9 June 2014

Volk's Railway wins Heritage Lottery Fund bid

Brighton & Hove City Council has won a successful first round bid* from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The money will be used to restore the historic Volk’s Railway and provide new and upgraded facilities.

Volk’s Railway, which runs for a mile along Brighton seafront from the Brighton Pier to Black Rock, opened in 1883 and is the oldest operating electric railway in the world. Since then teams of council staff with support from dedicated volunteers have kept the railway running right up until the present day.

The funding would 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 and schools sessions

Following this initial success, the council will now draw up detailed plans to submit to the HLF for round two next year. The HLF has awarded the council a development grant of £96,000 to develop the scheme further. 

As long as plans have progressed satisfactorily and according to the original proposal, an award for the project is confirmed. The total amount of funding will be around £1.5 million and the project is expected to be finished in 2017.

Councillor Geoffrey Bowden, chair of the city’s economic development and culture committee, said: “Volk’s is truly unique, part of Brighton & Hove’s heritage and a wonderful attraction, so this funding success is fantastic news. We can now give the railway the tender loving care it deserves and provide an even better experience for visitors and school parties. It’s also a tribute to staff and volunteers, past and present, whose dedication has kept the railway on track for 131 years.”

Peter Williams, spokesperson for the Volk’s Electric Railway Association (VERA), said: “We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has recognised the historical and national importance of Magnus Volk’s railway by awarding this substantial grant.  There is now the opportunity of restoring the railway to it's former glory and to finally say goodbye to the old, draughty and leaking train storage sheds.  VERA looks forward to developing the project with the council over the next three years.”

Further information

* Heritage Grants applications are assessed in two rounds. A first-round –pass is given when HLF has endorsed outline proposals and earmarked funding. A first-round pass may also include an immediate award to fund the development of the project. Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at second-round and as long as plans have progressed satisfactorily and according to the original proposal, an award for the project is confirmed.

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 unsafe to use.

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

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the HLF aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, the fund invests in every part of the country’s diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 36,000 projects with more than £5.9 billion across the UK.