Coleorton Railway 1833
Sir George Beaumont of Coleorton Hall (along with other mine and limestone interests) had the Coleorton Railway built in 1833 to take coal from the mine on his land at Smoile (Newbold) to join the Leicester and Swannington Railway at the bottom of the Swannington Incline. Much of the railway was on his land.
It is believed that the southern part was open by December 1833, but that it took until 1835 to reach Newbold.
When built in 1833 the Coleorton Railway passed through four parishes:
- The southern end was in Swannington.
- The portion of the tunnel under Loughborough Road and Tugby’s Lane was in the part of Thringstone that transferred to Swannington in 1936.
- From the California colliery (now the football pitch opposite the New Inn) to Stoney Lane was and is in Coleorton.
- Between Stoney Lane and Aqueduct Road the tramway passed into Worthington parish, which includes both Gelsmoor and Newbold.
Coleorton historian Samuel Stewart has a website that publishes his excellent books including A history of the Coleorton Railway and Charnwood Forest Canal. This contains images illustrating how horse drawn tramways operated.
Bottom of Incline to Jeffcoat’s Lane
Zero Access To Bottom Of Incline
There is not public access to the bottom of the Incline.
- Swannington Heritage Trust own the permissive path down the Incline, their land ends about 100 metres past Cattle Arch bridge, thereafter land is in private ownership. The lowest exit point is Church Lane bridge.
- The service road opposite the former Fountain Inn ends at the private land and neither the bottom of the Incline nor the start of the Coleorton Railway can be accessed.
At the bottom of the Incline the railway split into three tramways:
- Left – officially the Leicester and Swannington Railway ended at the Hinckley Road (now Main Street), the horse drawn Califat tramway continued across the road then roughly parallel with Main Street and St George’s Hill to the Califat coal mine.
- Straight – the horse drawn Coleorton Railway continued in line with the Leicester and Swannington Railway.
- Right – the horse drawn Calcutta tramway went to the Swannington No 1 Colliery, known as Calcutta, which from 1877 was the Calcutta Pumping Station.
Coleorton Railway Route
This page describes the route of the Coleorton Railway from the bottom of the Swannington Incline to Newbold.
The nearest point of the Coleorton Railway is accessed via Jeffcoats Lane and is a dead end where it reaches private land close to the Calcutta tramway. This part of the railway is an embankment that was probably built using material excavated from the cutting to the north of Jeffcoats Lane and the tunnel under St George’s Hill.
Near the private land the embankment is quite high, the route is level and it’s height gradually reduces as it approaches Jeffcoats Lane.
Initially there are fields on both sides and a view of Brook House to the left. Part way along on the left hand side there are the gardens of the houses in Piano Row on Main Street.
On the right there is a set of steps down to two public footpaths. One goes behind Spa Cottage then onto Jeffcoats Lane, the other leads to the Calcutta pumping station.
Just before Jeffcoats Lane is reached the village football pitch is visible on the left.
Jeffcoats Lane to Coleorton Railway Tunnel
The Sidings – Private Road, No Public Access
There is not a public right of way immediately to the north of Jeffcoats Lane. There was a weighbridge when the line was in use, but the area is now private housing.
Footpath St George’s Hill to Hospital Lane and Church Hill
As the Coleorton Railway proceeds upwards to the east of St George’s Hill, the route becomes a cutting. There is a public footpath eastwards from St George’s Hill, which after a field descends into the steep cutting. The land to the north and south is owned by Swannington Parish Council, but is very overgrown and inaccessible to all but the most intrepid of explorers.
One explorer, Steve, under the username LeiceExplore has posted a YouTube video titled Two Tunnels from railway mania. The first part shows his search through the overgrown cutting to find evidence of the tunnel.
Coleorton Railway Tunnel
The tunnel was built in 1833 and looks like a canal tunnel, as in the early days of railways engineers had experience of building canal tunnels.
There is a story that during the Second World War, Swannington Home Guard used the tunnel for machine gun practice. Provided nobody was allowed in the other end, it would seem to be a safe place.
The photograph shows how big the tunnel was. It is understood that the tunnel was filled in in 1963 by hanging a conveyor belt near the roof and filling the tunnel with mining waste.
The tunnel route is under:
- St George’s Hill – on the west side of the hill it is next to the track leading to the stables.
- Loughborough Road – to the east of the house on the corner of Mill Lane and Loughborough Road.
- Tugby’s Lane – just north of the back gardens of the houses in Loughborough Road.
- Zion Hill football pitch – the goal posts furthest away from the New Inn.
There is a public footpath from Tugby’s Lane to the Zion Hill football pitch. Around 2012 the tunnel collapsed in the farmer’s field next to where the footpath enters the wood.
There is nothing visible of the north entrance.
To follow the Coleorton Railway walk up St Georges Hill, turn left onto Loughborough Road, then right onto Tugby’s Lane. Take the footpath on the left just before a new house, this will bring you out at the end of the football pitch opposite the New Inn.
Zion Hill Football Pitch to Stoney Lane
Tunnel Route and California Coal Mine
Walkers taking the footpath from Tugby’s Lane will pass through the small woodland on the site of the former clay pit.
The tunnel route was near the goal posts furthest away from the New Inn.
The trees next to right of the footpath to Stoney Lane mark the site of the Coleorton No 1 Colliery, known as California.
