Find out about our Swannington Incline guided tours of the western end of the Leicester and Swannington Railway.
The Arrival Of The Railway
Robert Stephenson’s 1832 was the first steam railway in the English Midlands and around the fifth in the world. The railway reached Swannington in 1833 and the official end is where it met the Hinckley Road (the Hinckley to Melbourne Turnpike), that is Main Street opposite what used to be the Fountain Inn.
Matt Davis has posted a YouTube video Beeching’s Ghosts – The Leicester and Swannington Railway which provides an excellent overview of why the railway was built, canals and the history of the railway as stations and connections were added and removed.
The 1:17 Swannington incline formed the western end of the railway. Swannington thus had a steam railway several years before major cities such as London, Birmingham and Glasgow.
At just over a mile long, building the Glenfield Tunnel was always going to be a challenge. The surveys had indicated that the terrain was mainly sandstone, but in reality there was a lot of sand. As a result millions of bricks were required to line the tunnel.
The tunnel closed in the 1960’s and was later bought by Leicester City Council, who licence our partners Leicestershire Industrial History Society to conduct tours of the first 400 metres from the Glenfield end. Details are on the LIHS website.
Impact Of The Railway On Swannington
The Leicester and Swannington Railway reached Swannington in 1833 and gave an enormous boost to the coal mining industry in and around the village. The mine opening dates tell the story:
- Coleorton No 1 – California – 1849
- Snibston No 3 – 1850
- Coleorton No 2 – Califat – 1855
- Swannington No 1 – Calcutta 1857
- Swannington No 2 – Sinope – 1861
- Swannington No 3 – Clink – 1863
This increased both the population of the village and its prosperity. Even after Swannington’s mines had closed the railway continued to have an important impact on the village as so many residents worked at the Snibston and Whitwick collieries.
A lasting impact of the railway is that it is often the prime reason why non Leicestershire people have heard of the village.
Impact Of The Railway On Coalville
The railway was an important catalyst in the development of the new town of Coalville centred around the junction of the parishes of Whitwick, Hugglescote, Snibston and Swannington. The coal industry would not have flourished if a means of getting the coal to market.
In less than 200 years a handful of cottages have become a town of 30,000 people. More information on the development of Coalville is on the Coalville Heritage Society website.
Impact Of The Railway On Leicester
As soon as the railway opened the price of coal in Leicester plummeted. This enabled the hosiery and other industries to expand. As a result Leicester became a prosperous city and an economic powerhouse.
Extension of the railway to Ashby and Burton
The Midland Railway bought the Leicester and Swannington Railway in 1846. In 1848-9 the railway was extended to Ashby de la Zouch and Burton on Trent. The Incline became a spur and the new main line became the dividing point between Station Hill and Hough Hill.
The line closed to passenger traffic in 1951 and the station buildings were demolished. The line is still used for mineral traffic and a train usually chugs through Swannington at about 2pm.
Station Masters who lived at Station House:
- 1871 Joel Cowlinshaw (born Stenson, Derbyshire, 1815)
- 1881, 1891,1901 Samuel Stanley (born Burton on Trent, Staffordshire, 1838)
- 1911 Malachai William Bailey (born Camborne, Dorset, 1853)
- 1939 Edward Gamble (born 1889) Railway District Inspector and Yardmaster