New trains have a-pier-ed in Southend

Tuesday 17th May 2022

Southend-on-Sea’s famous pier has recently seen the arrival of two new eco-friendly trains for its iconic three-foot narrow gauge railway so I popped over yesterday to take a look.

Sadly, neither were in service. One train has yet to be made ready for service and the second had some ‘teething troubles’ while out in service on Saturday and was having its batteries charged up.

So Sir William Heygate was still doing sterling service, while the other former train – Sir John Betjeman – has now been repurposed with its carriages dotted around the end of the pier as reminders of a soon to be previous pier train era.

However all was not lost as Pier Railway boss, Richard, kindly showed me around the two new trains stabled on the spare track at the land end station and gave me a great preview.

Like the diesel trains dating from 1986 they’re replacing, the trains were built by Alcester based Severn Lamb, manufacturers of transport systems and equipment for the extensive leisure market notably Disney and many theme parks.

Work on the £3.25 million project which includes improvements to pier facilities as well as building the new trains was delayed due to the pandemic. Originally planned for a summer 2021 launch the two new trains arrived last month and as explained one is still having its final fit out, particularly the flooring. Both will be on the tracks this summer.

Flooring has yet to be fitted to the second train.

The trains are powered by a series of lithium batteries – one per carriage – and come fitted with audio visual displays, usb charging points and a hearing loop system.

In a nod to the past they’re carrying a lovely heritage green and cream livery following a public vote on the city council’s social media page.

And in a nice touch, the one that’s seen service has been named after Sir David Amess, the city’s MP tragically murdered last October.

They have provisions for wheelchairs at either end and each carriage has much wider doors giving greatly improved access.

The wheelchair area in an end coach.
Note the wider doors….
… compared to the old trains.

The six carriages per train are longer than their replacements increasing capacity to over 200 passengers per train.

But this has meant the station platforms being extended slightly to fit the new trains in.

The extended platforms behind the metal gate and the charging points are beyond the platforms.

The battery charge will last all day so overnight charging will be done with six dual chargers installed between the tracks in the tunnel immediately beyond the land based station so both trains can be charged up.

A real bonus is the front coach gives a view ahead for passengers through the driving cab as the train trundles up and down the pier which will always ensure the front coach is the one to be in. This is a much welcome improvement on the old trains where you got to sit behind the engine with a blocked view.

The cab itself is very smart with simple controls and an impressive control panel.

There’s a specially designed ‘stock’ container half way along the train formation which is just the right size to take the large wheelie bins down to the pier end and back as well as other supplies as needed on trolleys.

Previously these were carried in a compartment behind the engine in the locomotive.

These splendid trains will no doubt prove their worth this summer and in many years to come and will be well worth a ride.

Make it a weekend visit during school term or any day in the holidays to combine the visit with a trip on the open-top Ensignbus route 68 which is running again this summer.

And talking of platform lengthening, for die hard fans of extended platforms, yesterday was a day for lots of excitement as the next stage of the Bank station upgrade project saw the Northern Line City Branch formally reopen for business again after its five month closure (It actually sneaked back open on Sunday afternoon) …

…. and the new southbound section of track and extra wide platform open ….

Brand new extra wide southbound platform

…. with the old one …..

Old southbound

….. filled in to make for a much needed circulation area ….

Old southbound, now a circulation area

….. between the north and southbound platforms.

Old southbound next to continuing northbound

Sadly the northbound platform is still the same narrow width it was before but that circulating area will make all the difference ….

Northbound still the same

…. and the southbound plaftorm is definitely much much better.

Brand new southbound

Fans of escalators and travelators are eagerly anticipating the unveiling of more as the station upgrade progresses.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS.

9 thoughts on “New trains have a-pier-ed in Southend

Add yours

    1. The one that became Sir David Amess arrived in September 2021, recently entered service before it failed.


  1. With it taking bins,etc the Southend Pier Railway must be one of the few examples of mixed freight/passenger trains in England?I don’t think that mainline passenger trains even carry post or newspapers now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It will be good to see the new Southend Pier trains in action when they do eventually iron out all the little niggles….. although i will be sad to see the older diesel trains retire.

    It a nice touch to see Sir John Betjemen’s coaches still live on as waiting shelters on the Pier end station (and also scattered around the various catering outlets nearby too). Hopefully Sir William Heygate’s coaches will also go the same way when they have run their last trip along the world’s longest leisure pier.

    Those older trains……They certainly suggest a similar style to a particular “High Speed Train” ‘-)
    I like to refer to them as Southend’s inter-city 12 point 5’s 🙂 :-).


  3. Walton on the Naze pier used to have train it ceased operating sometime in the 1970’s. The locomative used still exists whether it is servicable I do not know

    There are plans to update the pier which has been neglected whether the train migh be re instated who knows


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: