Set in Edwardian times the layout depicts a small pier tramway with a working carousel at the Pier Head. A Southend Pier 1890 "Toastrack" Car provides the passenger service.
© 2023 Dave Carson
It was simple, just days before this layout's first exhibition at Tonbridge Model Railway Club in 2001 I received a phone call from one of their exhibition committee telling me that a flu epidemic had knocked out some of their visiting exhibitors and was asked if I could bring this pier tramway layout along? I was initially hesitant due to its small size and limited operation but agreed.
Now it came to the name of this layout - I didn't have a clue what to call it and during our conversation, the theme from the TV comedy series 'Dad's Army' was heard on our respective televisions, as Dad's Army was based in the fictitious town of Walmington-on-Sea, we agreed to call the layout 'Walmington Pier Tramway' - the original name.
The rest is history!!!
FICTION AND FACT
Walmington Pier opened in 1898 as a promenade pier and landing stage for steamers sailing out of London. The town council waited for hundreds of passengers... but instead they preferred Herne Bay, Margate or Southend-on-Sea. After a year of virtually no passengers the council sold the pier for an undisclosed sum to a few local entrepreneurs who formed the Walmington Pier Company.
The new directors looked closely at their rivals in Herne Bay and Southend. These piers had two things in common - both were very long and both had electric tramways. Walmington Pier was only 230 feet (70 metres) long, but an electric tramway was a 'must have'.
The result was a narrow-gauge single-track tramway. Walmington Pier Tramway opened for the 1900 summer season and a German-built carousel was constructed at the pier head. The passenger tram was a single 'toastrack' tram loaned from Southend Pier Railway. The pier was retitled 'New Walmington Pier' to show off its rejuvenation
The tramway ran until the Second World War, when the pier closed and breached as a defensive measure, the local Home Guard platoon captained by George Mainwaring, the local bank manager, used the remains as an observation post, and after the war the pier was demolished. With the population dwindling, the Ministry of Defence requisitioned Walmington as part of their military ranges in this area. No 'official' traces of the town exist.
I was born in Aberdeen in 1954 and moved to Southend-on-Sea in 1959 where I grew up in sight and sound of Southend Pier and the 'clunk clunk clunk' of the electric pier trains until 1971. I wrote about Southend Pier Railway for my GCE 'O' Level History project. In 1990 I joined forces with transport author Ken Frost (RIP) and together we co-wrote the second edition of his book 'Southend Pier Railway' (now out of print).
Now living in Suffolk, I still take time out to visit Southend and Hythe Piers at least annually taking photos to update my 'Southend Pier Railway Group' Facebook page and my 'Piers of the Realm' talk. I have been a railway modeller since getting my first train set in 1962, and I decided to build a pier tramway layout initially as a low-cost, short-lived experiment - How wrong could I be!!!
So Walmington Pier was refurbished to New Walmington Pier with a 'OO9' scale (4mm to 1 foot, 9mm gauge track) in early 2017. In 2019 the layout was revamped with a backscene and laser-cut wood railings replacing plastic railings. 2023 saw the addition of a pier shelter based upon those at Ramsgate and the arrival of Southend Local Board Crompton Electric Railway 9 - Another Shapeways/Westgate Models 3D print of a Southend Pier Toastrack Car finished by Derek Smith similar to the car preserved at Chelmsford Museum.
AN EDWARDIAN DAY OUT
Passengers wait for the pier tram.
An old Walmington Horse Tram Company body is the shore shelter. On the beach under the pier is a 'Bathing Machine' (mobile ladies changing unit) characterising the Victorian and Edwardian beach scene.
Dominating the corner is the hydraulic lift connecting between beach and esplanade.
The shore scene is of Dover's Burlington Hotel, built in 1860 and destroyed during World War 2.
OVER THE WAVES
Southend Local Board Crompton Electric Ry 9
Donated by good friend Derek Smith is this Shapeways/Westgate Models Southend Pier Toastrack Car finished exactly as the preserved car in Chelmsford Museum.
The actual Southend 9 now Volks Electric Railway 9S returned to Brighton in August 2023.
