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Califat Tramway

Purpose

The Califat horse drawn tramway was built to take coal from the Coleorton No 2 coal mine, known as Califat, to the bottom of the Swannington Incline.

Route

The 1883 Ordnance Survey map shows the route of the Califat tramway:

  • From the Califat coal mine (point A) the tramway went downhill in an east south easterly direction towards St George’s Hill.
  • Just before reaching the road (point B) the tramway heads more to the south and runs roughly parallel to St George’s Hill.
  • The tramway crossed Limby Hall Lane (point C) and continued downhill roughly parallel to Main Street.  This part of the tramway was built on an embankment that is visible today from opposite Piano Row.
  • Next to the colliery manager’s house (point D) there was a weighbridge.
  • The tramway crossed Main Street (then the Hinckley to Melbourne turnpike) where it met the Leicester and Swannington Railway.
  • Horses would have continued to pull the trucks to sidings at the bottom of the Incline (point E)

Notes

  • Where the tramway ran roughly parallel to St George’s Hill (points B to C) this would be the front rooms and gardens of the houses now on St George’s Hill.
  • At both Limby Hall Lane and Main Street the rails would be embedded in the road in a manner that enabled the trucks to cross the road without impeding horses, carts and carriages using the roads.
  • After the Califat coal mine closed the colliery manager’s house became a beer house, The Fountain.  This subsequently obtained a wine and spirits licence, the Fountain Inn closed in December 2015.
Califat Tramway 1883 Ordnance Survey Map

Why Not Use The Coleorton Railway?

The unanswered question is why did the mine owners go to the expense of building the Califat tramway instead of using the Coleorton Railway?

The Califat tramway could have continued its initial line (points A to B) crossing St George’s Hill (then a track as the Hinckley to Melbourne turnpike ran along Limby Hall Lane) until it reached the Coleorton Railway.

The route would have been much shorter.  The mine owners would have saved both the cost of building and maintaining the longer length of the tramway, plus the cost of of building, maintaining and operating a weighbridge as the Coleorton Railway had a weighbridge at Jeffcoat’s Lane.

So why build the tramway?  Four possible reasons are:

  • The Coleorton Railway was so busy with  traffic that it could not cope with the volume of coal to be shipped by the Califat coal mine.  This is rejected as the Coleorton Railway was a financial failure because it did not have sufficient usage.
  • The mine owners already used the Coleorton Railway to move coal from their Smoile colliery at Newbold and their California mine opposite the New Inn.  Perhaps they found the Coleorton Railway service unsatisfactory.
  • The mine owners and the Coleorton Railway could not agree a price.  This seems to be the most likely reason.
  • Wyggeston Hospital who owned the field between St George’s Hill and the Coleorton Railway would not allow the tramway to cross the field.