Dear Members

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We hope the last two weeks have not been too painful for you without your newsletter. This week we have some excellent railway orientated items to read and as always our thanks go to our generous contributors.


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Phil and Nigel



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Southend Pier Railway
Part 1


This is based on an article I wrote back in 1995 following a very serious fire that affected the pier on the 7th June of that year. Reports circulated in the national press that the pier would be closed for good. The announcement in the House of Commons on the 29th June that the pier would re-open the following day was of no surprise to local residents who had viewed the scene because it was obvious that whilst the fire had seriously damaged one railway station and the modern bowling alley (where the fire had started), both on the landward end of the pier, the rest of the pier was untouched.

Better still it transpired that Southend Council (the pier’s owners) had fully insured it. Surprisingly the museum was undamaged despite being underneath the burnt out railway station. Most important of all, the piles and legs that supported the pier were still sound. Before the pier could be re-opened an insurance inspection had to be undertaken and £50,000 spent making the structure safe before the public could be admitted although with the railway not working a trip to the end of the pier involved a long walk.

The pier’s history has been dogged by disasters, but as we shall see later, it was the fire in 1976 which had the greatest impact on the railway.


   The Old Wooden Pier Horse Tramway

In the late 18th Century the south end of Prittlewell began to develop as an exclusive resort and place of bathing for the wealthy who could afford to travel to such remote places in the expensive stage coaches. In 1804 this trade received a boost when Princesses Caroline and Charlotte (respectively wife and daughter of the Prince Regent) stayed for part of the season. The lesser holiday trade came mainly from London via paddle steamer. However, the landing was made difficult by the shallowness of the sea and the distance to which the tide went out, transfer from ship to small craft being necessary.

By 1829 Southend‘s holiday trade was sufficiently developed for local landowners to form a company and begin the construction of a wooden landing pier. William Heygate, a former Lord Mayor of London, headed the syndicate. However, it was not until the completion of an extension in 1846 that ships of any size could discharge directly onto the pier itself.

In 1856 the first railway train reached Southend via the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway and began the popularity of day trips to the seaside for Londoners. For the next hundred years shipping still provided an important but dwindling source of excursion traffic. In most recent years this is celebrated by a brief visit by the paddle steamer Waverly.

Later, in 1889, the Great Eastern Railway opened a line to a more northerly terminus at Southend’s Victoria Circus, involving a walk down the length of the High Street to reach the seaside front and the pier.
The length of the pier made it difficult for passengers’ luggage to be transported from one end to the other for those visiting by boat and intending to stay in local hotels and boarding houses. At some stage (sources disagree on the date) wooden rails were laid upon the east side of the pier, forming a single line tramway with three hand-propelled trolleys. Later a trolley was fitted out with a sail for use when the wind was favourable. Presumably these were operated by pier porters although whether there was an additional charge for this service is unclear. A horse was later provided but the state of the poorly laid track resulted in the service being suspended. After repairs a more powerful horse had to be obtained (for £48) to cope with the traffic. To reduce the noise and the vibration, the latter which had damaged the planking, this horse was shod with rubber horseshoes.

Eventually a second horse was obtained to enable a tramway train to operate. This consisted of the two horses in tandem pulling a flat luggage truck with a seat for the driver, followed by two (some sources say three) closed trucks with unglazed windows for the passengers. Reversing the train upon reaching the end of the line presumably involved unhitching the horses with luggage truck and attaching them to the other end of the passenger carriages. Apparently at one time a tram conductor collected the fares on the move whilst his son actually drove the train. Remarkably the track layout meant that the train passed through the centre of the entertainments pavilion (a tent), interrupting performances.



The pier changed hands several times, being first mortgaged and then sold to the Chairman of the Eastern Counties Railway. It was in turn passed over to Sir Moreton Peto who then sold it to his famous partner, Thomas Brassey. Maintenance of the wooden structure became prohibitive and in 1875 the pier was taken over by the Local Board (council) who replaced the wooden rails with iron.