THE MAGNIFICENT MAN IN HIS FLYING MACHINE
Flying over New Walmington Pier is a 'Magnificent Man in his Flying Machine' who according to the film lyrics "Goes up tiddly up up, and goes down tiddly down down. Up, down, flying around, looping the loop and defying the ground"!
In reality it is a Corgi model of a Wright Brothers Flyer and similar variants were built in Britain under licence.
THE END OF THE PIER SHOW
At the Pier Head the German Carousel, Punch & Judy Puppet Show, Balloon Seller, Organ Grinder with performing monkeys and a Cockney Flower Seller all await you!!
Underneath the pier and inserted into the backscene is a sound-chipped speaker giving an ambient seaside sound to the whole model.
Didn't we have a lovely time on New Walmington Pier!
2001: Tonbridge, Norwich, Basildon, Enfield Whitewebbs, Romford, Shoeburyness.
2002: Erith, Biggleswade, Harwich, Beckenham, Bishop's Stortford, Ipswich, Hertford.
2003: Southend, Cambridge, Southwold, Bishop's Stortford, Folkestone, Norbury, Letchworth.
2004: St. Albans, Barking, Ashford, Enfield Town, National Piers Society London, Shenfield, Romford, Royston.
2005: Welwyn Garden City, Festival of Model Tramways Kew, Bexhill.
2006: Watford, Ipswich, Northolt.
2007: Harwich, Ipswich Transport Museum, Ely, National Piers Society Southend, Festival of Model Tramways Kew.
2008: National Piers Society Deal, Trainwest Melksham, Aylsham, Roydon.
2009: Norwich, Luton, Colne Valley Railway, Festival of Model Tramways Kew, Bressingham, Poringland.
2010: Crewe, Norwich, Mid Suffolk Light Railway.
2011: Clacton, Braintree, Festival of Model Tramways Kew.
2012: Basingstoke, Clacton.
2013: National Piers Society Southwold, Festival of Model Tramways Croydon.
2014: Stamford, Braintree, Festival of Model Tramways Manchester, Grantham, One MRC Needham Market.
2015: March, Sawbridgeworth, Chelmsford, Rushden, Museum of Power Maldon.
2016: Beamish Museum of the North East, Canvey Island Transport Museum, Cambridge, Lutterworth, Royston.
2017: Regauged to OO9. Festival of Model Tramways Kew, Braunstone.
2018: Biggleswade, Totally Models Blackpool, Bishop's Stortford, Colchester, Kempston.
2019: Watford, National Piers Society Clacton, Robert Barclay Academy Hoddesdon, Haverhill, Aylsham.
2020: Princes Risborough, Wombourne, Poringland,
2021: Norfolk & Suffolk Narrow Gauge Modellers MSLR. Folkestone, Hythe & District MRC. Leiston.
2022: Abingdon, Museum of Power, Billericay, N&SNGM Barsham, Ipswich Transport Museum, Thetford,
Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Solent Sky Southampton.
2023: Tonbridge, Royston, Bournville, N&SNGM Beccles, Ramsgate Tunnels, Bressingham, Trent Valley MRS Lichfield.
23 March: Belper Model Railway Group, Strutts Centre, Derby Road, Belper DE56 1UU
19 October: Beckenham & West Wickham MRC, Forest Hill Boys School, Dacres Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 2XN (TBC)
LAYOUT SCALE AND THEME
'OO9' Scale, British, Edwardian.
Set in Edwardian times the layout depicts a small pier tramway with a working carousel at the Pier Head. A Southend Pier 1890 "Toastrack" Car provides the service.
POWER SUPPLY REQUIREMENTS
1, 220/240v 13 amp socket within 3 metres of layout.
£1000 for layout, stock, controller and tools.
HOME LOCATION: Stowmarket, Suffolk.
EXPENSES: Petrol costs only (20p/mile) from Stowmarket, Suffolk and budget overnight accommodation where required.
Layout is 3'-0" x 6". Free standing on a 4'-0" x 2'-0" table.
