National Lottery funding sparks Volk’s Railway heritage project

Release date: 
Monday, 28 September 2015

Brighton & Hove City Council has won a successful bid from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for £1.65million. The money will be used to restore carriages from the historic Volk’s Railway as well as providing new and upgraded facilities and activities.

Thanks to National Lottery players, works to build the new facilities are planned to start in September 2016 at the end of the railway’s operating season and are expected to be finished in Spring 2017.

Volk’s Railway runs for a mile along Brighton seafront from the Brighton Pier to Black Rock. Opened in 1883, it is the world’s oldest electric railway and the first public electric railway in Britain. The Volk’s Railway was taken into council ownership in 1940. Since then teams of council staff, with support from dedicated volunteers, have kept the railway running right up to the present day.

Councillor Alan Robins, Deputy Chair of the city’s Economic Development and Culture Committee, said: “The Volk’s Railway is a much loved and integral part of our city’s history. The funding success announced today is recognition from the HLF of the importance of this fascinating Victorian attraction which is still so very popular today in the 21 century. We will put the funds to good use to maintain and improve the railway, creating an even better experience for future passengers while staying true to Volk’s vision.”

drawing showing volks railway on the seafront

The funding will be used to:

  • Provide a purpose-built heritage visitor centre at the Aquarium station to tell the story of Magnus Volk and his pioneering railway
  • Create a conservation workshop to protect the historic carriages, enable restoration work to be viewed, and provide training for volunteers to develop their skills
  • Restore and bring back to use three of the original carriages (numbers 4, 6 and 10) which will increase capacity on the railway
  • Develop new learning materials, schools sessions, events and activities

Stuart McLeod, Head of HLF South East, said: “We are delighted that, thanks to National Lottery players, we are able to support this exciting project. The importance of the Volk’s Railway as the world’s oldest electric railway is clear, and we are pleased that this project will help more people engage with this fascinating heritage”.

Peter Williams, spokesperson for the Volk’s Electric Railway Association (VERA), said: “After months of anticipation Volk’s Electric Railway Association is thrilled to receive this exciting news. The Heritage Lottery Fund grant will secure the future of Volk’s Electric Railway for generations to come and will provide visitors with a new heritage experience based around the legacy that Magnus Volk left to the city of Brighton and Hove. At long last, staff and volunteers will be able to operate the railway’s historic cars from a modern, well-equipped depot.

“The Association is in-debted to the hard work that Brighton & Hove City Council and the Project Steering Group have put in over the past 18 months and looks forward sharing this historic occasion.”

WorkshopMore information

Volk’s Railway was created by the famous local inventor Magnus Volk (1851-1937) and opened on August 4, 1883. Read more about the history of the Volks Electric Railway

The railway has three stops: the Aquarium Station (next to Brighton Pier), Paston Place and Black Rock Station near Brighton Marina.

It is open to the public seven days a week between Easter and the end of September and attracts around 200,000 visitors a year.

The railway shed near Peter Pan’s Playground was erected between 1884 and 1886 and is currently in a dilapidated state and not fit for purpose

A small team of volunteers help council staff with all aspects of railway maintenance and operation. It includes broadcaster Nicholas Owen who is a regular driver. The railway is supported by Volk’s Electric Railway Association (VERA).

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, the Heritage Lottery Fund invests money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.

Find out more about how we're improving the seafront.