However, it was becoming clear that the wooden pier could not survive much longer and would need to be replaced with something stronger and steps were taken to secure an act of parliament to create a new iron pier. Unfortunately, in the year (1887) that the act was secured there was a fatal accident on the tramway. This is surprising as most sources suggest that the tramway had ceased operation several years earlier due to its poor condition.

The tramway ran up the east side of the pier but was not fenced off from the public nor was the train properly braked. A Mrs Little got on to the wrong side of the line and her daughter rushed to save her from the oncoming train. Due to the strong wind which prevailed at the time the tram could not stop with the result that Mrs Little was crushed to death and her daughter was seriously injured. This might suggest that after the earlier withdrawal of the horse drawn service there had been a return to the sail powered trolley.


                   The Pier Electric Tramway 1890-1948

In 1887 the act of parliament was secured to commence a replacement pier in more durable materials. The engineer appointed was Sir James Brunlees and the contractors for the main structure were Arrol brothers of Glasgow. The new pier was built immediately next to the old pier and was completed and ready for opening in August 1889.

It was decided to install an electric tramway properly fenced off from the public. Siemens, Crompton & Company Ltd of Chelmsford were awarded the contract to build a 3ft 6in gauge single track electric tramway on the third rail system extending initially for three-quarters of a mile for an experimental train to be run. Power was supplied by a Davey-Paxman 25 horse-power compound steam engine driving a Crompton generator producing 200 volts direct current, sufficient for an average speed of 12 mph. By the time of the opening the line had been extended to the full 1¼ miles from the North (landward) Station to the South (seaward) Station.

Only one vehicle was provided for the official opening on 2nd August 1890. It was a single deck, roofed cross-bench (toastrack) motor tramcar, built by Falcon. It was painted green and carried the legend CROMPTON ELECTRIC RAILWAY beneath SOUTHEND LOCAL BOARD at each end. Its’ sides were open, although in wet weather sheets were provided to cover the sides to protect the passengers.  On the Bank Holiday Monday, despite carrying 3,000 passengers throughout the day, it proved insufficient to meet demand.

The popularity of the pier grew with pier amusements and a theatre, becoming London’s local seaside resort, especially with East Enders. Growing also were the number of claims regarding supposed accidents to tramway passengers. An official in civilian guise had to travel on each journey to reduce the bogus claims made.

In 1893 a second identical car was acquired and in 1894 the fleet was increased to three two car trains with the purchase of a further tramcar and three trailers. However, the lack of of approval for the plans for a passing loop necessitated the stock being formed into two three car sets. Presumably two tracks were provided at each terminus but only one train at a time could proceed along the line.

By 1898 the further extension of the pier and the building of the new Pier Head required a more intensive service, so the plans for a passing loop in the middle of the line were finally passed and the loop came into operation in 1889.

In 1892 Southend became a municipal borough, deciding in 1898 to encourage the seafront trade by the building of seven electric tramway routes in the Corporation area to the same gauge as the pier railway, under the provisions of the 1896 Light Railways Act. To provide the power for these road tramway routes it was decided to build a power station in London Road in 1902 and to power the pier railway from the same source. As the new power supplied was 550 volts DC new 18 HP motors had to be fitted to the pier’s power cars which in turn were later replaced by 27 HP motors supplied by General Electric.

Further purchases of stock resulted in four trains being assembled of seven cars each, with the passing loop being lengthened, in 1928. Shortly afterwards two trains collided in the passing loop as a result of one train failing to stop in the loop, apparently due to the driver suddenly being taken ill. Seven tramcars were damaged although without serious injury to the passengers or staff.

The following year the Prince George Extension to the pier was opened, giving the pier a total length of 1.33 miles. By this time approximately two million visitors were being admitted to the pier each year. To provide a more intensive service on the tramway to cope with such crowds, the Corporation installed semi-automatic signalling and doubled the line. Two scissor crossovers were placed 3,500 feet apart towards the middle of the line, controlled by two enclosed manually operated seven lever signal boxes. These improvements to the line were progressively carried out in the period 1930-32.