TOTAL FLOOR AREA = 4'-0" x 4'-0" (1.22m x 1.22m)
Beaumaris Pier in North Wales is 570ft (170 metres) long part-stone, part-piled pier dating from 1846 extending to its present length in 1895 with a 2ft 6ins (762mm) gauge tramway added using hand-worked rail trolleys until at least 1914.
The pier was extensively rebuilt in 2011 and the tramway rails still remain in the pier's stone section.
BLACKPOOL NORTH PIER
Blackpool North Pier Tramway was a single 889mm (2ft 11ins) gauge track 250 metres (820ft) long operated by a 3-car diesel unit.
The tramway opened in 1991 and closed in 2004 as it was expensive to operate, served only half of the pier length and the tram could not be adapted to meet accessibility requirements. Subsequently replaced by a land train.
The 0.5 mile (800 metres) long Felixstowe Pier opened in 1905 with a 3ft 6ins (1067mm) gauge single track electric tramway until wartime closure in 1939. The pier was reduced to 450ft (137 metres) long and the pier remains closed with a new shore end pavilion opening in 2017.
This postcard dates at the Coronation of King George V in June 1911 with the decorated tram on the pier.
HERNE BAY PIER
Herne Bay Pier was originally a timber pier dating from 1840 to 1872 with a sail-powered truck for its tramway. Upon completion of the 3787ft (1154 metres) long iron pier, a 3ft 4½ins (1029mm) gauge single line electric tramway was introduced and ran until 1925 when replaced by a petrol railcar until 1934 then replaced by a 2-car battery tram until the line's closure in 1939.
The track remained until demolition of the pier in 1978 following storm damage thus isolating the pier head which is now in danger of collapse.
The centuries-old ferry link between Southampton and Hythe is an essential service. The 2100 feet (640 metres) long Hythe Pier opened in 1881 and from 1909 used hand-worked rail trolleys to convey luggage and goods. In 1922 a new 2 feet (610mm) gauge 3rd rail electric tramway replaced the original 'baggage line' using two 1917-built ex-military electric locomotives running with 2 passenger coaches, a driving trailer coach and a luggage trolley.
This unique train still provides a vital link in Southampton's public transport network.
RAMSEY QUEEN'S PIER
The Isle of Man's only pier tramway operated along the 2160ft (658 metres) long Ramsey Queen's Pier with a 3ft (914mm) gauge single track installed in 1899 using hand-propelled luggage trucks and a 6-seat hand-propelled passenger van.
Modernisation came in 1937 with a 'Planet' petrol locomotive hauling a single 'toastrack' coach, supplemented by a Wickham railcar until the pier's closure in 1981. The locomotive, coach, and a luggage truck are preserved at the Jurby Transport Museum.
Ryde Pier is the world's oldest pier dating from 1814 and the photo shows it is not one, but three separate piers. The pedestrian pier on the extreme left is the original pier now a roadway to the ferry terminal, beside it is the tramway pier dating from 1861 with two standard gauge tracks worked by horse trams between 1861 and 1884, then electric trams operated until 1927 when replaced by petrol railcars until the tramway's closure in 1969. The railway pier on the far right dates from 1881 and electrified in 1967 for the Ryde-Shanklin route.
SOUTHEND PIER - 1
Southend-on-Sea has The Longest Pleasure Pier in the World at 1.34 miles (2.15km) long. The first pier was a wooden pier 1500 feet (457 metres) long completed in June 1830. Then extended in 1846 to the deep-water channel at 1.12 miles (1.8km) long in 1851 enabling paddle steamers to visit Southend in all tides. A. narrow gauge tram with 3 carriages and a flat trolley was hauled by 2 horses.
The wooden pier was replaced by the existing iron pier in 1889.
SOUTHEND PIER - 2
The existing iron pier has a railway running along it since 1890 with 'Toastrack' style electric trains running on 3ft 6ins (1067mm) gauge track. Four seven-car trains maintained the service including throughout World War 2 when the Royal Navy requisitioned Southend Pier and became 'HMS Leigh', the Headquarters of Thames and Medway Shipping Control assembling almost 15,000 convoys using over 84,000 ships for the duration of the war. The railway returned to public use in May 1945.
