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.
Fatal Accident 1938
Coal was delivered to the Calcutta pumping station twice a week. As the trucks neared the bottom the cable was released and their momentum took the trucks around the bend onto the Calcutta spur. The contractor followed with a team of horses to pull the coal trucks the rest of the way to the pumping station. The railway was on private land which was closed to the public, so there was neither a warning system nor a process to check that there were not trespassers on the line.
As coal trucks went around the bend onto the Calcutta spur a few lumps of coal often fell off. Following the 1929-30 economic depression there was mass unemployment in the UK (and other countries). In May 1938 Horace Horrobin was not working because South Leicestershire Colliery was idle. To help eek out their limited money, Elsie May Horrobin and her three youngest children went to the Calcutta spur to scavenge for the scattered lumps of coal. They only heard the trucks when it was too late, read the newspaper account Swannington Rail Tragedy Mother And Baby Killed
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.
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. We would like to thank Ashley Day for his drone video of the top of the Incline it gives a new perspective of the winding engine house, Incline cottages and Calcutta pumping rods inspection engine.
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.