The Pier and electric railway opened for the first time in 1890. At 2158 metres / 2360 yards it is the longest pleasure pier in the world. The seaside piers around the coast of Britain are a powerful reminder of the achievements of Victorian engineers. The modern Pier Railway follows the route of the first Pier Railway in the world. Although a wooden Pier was built here in 1830, it could only be used at high tide. By 1846 it had been extended to 1.25 miles and was already the longest pier in Europe. In 1856 the railway reached Southend-On-Sea and visitor numbers began to rise. In 1889-1890 a strong new pier in cast iron was erected alongside the wooden one. This is largely the Pier you see today.The new Pier incorporated an electric railway which was the first of its kind in the world. It was used by Pier visitors and pleasure boat passengers.The Pier was extended in 1898 and in 1908 a bandstand, shops and permanent seating for 600 people were added at the Pier Head. There was room for up to 8,000 people.
Recent history highlights
1930 – Pier Extension completed to 2360 yards.
1935 –Pier Centenary celebrations.
1939 - Pier becomes ‘HMS Leigh’ during World War II .
1949 – Visitor numbers top 7 million. 5 million passengers use railway.
1959 – Major fire destroys 1889 Pavilion; replaced in 1962 by Excel 10-pin Bowling.
1976 – Pier Head of 1908 destroyed by fire.
1983 – Major grant from Historic Building Committee funds repairs to Pier and renewal programme
1984-6 Railway completely renewed. Opened by H.R.H. Princess Anne on 2 May 1986
1986 – Pier Head sliced in two by MV Kings Abbey
2001 – New lifeboat station completed at New Pier Head
2003 – Completion of new Pier Bridge and award-winning Pier Entrance
2005 – Fire at old Pier Head destroys numerous buildings.
2006 – Pier and Railway reopened.
Southend Pier Railway
Originally built 1889-1890; electric cars by Col. R.E.B. Crompton of Chelmsford
First pier railway in the world
Original cars and full history can be seen in the Pier Museum
Replaced by London Underground units in 1949
Lines and rolling stock completely renewed in 1984-6