The Pierhead looking north with motor vessel and paddle steamer alongside offloading passengers.





Part 2


Wednesday 3rd August.

After a pleasant breakfast in the hotel and a sensible start time we caught a train at 9.00 from Rostock to Lietzow where we changed into a train for Prora arriving at about 10.45. A short walk took us to the Museum of Railways and Technology.

This is quite a large museum in a rather new and bland building. The collection is an assortment of locos large and small, models, trams, planes and vehicles etc. Needless to say it was nigh on impossible to obtain any reasonable photos with the exhibits lined up so close together and pillars in the way as well as you will see from the few photos below.


A rather non de-script model railway.                      An interesting snow plough.


An example of the many small diesel                        Not a good photo but one that

shunters. Also shows the bland interior                    speaks for itself I think

of the building


A general view of the museum                                Had to include this one of a   Russian  4-8-4


Another industrial shunter and trams                     Finally a last view of one of the trams


We left the museum at 12 and returned to the station to board the 12.10 to Bergen where we swapped to a branch shuttle to Putbus. This is the home of the Rasender Roland narrow gauge railway. This is about 14.5 miles long and is 750mm gauge. The loco sheds and workshop are based here and we had a tour around these with a guide.

We joined a steam hauled train at 14.00 bound for the far end of the line at Gohren where we arrived at 15.20. Having taken innumerable photos we took a short walk to the sea front and found a suitable cafe for refreshment. Strangely perhaps the young waiter didn’t speak English which just about every one else we met seemed to. He called an elder waiter who I believe was his father who did speak English. After a suitable meal (fish and chips I seem to recall) and a few drinks we returned to the station for yet more photo’s.

Our return train departed at 17.50 and we then retraced our route back to Rostock arriving there at nearly 21.00 for a very late dinner.

The following are just a few of the many photo's and do not really do the railway justice. I recommend a visit if you ever get the chance


A view inside the engine shed at Putbus                0-8-0T No. 99 4011-5 at Putbus


991784 passing at Sellin Ost                                       99 4011-5 at Gohren


99 4011-5 at Gohren                                                     99 4011-5 at Gohren


99 1784 passing at Sellin Ost


The next day was scheduled for a visit to the Molli which was to perhaps eclipse even the superb Rasender Roland Railway. I will explain more about this line in part 3.





If you have been lucky enough to get into a working signal box one of the items of interest is the Signalling Register, a pre-printed book about A3 size, in which the signalman records the events under his control. There are headings for each column and the two pages are for the Up and Down trains. If there are multiple running lines then there will be additional registers. In very busy boxes in the days of steam it was usual to have a boy who would make all the entries, relying on his ears to tell which block instrument was in use.
I have scanned in a page from what was my local station’s box for 1965 so you can see what was recorded. The signalman would sign on at the start of his shift, and the date and signal box name would be recorded at the top of each page. In this case the printed Up and Down pages were reversed because where the register was positioned made it more logical to record in line with the direction of the trains. The signalmen were brothers.




The sharp eyed of you will have spotted that Antrim is a junction with a single line. There were two fitted freights each night in both directions. These trains were from the South bound for Donegal and Sligo via Londonderry. The trains were worked to Lisburn by Irish locos and then hauled to Londonderry by diesel railcars.
My oldest register is just a partial page from Glenavy box on the ex GNR(I) Knockmore Junction to Antrim line which I found in the station building shortly before it was demolished in the early 70s. During Lockdown 1 I had a look in detail at the entries and was puzzled by the entries relating to a Motor Car, for which the staffs were cancelled.




