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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Southport Pier Tramway

In a nutshell

Gauge:         3' 6"

Length:       3600 feet (1100m)

Opened:      1863 - 3' 6" gauge
                     1950 - 1' 11
½" gauge
                     2005 - 3' 6" gauge


Southport Pier

View Narrow Gauge Railways in a larger map

Date of visit:     22 September 2013


Key Facts

  • When it was built in 1860, the pier at Southport was the longest pier of iron construction in the world. It was soon overtaken by its rival, the pier at Southend but remains the second longest in the country.
  • The first tramway on Southport Pier was opened in 1863 and was used for carrying baggage for passengers arriving by steamer. Initially it was unpowered but in 1865 it was operated by a cable powered by a steam engine.
  • The railway was electrified in 1905.
  • The rolling stock was replaced in 1936 when it was taken over by Southport Corporation
  • The pier was closed during the second world war but although the pier reopened whan the war ended, the tramway was not reopened until 1950 to a gauge of 1' 11½"with a diesel powered train built by Harry Barlow who also built stock for the adjacent Lakeside Miniature Railway
  • For safety reasons the pier closed in 1998. It was rebuilt and re-opened in 2002. The present tram first ran in 2005.
  • The tramcar was built by UK Loco Co, is battery powered and can carry 74 passengers at half hourly intervals.


The tram runs the length of the pier with no intermediate stops

My Impressions

Having spent some time studying and riding on the adjacent 15" gauge Lakeside Miniature Railway, I took time out to explore the pier tramway.

After boarding the tram at the landward end of the pier

I settled into a seat near the front of the two-car articulated tram.

Sedately, the battery-powered tram made its way up the track laid along the centre of the pier to the end of the pier around 2/3mile distant. As the tram is fairly quiet, it has a constant low-powered beeper to alert pedestrians, with a louder horn for those whose minds are elsewhere.

The journey takes around ten minutes and the tram runs at half hourly intervals and so it waits eat each end for around twenty minutes.

Walking back along the pier, the construction looks quite spindly - but as this Grade II listed structure has been here for over 100 years, the design has clearly stood the test of time.

The tram then made its stately way back along the pier ........

...... with the final part of the pier spanning the Marine Lake.

I was intrigued as to where the tram is housed, there being no pointwork and no shelter evident along the length of the pier. The rails come to an abrupt stop at the end of the pier, so it can only be assumed that the tram is run on to a transporter when it needs to be taken off for maintenance or repair.

The tram runs throughout the year (weather permitting) and the fare is quite modest. There is plenty of parking nearby (though this varies in price from free (for two hours) to £5.00 for the whole day. There are plenty of refreshment outlets nearby, including a cafe at the end of the pier.


[In preparation] 

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