The Branch Line Society


Coalville Area Trackbed Walk
Thursday 11th June 2015

Fifteen members caught the Arriva service No.9 bus for Burton-on-Trent from outside the Snibston Colliery Museum, crossing the extant NR level crossing where the remains of Swannington station platforms, (CP 1951) could be seen on the freight line from Leicester towards Burton. A multitasking locum from Great Malvern led the fixture; guiding a BLS walk for the first time and standing in for Tom Gilby who unfortunately could not be present. The group alighted just beyond Swannington, close to where the Leicester and Swannington Railway tunnelled through the hillside. This railway (engineered by Robert Stephenson) opened in 1832 soon becoming part of a through route to Burton, leaving the walk's main target, the Swannington Incline, as a branch. The pits at the Swannington end were worked out by as early as 1875 and the railway closed beyond the branch to Calcutta Colliery just after the base of the incline.The Swannington Incline was originally used to haul coal from the Swannington pits and Coleorton Railway up to the Leicester and Swannington line, later part of the Midland Railway (which ran to Leicester West Bridge station). After 1877 coal was taken down the incline to supply Calcutta Pumping station, where large powerful pumps prevented flooding of the Coalville area pits until it changed to electric power and the last train (20 September 1947). The incline was then closed and partly filled in but has been restored locally and is managed by the Swannington Heritage Trust with various interesting links (in blue lower down that webpage). No trace of the tunnel mouth could be found, with much verdant, lush growth in evidence but its cutting could be seen through hedgerows.

A public footpath was taken that crossed the trackbed in the cutting, allowing limited exploration either side before the summer vegetation became impenetrable. Then via public footpaths, very well marked with fresh yellow painted posts, the group walked to Jeffcoats Lane's intersection with the railway. New buildings on the north side called 'The Sidings' and 'Station House' are on the trackbed there but there is a public footpath to the south following the railway embankment. Old OS maps suggested the railway was in a cutting but the embankment was at road level; a level crossing or maybe a change in road levels. Unfortunately, a section of the old railway has been taken into private ownership in recent years and, having reached that point, the party had to double back slightly and set off over fields via more public footpaths to rejoin mid-incline. This diversion was interesting as it intersected the steep branch to Calcutta Colliery just by its residual (listed) buildings still in commercial use. Nature has taken over the formation entirely here so the party pressed on to Church Lane Bridge where steps lead down to the incline. Members walked down to the foot of the incline to a short stretch on the level where the supervision of the Swannington Heritage Trust ends. Beyond here had been previously fenced off (as part of the same private ownership encountered earlier) but members could now walk further on an established footpath to where the Calcutta Colliery branch went off, up to exterior fencing for new houses. The tramroad to Califat Colliery was seen branching left just before, so an interesting area.

Then it was back up the 1:17 incline, noting its useful metallic information boards. The exposed foundations of the engine house at the top of the incline were examined and about 75yd of track has been relaid towards Spring Lane level crossing (but no trolley sadly!). A slightly shorter length of track has also been relaid the other side before encountering a fence across the trackbed, probably indicating the ownership of Stephenson College. Beyond here, the footpath runs over Snibston No.3 colliery but access was possible towards the continuation of the railway. This was very overgrown so a parallel route through the fields was taken to cross the A511 Stephenson Way. Some members sought guidance from local wildfowl on the lake to find the expected tunnel under the railway at the Coalville side of the A511. It was possible to scramble up to the railway formation above the tunnel and back to the A511. In the other direction, the stop blocks at the top end of Mantle Lane Sidings were accessible, actually part of the Swannington Railway with evidence of long disused sidings through the now wooded area, including one cut through to form the onward access to Thornborough Road and on to Mantle Lane and back past the starting bus stop.

From the 1950 7th Series 1" to the mile OS map. The open station is Coalville (which CP 7 September 1964). To its left and below is Snibston No.2 Colliery NCB branch, now the Snibston Discovery Museum, south of the then A50. Its railway now extends to the B585 level crossing site. Swannington station is shown (CP) west of the A447 level crossing. The continuation of Mantle Lane Sidings down the Swannington Incline runs north west, as a 'mineral railway' then ends with a sharp curve onto the branch running North East to Calcutta Colliery (a pumping station) to the top right. Califat Colliery, served by the Coleorton Tramway (not shown) was formerly level with and west of the southern tunnel mouth of the Leicester and Swannington continuation (shown as AS 'Old Rly') where it dives under the A447, on the west side of that road near the disused windmill shown on the map.

A fascinating insight into the history of the railway and collieries in this area. One member commented that it was a long while since he had enjoyed a Society 'ramble' of this nature, rather than a simple walk on trackbed now a footpath, and trusted that, in view of the very hot sunny weather, everyone had remembered their sun cream!