Friday, 21 December 2012

Daddy Long Legs

Daddy Long Legs, or as it was properly known Pioneer, was the oddest pier ever to have existed.  It was built as an extension to the electric railway which ran along the Brighton coast from the Aquarium to the Chain Pier; it was difficult to  continue the line along the coast so Magnus Volk, the designer, decided to run it though the sea.  So in November 1896 it became possible to board the Pioneer at Paston Place and travel along a railway line through the sea to a pier at Rottingdean.
Pioneer sat on 24ft pier-like legs, could carry a maximum of 150 people at a time but travelled at just 8 mph when the weather was good meaning it took an hour and a half to travel to Rottingdean and back.  It was a effectively a slow moving section of pier.

The line was plagued with problems - just a week after it opened Pioneer and the pier at Paston Place were badly damaged in the same storm which destroyed the Chain Pier, the service did not restart until July the following year.  The rebuilt Pioneer was now 26ft high but  breakdowns were frequent and it could not operate in bad weather.  Not only was it expensive to build and maintain it was also expensive to ride costing 6d each way so it was only our better off ancestors who could afford to take a ride on it.  Despite that the crowds came to try out this unique and unusual method of travel.
In 1900 the service was suspended whilst work was undertaken to prevent further erosion of the cliffs but the new groynes extended out beyond the route of the railway so the line was closed.  There were plans for a new route further out but the cost was prohibitive and instead the inshore railway was extended to Black Rock.

Volks railway is the oldest electric railway and it is still in operation during the summer months.  For more details see the website.
For more information on the railway line and Daddy Long Legs see the Volks Electric Railway Association website.

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