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By Anthony Coulls on

Leicestershire Railway Heritage

A visit to old haunts for me today, to investigate future partnership working...

For 2 1/2 years from 1999, I was Assistant Keeper of Working Life for Leicestershire Museums, and I was based at the former Snibston Colliery in Coalville. During my time there, we rebuilt the former colliery railway into the town from the pit. Having made good time down to Leicestershire this morning, I took a quick walk round the town to see how things have or haven’t changed! The view from the level crossing on Belvoir Road shows the town platform and the running line with the colliery headgear in the distance.

The level crossing is a local feature and the gates and track have been retained. The line carried on behind me to join the Leicester-Burton main line which still exists in a freight only/diversionary capacity.

If you blow this picture up, you will see the level crossing gates in the distant centre – the trackbed down to the main line follows the line of trees across the car park. The track was lifted around 1986 when the colliery site passed to the Museum service.

The museum’s current running line goes from the buffer stops in the first picture, through the museum site on original parts of the colliery system past the pit buildings and over another road up on to the former pit bank. There is one station alongside the main gallery building, and the main rolling stock in use is this Hunslet 0-6-0 diesel hydraulic, no. 6289 of 1966 (I can still remember that all these years on) and a BR EMU trailer car fitted with dual brakes and for push-pull working.

Inside the main gallery are displays on Leicestershire transport and industry amongst other things. One of my favourite exhibits is Brush saddle tank loco, works number 314 of 1906, which we put on display as a major project when I worked there. This machine was built new for Powlesland & Mason who worked Swansea Docks under contract for the GWR. In 1924, P&M were absorbed into the GWR, who then “Swindonised” (at Caerphilly!) the loco, which became GWR 921. It was then sold in 1928 into industry, finishing its days with Berry Wiggins & Co of Kingsnorth in Kent. Owned by Leicesthershire Museums since the late 1960s, it has mainly been stored until 2000, when it was stripped of asbestos, put on gallery and conserved.

I am particularly taken with the fact that the engine still shows its GWR heritage with the number 921 as applied at Caerphilly works showing through the paintwork of later years. You can’t beat that for railway archaeology!

My final visit of the day was real railway archaeology. In all the time I lived in the area, I only managed to go past the Swannington incline on a rainy wet day inthe short time I owned a car – and the rain put me off getting out to look. What a gem I missed! The story of the Leicester & Swannington Railway is told in brief here: by the very active Swannington Heritage Trust, and the picture below shows the remains of the winding engine house with some relaid track heading up the incline towards the works van parked on the site of a level crossing.

I walked a section of the trackbed on from the engine house with my former boss Fred Hartley, a fellow early railways fan and this picture is taken from halfway down the incline looking back up through a rebuilt bridge towards another bridge and the winding engine site over the crest of the hill. It was a bit wet and boggy today, but is a super little walk in the summer I should imagine.

In the meantime, I cannot ignore happenings at York or Shildon with it being Easter weekend. Furness 20 is in steam at Shildon, the N7 in steam at York, and at the same time, our replica “Rocket” is running at Hyde Park in London. Lots to see at both sites, and lots to do, including a fire engine rally at Shildon on Easter Monday. Why not come and have a look?

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