SOUTHEND PIER - 3
In 1949 the 'Toastracks' were replaced by 4, 7-car electric trains that soon became a familiar sight to the millions of London day-trippers, holiday makers and Southend's residents. No visit to Southend was complete without a ride on the green and cream pier trains!
These trains were withdrawn in 1978 and Southend Pier had no railway until 1986.
Car 22 is preserved at Southend Pier Museum.
SOUTHEND PIER - 4
In 1986 the railway was rebuilt and two 7-car 3ft (914mm) gauge diesel trains built by Severn Lamb Ltd. entered service. Named 'Sir William Heygate' after the Mayor of Southend who proposed the first pier in 1830 and 'Sir John Betjeman' who campaigned in the 1980s to save Southend Pier.
Sir John Betjeman has been withdrawn with its Driving Trailer preserved at the Southend Pier Museum whilst Sir William Heygate remains as the reserve train.
SOUTHEND PIER - 5
1898 built Southend Pier Railway 'Toastrack' Car No. 8. It ran along Southend Pier until 1949 when it was sold to Volk's Railway, Brighton and regauged to 2ft 8½ins (825mm) it operated along Brighton seafront until 1990, when it was sold to Southend Borough Council and displayed on the pier until 1992 suffering weather and vandalism. The car was stored until 2015 and went to Chelmsford City Council who had it restored in 2018 by Alan Keef Engineers, Ross-on-Wye and transferred to its display area at Chelmsford Museum in December 2018. The Chelmsford connection being that these cars were powered by Crompton of Chelmsford electric motors.
SOUTHEND PIER - 6
Two Severn-Lamb built 6-car battery-electric trains, named 'Sir David Amess' and 'William Bradley' entered service in late 2022.
Public consultation with Severn-Lamb and Southend Borough Council favoured the reinstatement of the green-and-cream livery as worn on the 1949 electric trains.
Although the trains are different, the magic of riding in a train along Southend Pier still appeals.
Southport's 3633 feet (1107 metres) long pier is Britain's second longest pier and from its opening in 1860 always had some form of rail transport along it. Originally a cable-hauled tram, replaced in 1905 by a 3rd rail electric train until 1953, then by a 1ft 11½ ins (600mm) gauge diesel unit until 1996 and from 2005 the pier tram was a 3ft 6ins (1067mm) gauge 2-car 80-seat battery-powered unit until withdrawal and removal in March 2016 then replaced by a land train. The pier closed in December 2022 due to Health & Safety issues and remains closed.
WALTON ON THE NAZE PIER
The 2600 ft (792 metres) long Walton-on-the Naze Pier dates from 1898 and a 3ft 6ins (1067mm) gauge electric tramway operated until 1935 then replaced by a battery powered rubber tyred 'guided bus' destroyed by fire in 1942.
In 1948 a 2ft (610mm) gauge miniature railway entered service using a petrol driven locomotive and three open carriages which operated until storm damage in 1978. This train is still working at the Amerton Railway near Stafford.
Closed since 2019, the 330 metres (1082 feet) long "Trapiche Eliézer Levy" pier at Macapa on the Amazon River in Brazil opened in 1998. It has a 1600mm (5ft 3ins) gauge single track and a single tram operated along its length, recent reports indicate that the tram has been removed from the pier and improvements to the pier are very slow going.
BUSSELTON JETTY, AUSTRALIA
Located south of Perth, Western Australia, the 1.8km (1.12 miles) long Busselton Jetty dates from 1865 serving shipping until the port closed in 1973.
The Jetty reopened as a pleasure pier with this 3ft 6ins (1067mm) gauge railway in 2005.
VICTOR HARBOR, AUSTRALIA
The Victor Harbor tramway is one of only a handful of horse tramway lines to exist in the world. The line operated between 1894 and 1956.
In 1986 the tramway was restored using four replica horse trams and the tracks linking Victor Harbor with Granite Island were reinstated. The tramway is 5ft 3ins (1600mm) gauge and services operate daily.