22nd October 2019 · Leicester & Swannington Railway

Presenter: Bill Pemberton of the Leicestershire Industrial History Society

On 22 October Bill Pemberton of the Leicestershire Industrial History Society presented the “Leicester & Swannington Railway” tracing the history of the L&SR. The line was built to connect the Leicestershire coalfield with the City and replace the Charnwood Canal which had been closed following flood damage. Although built primarily for coal passengers were carried from the opening from Leicester West Bridge to Bagworth in July 1832 and from Bagworth to Long Lane (later Coalville) and on to Swannington in November 1833 becoming the fifth passenger line in the country. There were rope worked inclines at Bagworth and Swannington and a mile long tunnel at Glenfield. The L&SR did not build passenger stations but rented rooms in pubs near the railway where passengers could book tickets in advance to give us “booking offices”.

The L&SR was acquired by the MR in August 1848 and by the following year it was connected to their Leicester-Burton line at Desford Junction and Coalville. The line was doubled between these points and the Bagworth incline replaced by a deviation. Station buildings were also provided. Collieries at Swannington were closed by 1881 and the incline closed although reopened in 1892 for coal to be transported to Swannington to work pumps to prevent flooding from the old workings. The pumps were replaced by electric ones in 1948 and the incline finally closed. Passenger services to West Bridge closed in 1928 and the line from there to Desford gradually closed 1966-67. The Leicester-Burton passenger service ceased in 1964 and following colliery closures is only used for stone traffic from Bardon Hill.

Bill then took us along the route with images of what remains and is accessible including the west end of Glenfield Tunnel. Visits can be arranged to part of the tunnel from June to September and a show of hands indicated that there was interest for summer 2020.