Switch Back Mystery
Mystery surrounds the date when the Switch Back is said to have opened in Skegness. It is written in popular history books that the first Switch Back Railway to have opened in the UK was the one in Skegness in the Spring of 1885, but we have found evidence which may refute this.
The Skegness Switch Back Railway
Source: The Skegness Herald Friday, August 19th, 1887
SWITCH BACK RAILWAY
One of these railways is now being rapidly constructed on the sand bank the north side of the entrance to the pier. It is being constructed by Mr G Dunkley, builder, for the Switch Back Railway Company, and will no doubt prove a great additional attraction to our watering-place.
Source: The Skegness Herald Friday, August 26th 1887
OPENING OF THE SWITCH BACK RAILWAY
This railway, which was commenced here only about ten days since, has been completed, and was opened on Wednesday afternoon last.
It is 500 feet in length, and is erected close adjacent to the entrance of the pier on the north side.
Very few of these railways have yet, we believe, been erected, and this one is creating a great sensation.
It is certainly a novelty, and there is every probability of its being the great attraction of the visitors and our local public for some time to come, but whether it will affect the donkey and pony drivers on the sands remains to be seen.
That it creates a curious sensation in many of those who ride on it there can hardly be any doubt. But, be this as it may, those who patronize it once are, we notice, anxious for another ride.
The carriage is constructed for the accommodation of ten persons who are charged threepence each.
On starting it goes down an incline of ten or twelve feet. The momentum it thus obtains is sufficient to force it up the next incline, and so it goes on to the end of the distance, no other propelling power being required.
The carriage returns in a similar manner. Men are stationed at each end to start it and set it in motion.
The railway was largely patronized on Wednesday afternoon directly after it was opened, and also yesterday (Thursday). On the former day it attracted a large number of spectators.
The railway has been constructed by Thompson’s Patent Gravitation Switch Back Railway Company, whose railways have created great sensations in America. This kind of railway was introduced into this country at the American Exhibition at South Kensington.
Source: The Skegness Herald May 25th 1888
In summing up the success of the resort over the recent Whitsuntide holiday, the Skegness Herald reported on 25th May, 1888:–
“The Switchback railway also proved a great attraction and did a good trade, and the promoters, Mr E A Jackson, and Mr Pawson may be congratulated on having introduced this novelty into our watering-place.”
Video clip of a Switch Back Railway in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire: