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Swannington Incline Accidents

August 1840 – 12 Wagons Crash

The Leicester Chronicle of the 22nd August 1840 reported

Leicester and Swannington Railway

On Tuesday last, an accident occurred on this Railway, that might have been attended with the most fatal consequences.  At Swannington there is an inclined plane, on the descent of about 40 degrees, and upwards of a quarter of a mile long, at the top of which there is a stationary engine, with a rope for conveying the carriages up and down.

During the afternoon, a train of 12 carriages arrived at the top of the plane, and were attached to the rope, but before the man had time to take his station on the carriages, the rope broke, and they descended the line at a frightful velocity, at the bottom of which, they came in contact with several other waggons, six of which were smashed to atoms, and considerable other damage was done.

Note – the Incline is 1:17 = 21 degrees

December 1860 – Trucks Crash

The Loughborough Monitor of the 13th December 1860 reported:

Swannington – Railway Accident

On Monday, as a train of loaded coal trucks were being drawn to the summit of the incline by the stationary engine, one of the links attached to the wire rope suddenly snapped, and the trucks, immediately on being detached, of course, by their own momentum, ran down the incline with terrific speed, and coming in contact with some empty trucks at the bottom with extreme violence, several of them were shivered into fragments; in a moment the debris was dreadful, and property to a large amount was utterly destroyed.  It is gratifying to state that no personal injury was sustained.

January 1932 – Man’s leap for life from runaway rail wagons

The Leicester Evening Mail of the 19th January 1932 reported:

Downhill dash at Swannington – Six vehicles crash on old section of line

Rope breakage – Coalville man has lucky escape

Six wagons which were being lowered down the piece of railway known as the Old Incline at Swannington, yesterday crashed to the bottom owing to the rope breaking.

This piece of line is one of the oldest in the country, being the termination of the Leicester and Swannington Railway which was opened just about 100 years ago, in connection with several collieries which were then being developed in the district.

The custom is to lower the wagons by means of a steel rope, and this was being done with six wagons laden with coal slack from the Snibstone colliery for the supply of the pumping station at the bottom of the decline which pumps the water from several local mines.


As the wagons were descending the decline, which is very steep, the rope broke and the wagons crashed to the bottom with terrific speed.

The man in charge, Mr. George Blaze, of Bardon-road, Coalville, who was standing on the rear wagon, realising what had happened, jumped for his life and had a lucky escape.

When the wagons got to the bottom some of them left the rails, which were torn up in pieces and the wagons ploughed into the ground.

Two of them were telescoped, and parts of others smashed into matchwood, and all the vehicles were badly damaged.

Fatal Accident 1938

Coal was delivered to the Calcutta pumping station twice a week.   The coal wagons were parked near the bottom of the Incline where there was still a slope and the cable was released.  The Swannington Pumping Company contractor, William Henson Rowse, released the brake so that the wagons could roll around the bend onto the Calcutta spur at a speed of four to five miles an hour.  The contractor followed with a team of horses to pull the coal trucks the rest of the way to the pumping station.   The tramway was on private land which was officially closed to the public, so there was neither a warning system nor a process to check that there were not trespassers on the line, even though it was known that people walked there.

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.  It is believed that to help eek out their limited money, Elsie May Horrobin and her three youngest children and mother 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 accounts of the accident and inquest:

Coalville Times - Friday 27th May 1938 - Headline
Map of the bottom of the Incline and Califat spur