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 standard gauge single-track tramway. During construction, the directors noted that the tramway took up most of the pier's width, restricting pedestrian traffic. They were shrewd enough not only to claim 25% of the construction cost from the contractor, maintaining it was his error, but decided that the tram should be the only means of access along the pier!!
Walmington Pier Tramway opened for the 1900 summer season and rebuilt in 1910 to a pleasure pier. A German-built carousel was constructed at the pier head and at the same time the pier was redecked and the track replaced by a narrow gauge track. A single battery-operated 'toastrack' tram similar to those operating along Southend Pier provided the passenger service, occasionally coupled to a stores van ferrying supplies between shore and pier head, and 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 using 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 at least twice a year to visit Southend Pier to sail on Paddle Steamer Waverley and take photos to update 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 would I be!!!
So Walmington Pier was born to 'OO' gauge (4mm to 1 foot, 16.5mm track gauge), then refurbished to New Walmington Pier in 2010 and relaid to 'OO9' scale (4mm to 1 foot, 9mm gauge track) in early 2017.