered service as a 40 seat crossbench open in 1882.  Roll-down canvas screens were fitted on the seaward side but proved little protection. It was fitted with a  new type of chassis built by Greenwood & Batley under licence from Magnus and  Anthony Reckenzaun. It used a 7HP motor with a shaft drive to a differential driving one axle. With winter arriving the body was rebuilt as a semi-open with a central saloon  accesed via bulkhead doors. Problems with the drive  saw it being replaced with a 8hp motor driving the axle directly from the armature shaft via a single reduction gear. This system, purchased from the Compagnie Electrique Belge of Liege proved very reliable and is still used by the railway today. He also lengthened the chassis and rebuilt the saloon in the style of the new 6, 7 & 8. After many years of service Car 3 was damaged while being dismantled and is unlikely to be rebuilt at the present time. 

Car 5 was an attempt to provide a ‘winter car’. There had been an earlier car 5 dating from 1898 but this had been scrapped in 1920.   For a change the body would be constructed of steel rather than wood built by local coachbuilders, G.Kelsey of Hove. In the meantime the railway’s staff started work on the underframe in a room in the ‘Bungalow’ station at Black Rock. When completed it was put on its wheels and towed to Paston Place works for finishing. The body was delivered by lorry and manhandled onto the completed chassis. The brakes and electrics were then assembled and the car was successfully tested. Attractively painted in Royal Blue and Primrose Yellow it entered service in 1930 and was used for the opening ceremony of the new Black Rock Station on the 27th June 1930. Seating 24 passengers it was powered by a Siemens 8hp motor driving one axle via a countershaft. It was scrapped in 1946/7 after being damaged during wartime storage.

The current car fleet

Car 4 was introduced as crossbench open along with Car 3. It’s subsequent history is the same as Car 3 except it was completely refurbished by Alan Keef Ltd using some of the money obtained from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2017.  After being delivered back to Brighton in an ex-works condition it was fitted out with electrics and brakes with assistance from VERA members. One nice feature retained during the rebuild was the original bulkheads with the door and window configuration still visible. It carries the new corporate livery of red and cream and still has the Compagnie Electrique Belge of Liege 8HP motor driving one axle directly from the armature shaft via a single reduction gear. It is now the oldest Car in the fleet. It’s principle dimensions are just slightly different to Car 3 being: overall length 24’4”, width 5’ 11”, height 7’ 8”, wheel diameter 2’ 6”, wheelbase 9ft.

Car 6 was the result of the 1901 Black Rock extension as Magnus decided he needed at least 7 cars to maintain a minimum level of service. He already had 5 servicable cars but decided to build a further three to make doubly sure. Surprisingly enough he did not settle on 40 seaters as he had with Cars 3 & 4 but instead chose a similar but smaller design, 18ft long based around 32 seats. Car 6 entered service in 1901. It is believed that Car 6 started life as a cross bench open but by 1924 it had been converted to  a standard semi-open with slding doors. At the same time it was extended to 24ft 4″, which allowed the fitting of two more bench seats without the annoyance of having them against the dashboard. These semi-opens were the backbone of the postwar fleet and it is a great tribute to Volk’s original design  that, with the exception of Car 3, they have lasted for a century and beyond. Following the experiments of the early 1960 to have two car sets instead of single cars, Car 6 is normally paired with Car 10 as seen in the photograph.

Cars 7 & 8 entered service is 1901/2 and were the first to be designed with side entrance doors. Unlike Car 6, that was built at the same time with open sides and three roof supporting posts each side, Cars 7 & 8 had the centre post on each side replaced by a fixed glazed panel. Bulkheads fitted with three rectangular windows were fitted between the roof supporting pillars in line with the wheel centres and glazed sliding doors were fitted either side of the fixed central panels.

The two cars, along with car 6 were lengthened during the 1923/4 rebuild to give the confuguration seen today.During the postwar refurbishment Car 8 was renumbered as Car 5 to fill the gap left by the withdrawal of the Winter Car, a situation that lasted until VERA brokered a deal in 2000 to switch back to the original numbering scheme. They normally run as a two car set.

Car 9. In 1910 a new car entered service unlike any of the others so far built. From the north side the car looked just like an ordinary open crossbench car, but from the sea-side it looked like a semi-open with two sliding doors and a fixed centre panel. The reason for this was that it would give some solid protection from the chill wind off the sea but would also allow free movement of air around the car when the weather was fine – thus Magnus hoped to reap the benefit of both an open and a semi-open car on the same chassis.  This strange hybrid system lasted until the car was fitted with the Volk’s standard chassis during 1923 / 24. Although the side panel and doors were removed during the rebuild the glazed bulkheads were left in place to give some protection. Car dimensions are: Overall length 24’6″, width 6ft and height 7’8″. An 8hp C.E.B motor supplies the traction.

Car 10. The last traditional Volk’s Car rolled out of Paston Place Works in 1926, a true ‘toastrack’ devoid of any bulkheads. The roof is more curved than the other cars which makes it just a little taller at 7’10”, length is 24’7″ and width is 6ft. Traction is provided by a Compagnie Electrique Belge 8hp motor driving one axle direct via a single reduction gear.

Over the years there have been a few modification to this car but the main change was the provision in 1984 of two bulkheads between the roof pillars directly over the wheel centres. These were neccesary because it had been noticed that the roof was beginning to sway when the car was in motion. The bulkheads have provided added strength to the car and the roof now stays in place! In 2016 the car was tansported to Alan Keef as part of the Heritage lottery funded restoration of Cars 4, 6 and 10. It resulted in a wheels upwards rebuild but Car 10 is now operational in ex-works condition. It can run either as a single or as a pair with Car 6.

Southend 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 purchased two 1899 cross-bench open control trailers. Built 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.

Car 9 entered service in 1953 powered by two 60volt milk float motors wired in series. By the 1990s it was decided that the cars were now surplus to requirements and they would be disposed of.  Car 8 went to the Southend Pier Museum, before passing to Chelmsford City Council. In 2018 it was sent to Alan Keef who restored it in the original livery for display in the City Museum. Southend 9’s later history is HERE.

Engineers train


Engineer’s Motor Rail 40SD530

For times when the railway is closed and the power is switched off a small Motor Rail diesel was purchased from Alan Keef Ltd.

This was the last locomotive to be ordered from Motor Rail although it was actually built by by Alan Keef Ltd for the Butterley Brick Co. Ltd. and operated at their Star Lane Brickworks. When the brickworks closed it was returned to Alan Keef where it was overhauled before being purchased by Volk’s Railway in 2004. It was the first non electric vehicle to run on the railway and has proved very useful on permanent way trains and for shunting cars when the power is switched off.

To run with it the railway and VERA have built a variety of ‘engineers stock’ including wagons and a delightful ‘person rider’ that stops those working from having to walk to and from the work site.