Find out about our guided tours of the Swannington Incline.
The Need For An Inclined Plane
After the Leicester and Swannington Railway crossed to the northern side of Spring Lane it reached the Thringstone Fault and the land dropped away very steeply. The solution was an Inclined Plane with a 1:17 slope for about 750 yards (700 metres). A coal powered steam driven engine at the top operated a cable drum that could raise three trucks of coal (18 tons) or lower six empty trucks.
The Incline was built in 1833 but the early months were plagued by mechanical failures, it was not fully operational until 1834. By 1877 the coal mines in Coleorton and the north of Swannington had closed. The former Calcutta mine was converted into a pumping station that could pump out 54,000 gallons of water an hour. The headstock is still present in Talbot Lane and Roshal Space Consultants operate from the premises.
The operation of the Incline was thus reversed as coal then went down the Incline to the Calcutta pumping station. This continued until Calcutta was fitted with an electric submersible pump in the autumn of 1947. The empty trucks were hauled up at the start of 1948 and the Incline closed. British Railways took the winding engine to the National Railway Museum in York.
Coalville Times Fri May 27th 1938.
Swannington Rail Tragedy
Mother And Baby Killed
A young Swannington woman was killed instantly and two of her children and her mother
seriously injured, in a terrible tragedy on Wednesday afternoon when they were run into by
two railway wagons in the private railway siding at the bottom of the old Swannington
Incline, and leading to the Swannington Pumping Station.
The woman killed was Elsie May Horrobin, wife of Horace Horrobin, a miner employed at
the South Leicestershire Collier and residing in Main Street, Swannington. She was 34
years of age and the mother of nine children, whose ages range from 7 months to 14
Mrs Horrobin was out for a walk with three of her children and her mother, Mrs Charlotte
Kinton, wife of John Kinton, an unemployed miner, of Main Street, Swannington, with
whom the Horrobin family reside.
She had her seven months old boy, Horace, in a perambulator, and two other children,
Sheila, aged 2 years, and Hilda, aged 5, were with her. They were walking along the line
when two wagons came round a bend and ran into the women and children. Mrs Horrobin
was terribly injured and the perambulator was smashed to matchwood. The baby’s legs
were cut off, the girl Sheila was cut about the head, but Hilda luckily escaped. Mrs Kinton
was also knocked down and severely bruised about the head and face.
At the time of the accident Mr Horrobin, who had not been to work that day as the pit had
been idle, was at home cleaning his bicycle. A little boy conveyed the news of the tragedy
The Dowager Lady Beaumont, whose residence is not far away, visited the scene and
kindly lent her car to convey the injured child to the Leicester Royal Infirmary, where he
has since died.
The other injured people were attended by Dr. A. Hamilton, of Coalville, who was
summoned to the scene by telephone. Mr Horrobin told our representative that his wife
and other villagers usually went for a walk that way, although it is stated to be private
Mr T. J. Sales, secretary of the Whitwick Colliery Co. who was early on the scene, stated
that there was no public right of way along the line, which serves the collieries maintaining
the Swannington pumping station. While the woman lay dead on the line, Mr Sales
stopped two boys walking along the track with a truck.
In an interview, Mrs Kinton said, “I was walking with my daughter (Mrs Horrobin) and the
children when two wagons came round the corner. We tried to get the pram on to the
bank, but the wagon caught it and dragged the pram and the woman underneath. It broke
the pram all to bits. I was also knocked down.”
“As soon as I saw the wagons I shouted,” said Mrs Kinton, “but it was too late.” The news
of the accident soon spread and many villagers rushed to the scene. One old lady, bare-
headed, and with a shawl on her shoulders, kept vigil by the body until it was removed in
Two men who followed the wagons round the bend were Mr W. H. Rowse and Mr H.
Matchett, both of Swannington, and Matchett phoned for the ambulance and police.
Swannington Heritage Trust And The Restoration Of The Incline
In the 1960’s the Incline was sold and the bridges were supported with mining waste. The Trust History Page describes how the celebration of 150 years of the LSR led to the formation of Swannington Heritage Trust and the purchase of the Incline in 1984. A Manpower Services Commission project for unemployed young people was used to do much of the restoration work.
Today the Trust owns most of the Swannington Incline and these photos give an idea of how it looks now.
Calcutta Pumping Rods Inspection Engine
The Calcutta Pumping Rods Inspection Engine confuses many visitors as it has nothing to do with the Incline.
The Swannington No1 coal mine was known as Calcutta. By the mid 1870’s the coal mines in Coleorton and the north of Swannington had closed. The mines had filled with water that was seeping through the coal seams and affecting the Snibston and Whitwick pits. The pumping engines at the closed pits were ineffective.
The solution was to turn the Calcutta site into a pumping station. The engine installed in 1877 could pump out 54,000 gallons of water an hour. (The swimming pool at the Hermitage Leisure Centre holds 75,000 gallons.) The engine powered pumping rods, which were oak beams, that needed to be inspected periodically, so a pumping rods inspection engine was installed.
When the mines closed in 1986, the pumping station was no longer needed and the engine was donated to the Trust.
Trust volunteers have spent many hours removing the rust and painting the engine. Moving parts were painted red, static parts green and the teeth, nuts and bolts black. The Easton and Tattersall lettering is in gold. The wood slats have still to be added to the cable drum.