Browse content similar to Rottingdean and Volks Electric Railway. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
We love to be beside the sea.
It's where we're free to express ourselves,
and it's shaped our lives through thousands of years of trade,
migration and war.
But it's the mix of people in Britain
that really connects us to the wider world.
From Beachy Head to Brighton, the chalk cliffs form a barrier
with only a few natural breaks.
One chink in this coastal armour is at Rottingdean.
It's been an obvious temptation to invaders and marauders for centuries,
but Mark Horton has been drawn here by Rottingdean's hidden treasures.
For me one of the best things about the coast
is the way low tide reveals lost secrets of the sea.
I'm looking for clues to a mad piece of Victorian engineering.
An electric railway that ran under the sea.
It was built by engineer Magnus Volk in 1896.
He wanted to create an electric railway
that could run along the beach, even at high tide.
Quite how he did it
would only become clear to me once the tide has gone out.
So I've time to look into why he would want to build it here
in the first place.
Volk, the son of a German emigre,
wasn't the first person with foreign connections
to influence the town.
By the Saxon pond, next to a Norman church,
the connections go even further.
Sue, Glenda and Catherine from the local Preservation Society
want me to see the former home
of a celebrated son of the British Empire
who put Rottingdean in the public eye.
I look like a rubbernecking tourist!
-So who's house is that?
-Did they really bring ladders to look inside?
One of the local pubs ran a double-decker horse-drawn omnibus
for the tourists, and they came round,
parked outside the wall, the tourists rushed to the top deck
and looked over the wall at Kipling, and this is where he was standing.
Kipling arrived in 1897, already a household name.
His most famous work, The Jungle Book,
had been published three years before.
And did Kipling living here, did it make a more famous place?
Absolutely, he brought all his famous friends, artistic friends,
and suddenly tourism started,
people wanted to see them, so they flocked here.
Rottingdean, popular with day-trippers,
now had celebrity status, a boon for Volk and his electric railway.
And now, exposed by the tide, is what I've come to see.
Ian Gledhill has written a history of Volk's eccentric railway.
Ian, this is completely mad!
It is unbelievable that there should be a railway along the beach.
The track ran on these concrete blocks, this is one set of tracks
and there was another set further over.
-You can see its line running along here.
-Yes, four rails,
two rails on here, and two over there, 18 feet between the two,
it had the widest track gauge of any railway ever built.
It stretched for three miles towards Brighton.
The track was underwater at high tide,
so what sort of train could run on it?
This is a model made by Magnus Volk in 1893.
The final one looked somewhat different from that,
but that was his first idea of it.
Isn't that wonderful? It must have been an extraordinary sight.
It was absolutely enormous.
It stood on legs 24ft high, the deck was 50ft long,
on the top was a cabin that could carry 30 passengers in comfort
with stained-glass windows, chandeliers.
Can I just ask the simple question?
-It operated by electricity.
It's going underwater. How did it work?
Well, there was an overhead wire mounted on posts alongside the track,
the current came through the motor and the return was through the rail,
so that meant at high tide, it was through the sea itself,
but there wasn't a Health & Safety Executive in those days.
I don't know what they'd have said if he'd proposed it now.
And this is the only footage of Volk's creation, the Daddy Longlegs,
as it came to be known, at high tide.
But the Daddy Longlegs was created as an extension
to a railway Volk was already operating in Brighton.
This is him on the footplate on its opening day.
Over 125 years later,
it's still running along the seafront in Brighton.
I'm curious to know about Volk the man.
His granddaughter, Jill Cross, remembers him from the 1920s.
He was a very inventive person.
His house was the first one in Brighton to be lit with electricity.
Also he was an honorary radiographer
at the Children's Hospital.
As a teenager, Jill used to visit her grandfather
at his workshop, which is still being used by the railway today.
Such a small door.
Well, he wasn't very big himself.
About 80 years since I came here last.
What was this space used for?
They had the dynamos here
to power the electric railway.
So, Jill, do you almost expect to see your grandfather there?
Yes, sitting at his desk, and keeping an eye on things out there,
watching the trains go up and down.
You can see why he chose this spot for his office.
Oh, yes, to see what's going on.
So Volk's original railway is still here, but what happened to his Daddy Longlegs?
MAN: There was the most appalling storm in 1896.
Daddy Longlegs fell over and was totally destroyed,
and it had only run for six days.
Imagine the frustration Magnus Volk must have felt!
But he re-built it, and it ran for another four years after that.
That must have cost investors a huge sum of money?
It was probably half a million pounds in modern terms to re-build it,
and it never made money after that, which was one of the reasons why it didn't last.
In the end, Volk had to abandon the Daddy Longlegs,
because he couldn't afford to move the tracks to make way
for new coastal defences.
His electrifying attempts to conquer the waves were claimed by the sea.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]