When a train enters a single line section and then returns to the staff issuing box the signal to cancel the staff is sent and an entry is made in the register.
The fifth entry down is for a Motor Car. What was the Motor Car referred to? The GNR(I) were well ahead in the railcar field introducing AEC engine diesel railcars in 1932, so it could not have been one of these. I had nothing in my numerous Irish railway books.
I sent the scan of the page and my query off to Tim Morton of the Irish Railway Record Society to see if he could pass it to an expert on the subject. After a few weeks Tim sent me the responses he had recieved and the answer was very interesting.
Jim Donaghy, an unofficial frequenter of Derry Road cabins, wrote - Charles, It would seem that the "motor car" entered the Glenavy-Crumlin section to perform some type of pw or inspection work. To enter that section they needed the staff from the Glenavy box and, as they returned to Glenavy without completing the journey to Crumlin, the staff is returned to the Glenavy machine from which it was issued and is therefore recorded as cancelled. For some reason there is no record on the Up page of it returning to Ballinderry although it performed the same task next day with the Down page showing it leaving there both mornings. As regards “motor car”, I suspect that it was the pw vehicle as shown in the photograph of the 1933 incident at Omagh. As a matter of interest a train shunting Dickson's siding at Dungannon which was within the TMY-DGN section had to have a Trew and Moy – Dungannon staff issued from Dungannon cabin and afterwards returned there and recorded as cancelled. Jim






My thanks to Charles Friel and other IRRS members for their very informative response. Please be aware that the copyright for these images lies with them. I have never seen any photographs of these engineer’s vehicles before. It just goes to show what a treasure trove one fragment of a signal box register can unearth.








The Railway Clearing House is an under reported institution without which the railways of this country couldn’t operate. On formation it became fundamental to the operation of the railways in Britain. Railways in the early 1800s were not nationalised but were private companies, made possible by the adoption of steam as the main form of traction.
In the 1830s railways were being established all over the country and were all independent companies. They did their own thing as regards locomotives, rolling stock, signalling, ticketing, charges and staff. As the number of railways grew through travel became possible, but to achieve this agreement between companies had to be reached. Many companies were at loggerheads and resented interference from their neighbours. Passengers sometimes had to walk between trains at stations in uncomfortable conditions and we all know of the chaos at transhipment sheds of general merchandise.  There were problems of lost luggage and even horse and carriages being separated, much to the annoyance of their owners.
In 1841 the Coaching and Police Committee proposed the formation of a clearing house though which problems could be discussed  and solutions put into practice. The Clearing House started formally in 1842 with nine pioneering companies. It should be stressed that there was no legal requirement to join the RCH. As companies recognised the benefits of cooperation more companies joined. By December 1845 there were 16 companies  enabling through travel easier for the passenger. By December  1850 this had grown to 27 members. The GWR having its own broad gauge declined to join but eventually was accepted into the RCH in 1857. The main task was apportioning ticket charges between companies on a mileage basis. To this end a set of mileages was introduced to make things easier and many employees spent many hours sorting tickets. This was eventually made easier by the introduction of the Edmonson ticket system in 1844. The cardboard tickets replaced paper ones, which were often not in good condition. A headquarters building was established in what eventually became Eversholt Street  along the east side of Euston Station.
With through traffic on the increase it became essential to standardise items such as couplings so that stock became interchangeable between companies.  Dimensions such as buffer height and spacing were established, as were chains and screw couplings. Also with continuous brakes   It was stipulated that brake pipes on the buffer beams were to the left of centre. Companies were concerned as to the eventual destinations of their stock. At junctions number takers were employed to record carriage, wagon and sheet numbers. As this practice was open to fraud the number takers were eventually provided by the RCH. Company accounts were standardised so company performances were easier to compare and understand. As passenger mileages grew so did lost property. A lost property office was established in the RCH building in 1848.The RCH was instrumental in establishing standard railway time in conjunction with the GPO. It took a while for companies to agree to this but did become accepted nationally in the early 1850s. The RCH never had jurisdiction over locomotive development. This remained the preserve of the company CMEs.
On the freight side the RCH established wagon  demurrage charges to facilitate return to the owning companies. Coal wagons were owned not only by the railways but also by collieries. Repairing wagons became expensive as they were out of traffic and not earning. Rather than have collieries build more wagons of their own design the RCH established a wagon design which took many years to be adopted. Rules were drawn up for cattle wagon dimensions and transport of milk churns, so important for farmers.
Great strides were made in signalling. Many companies were opposed to suggestions that did not conform to their own rules, but general agreement was reached on a common set of bell codes in 1884, and was in use by 1904.
In 1921 RCH staff numbered 3400 and grouping was looming. This resulted in less work for the RCH, but improvements continued to be made. After WW2  in 1945 it was becoming clear that the days of the RCH were numbered and in 1948 after nationalisation the RCH was incorporated into the British Transport Commission.. The RCH was disbanded in March 1963 after 120 years  service. The railways of GB could not have operated successfully without the RCH. It is interesting to note that there was no equivalent in Europe as railways were nationalised at inception.




