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Calcutta Tramway

Purpose

The purpose of the Calcutta tramway was to take coal from William Worswick’s Swannington No 1 colliery (known as Calcutta) to the bottom of the Swannington Incline, for onward travel along the Leicester and Swannington railway to Leicester.

The Calcutta tramway is the shortest of the three horse drawn tramways radiating from the bottom of the Swannington Incline.

Construction

The Calcutta tramway was built during the 1850s, either while the shafts of the Calcutta colliery were being sunk or shortly afterwards.  The embankment is much wider than that of either the Swannington Incline or the Coleorton railway.  This was either to support a double track or more likely, because the colliery wished to dispose of a lot of mining waste.

Usage

Horses pulled the coal trucks along the Calcutta tramway to the bottom of the Incline.

Evidence of people walking along the Calcutta tramway in 2021
The top of the embankment on the Calcutta tramway is much wider than the Coleorton railway

Second Life

Reverse Usage

After the Calcutta colliery closed during the 1870s, the site was converted into a pumping station.  A huge engine with, reputedly, the second largest flywheel in the world, was installed with capacity to pump out 54,000 gallons of water an hour.  Pumping prevented the water from seeping through the coal seams that sloped down towards the deeper mines at Snibston and Whitwick and flooding them.

The five boilers powering the pumping engine required coal to be brought down the Swannington Incline and taken along the Calcutta tramway to the pumping station.

Method

The winding engine at the top of the Incline lowered coal trucks down the slope.  The brakes were applied when the trucks were parked in a siding as there was still a gradient.  The Swannington Pumping Company’s contractor released the brakes and allowed the trucks to roll down and around the corner at a brisk walking pace, around four miles per hour.

As the Calcutta tramway was level, after a while the trucks came to a halt.  The contractor used a team of three horses to haul the trucks to the pumping station.  The horses then pulled the empty trucks back along the Calcutta tramway to the bottom on the Incline where they were parked until hauled to the top.

1938 Fatalities

Elsie May Horrobin and her son Horace were killed on the Calcutta tramway when she was unable to remove the pram from between the rails after the trucks came around the corner.