The first portion of the public footpath to Stoney Lane is much steeper than the rest. It is understood that this part of the path is not the route of the railway and that the horses would have emerged from the tunnel in the woodland to the left. The gradient from the tunnel would have been similar to the rest of the path to Stoney Lane. It is possible that the steep slope took the coal from the California Colliery onto the line.
Spur to Peggs Green Colliery
Just before Stoney Lane there is a footpath to the right. This was the route of the spur to the Peggs Green colliery north of the former New Engine Inn on Nottingham Road, Peggs Green (near the Anchor Lane junction).
The Coleorton Railway is on an embankment that, along with the raised Stoney Lane hump was probably built with material from the tunnel under St George’s Hill and Loughborough Road.
Stoney Lane to Aqueduct Road
There is not any public access between Stoney Lane and Aqueduct Road as the route of the railway has been absorbed into people’s gardens.
There was not a bridge at Stoney Lane, the road was build up on both sides to match the height of the railway embankment.
At Aqueduct Road the railway embankment was much higher than at Stoney Lane, so a bridge was built. It is believed that the bridge is based upon a design by George Stephenson.
Although the bridge was dismantled, the sandstone abutments remain.
The Coleorton Heritage Group website has more information about Aqueduct Road and its bridge.
Aqueduct Road to Newbold
Again, the route of the tramway is on private land. Walk along Gelsmoor Road to the Gelsmoor public house.
Gelsmoor – Coleorton Railway Stables And Wharf
The former name of The Gelsmoor public house was The Railway. The rear part of the building with the lower roof and parallel to Gelsmoor Road used to be the stables for the horses that pulled the coal wagons along the Coleorton Railway. It was also a wharf from which goods could be sent to Leicester and beyond.
Gelsmoor To Newbold
Across Rempstone Road from The Gelsmoor the route of the Coleorton Railway is highlighted by the trees on the left side of the farmer’s field. Follow the old disused road towards Gelsmoor and through the hedge there are glimpses of the time of trees marking the tramway which is on private land.
This part of the Coleorton Railway is an embankment. It was probably built with material excavated from either the Coleorton or Newbold tunnels.
Behind Newbold School
The Coleorton Railway route continues behind Newbold school, where some of it seems to be used as an outdoor classroom. This leads to a fence with a locked gate. The cutting gets deeper the further it is from the road.
Behind The Playground Next To Newbold School
To the right of Newbold school there is a track leading to a football pitch and playground. The cutting is next to the play equipment. The cutting is now quite deep and the sides are steep, but a handy rope between two trees makes descent and ascent much easier.
The bottom of the cutting is very wet and most of it requires wellies. There are the remains of a couple of brick buildings.
The forgotten relics website has a comprehensive description of the tunnel and several photographs of the inside.
Watch the second part of LeiceExplore’s YouTube video Two Tunnels from railway mania.
The YouTube user LufbrEX Disused Railway Explore, Newbold Tunnel and the Coleorton Railway (Leicester & Swannington Railway)
There is also information on the Newbold Heritage Group website.
Beyond The Tunnel
The Coleorton Railway continued towards Smoile colliery, but it is unclear whether it ever reached it.
Information Courtesy Of Leicestershire Museums Service
Leicestershire Museums Service have been very helpful, in giving Swannington Heritage Trust access to their files on railway historian and safety campaigner Clement Edwin Stretton and other railway material. Several items applicable to the Coleorton Railway are published below:
The History Of The Coleorton Railway by Clement E Stretton
Read The History Of The Coleorton Railway key points being:
- Sir George Beaumont had laid Outram rails before the Coleorton Railway Company was formed, these were replaced by edge rails. (Although the rails were replaced the preparation of the ground enabled the railway to commence operations shortly after the Act of Parliament was approved.
- The 23 persons forming the Coleorton Railway Company included Sir George Beaumont (of Coleorton Hall), Sir George Crewe (of Calke Abbey), B Walker (Benjamin Walker, owner of the Smoile Colliery in Newbold), W and J Sherwin (William Sherwin was a wealthy landowner who amongst his many interests built inns to serve the Leicester and Swannington Railway, such as the Railway Inn, Swannington).
- Authorisation to issue 500 £50 shares to raise £25,000 capital, plus take out a £6,000 mortgage.
- The rails were malleable iron rails weighing 35 pounds per yard.
- On the 12th August 1833 the directors and their friends went to the bottom of the Swannington Incline, laid stones to mark the position of Coleorton Railway property and turned the first sod before walking half a mile to enjoy refreshments and lay the first stone of the weighing machine office and associated premises.
- Mines gradually shut and line not used in 1880.
- Part of the Swannington tunnel collapsed in 1886.
- Rails taken up around 1890 and sold for scrap iron.
- Provision in Act that when railway disused the land reverted to the owners of the land next to the railway.
Typed note by Clement E Stretton describing the rails on the Coleorton Railway.
The note also refers to a locomotive named Beaumont. Stretton appears to be the only source of this information and the story about Sir George’s converted stage coach carriage journeys to Leicester.
Please contact Swannington Heritage Trust if you know more about the Beaumont locomotive.
Combined Rails At Newbold
Hand written note by Clement Edwin Stretton in 1889 describing the combined rail for both edge and flat wheeled wagons, based upon 1867 drawing.