Part 4


After a lack of enthusiasm over the Christmas period and the need to go into the garage in the cold to build the fiddle yard board this was finally completed last week. The join with the main base board and the step for the cassettes all worked out successfully, although trying to hold the fiddle yard board at the right height whilst marking the position for the alignment dowels was quite a challenge.



The board join and a cassette aligned before fixing track on the cassette.


Left - The completed fiddle yard board.  (The back-scene is on the ‘OO’ layout behind)             
Right- The cassettes completed and tried with some stock


Once the cassettes were completed and wiring finished they were all tested and worked well. A trial running session then took place which resulted in all loco’s and stock being run in turn.

The only problem encountered was that one of the Cobalt point motors which had worked OK before Christmas now refused to move. Having checked the wiring and then checked the point motor off the board with a separate supply I came to the conclusion that it had failed for some inexplicable reason. As DCC Concepts guarantee these for life this was a little puzzling to say the least.

Having contacted them the point motor has now been returned to them for repair. This is actually the second one to fail on the same point which is perhaps even more peculiar. When I fit the replacement I will have to double check the alignment and operation of the point just in case the point itself is sticking which without the motor doesn’t seem to be.

Work has now started on the wharf side track which will be inset. For this I am using old rails to provide the check rails and DAS clay for the infill suitably scribed to show cobbles. This is quite a slow job and I don’t want to rush it, so I expect that it will take a couple of weeks to finish and paint. The next update will hopefully show more of this.





A member of the Austin Seven Association is working on a rather strange project.

It’s a 1928 Austin 7 that was converted into a locomotive in 1935-1937 by Rhiwbach quarries in North Wales. By 1960 it had been stripped of its engine and other parts, allegedly for an Austin 7 serving as a taxi in nearby Penmachno. James Ralph acquired it in 2016 and has been slowly rebuilding it from virtually a pile of rust. The engine he bought to replace the original missing unit was a marine version, it came with a modified gearbox that provided a single forward speed and reverse. He retained that and opted for a Baguley loco type speed arrangement, this locked the rear axle and had sliding dogs to engage either side chain to provide 2 speeds. The bottom photo was taken in the 1960’s and shows the loco as rescued, but after the engine had been removed. 







Malcolm's New Toy


One to interest some members of the club. I built this Christmas present with my grandson, all 1,271 pieces. It can be motorised. Maybe the next club layout should be a Lego one? easy to build items at home…






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Answers in the next issue.


1) What did the Romans call Scotland?
2) Who was made Lord Mayor of London In 1397, 1398, 1406 And 1419?
3) Who was Henry VIIIs last wife?
4) Who was the youngest British Prime Minister?
5) In which year was Joan of Arc burned at the stake?
6) Which nationality was the polar explorer Roald Amundsen?
7) Who was the first female Prime Minister of Australia?
8) Which English explorer was executed in 1618, fifteen year after being found guilty of conspiracy against King James I of England and VI of Scotland?
9) Which English city was once known as Duroliponte?
10) The first successful vaccine was introduced by Edward Jenner in 1796. Which disease did it guard against?





1) Santiago
2) Ben Nevis
3) Vatican City
4) Canada
5) Four – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Somalia
6) E
7) Russia
8) London, UK
9) Africa
10) River Nile