Brighton and Rottingdean Seashore Electric Railway magic lantern slides

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Britain has had its fair share of novel, rather eccentric forms of transport, some of which I will feature in future posts. This one was, I believe, our only passenger railway where the tracks were laid on the seabed.

Whilst officially called the Brighton and Rottingdean Seashore Electric Railway, it was more commonly known as ‘Daddy Long Legs’. Built by Magnus Volk, who already operated a narrow gauge tramway along the sea front at Brighton (which still operates today), it was intended to provide both a public transport service and a unique seaside attraction. The railway first operated in 1896 and was advertised as ‘A sea voyage on wheels’.

It consisted of a tram-like compartment carrying passengers above the waves, supported by legs on wheels, running on rails beneath them. The power for the electric motor came from overhead (well, to the side actually) cable. On the face of it, a mix of iron, steel, salt water, tides, storms and electricity doesn’t seem like a good idea for a mode of transport. It wasn’t ….. and the story of the Daddy Long Legs short but eventful life (it died in 1901) can be viewed on the website of the Volk’s Electric Railway Association. It’s well worth a visit.

As an aside, we Brits have clubs and associations for just about every possible interest, some very strange, there’s even one for magic lantern enthusiasts. I wonder if it’s just a British thing!

The two photographs shown here are snapshots that an amateur photographer took and then transferred to lantern slides, so that he could bore his neighbours with his ‘holiday in Brighton’ photos. There are still hundreds of thousands like them in existence ….. it sometimes feels as if I’ve seen most of them! Typically, they are distance shots with poor contrast of really boring subjects such as sheep in fields or waves lapping onto a beach.

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Fortunately, in this case, ‘though the image quality is poor (I’ve enhanced them for this post), the subject matter is fascinating.

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