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A rough, illustrated, guide to the former Charnwood Forest Railway, Canal and Tramway - and what they look like today.

By clicking the icon in the top left of the map window, you can select/deselect other options to view or click the icon top right to view full screen.

The Flickr photos for this map are also viewable at https://flic.kr/s/aHsmf2eNnX

The railway and tramway routes are shown in orange and the canal route in blue .

The canal route ends at Napantan where it was met by the Charnwood Tramway which led down to the Loughborough Navigation (ie the River Soar) at Loughborough Basin. The canal started both from near Thringstone and Osgathorpe and met at Junction House betwen the two places. Both of these ends of the canal were fed by other tramways from quarries at Thringstone, Barrow Hill and Cloud Hill respectively.

The route of the tramway from Nanpantan is clearly recognisable downhill, alongside the road, where the unusually wide verge gives things away for some distance. Abruptly however, this wide verge disappears at a slight rise where the tramway turned a little southwards to go round a small hill. It must be remembered that traffic was exclusively stone down to the canal and the tramway route would have taken advantage of this gradient. From here the route is unclear, but a careful examination of old property boundaries in Loughborough possibly provide a good indication. I will refine my map as more information is found. In the meantime, the road crossing of the tramway on the approach to Loughborough, would probably have been near the current Toby Inn.

The western tramways have proved far more difficult to research. This has not been helped by place names changing over time; for example what was once known as Thringstone Common is now, more or less, Peggs Green - well to the north and west of both Thringstone, Swannington and Swannington Common! Nevertheless, I think the current maps give a reasonable indication of the routes. To confuse things further, it has not been clear whether all, or even only parts, of some tramways were ever laid. For example, was there ever a tramway from the Osgathorpe Canal Head to Barrow Hill - or just to Cloud Hill? The distance is only a furlong, but might have been seen as worthwhile, but isn't shown on all maps. However, some authors ignore any tramway less than (say) a quarter of a mile so...

To consider each of the routes briefly; Barrow Hill quarries originally were worked at what is now the southern end - so this would seem to be the obvious place for the tramway to reach. Later quarrying was at the north end and I suspect was carried northwards towards Barrow Lane as I have photographed. The map indicates the probably route to Cloud Hill which seems to give the most even rise in the land and therefore the best gradient for easy working. To the south, The Thringstone Common tramway had several extensions and branches to different coal mines. These have proved rather elusive to locate! On the other hand, the line to Swannington Common remains clear.

The Charnwood Forest Railway (aka The Bluebell Line) superseded both the canal and its tramways. Its route is clearly defined today throughout. Note that the former dairy/goods area in Loughborough still has rails in situ!

I have found a number of websites with more information on the railway and its history. The following are just samples.
Follow these links for further information:- All links should open in a new tab.

For a historic map of the route, follow this link and then adjust the transparency on the slider scale to view the present day appearance:
Click Here for Historic Map

The best starting point for the canal is probably https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charnwood_Forest_Canal whereas for the railway use https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charnwood_Forest_Railway
Swannington Heritage Society has an excellent and informative site here www.swannington-heritage.co.uk - which includes a number of interesting walk leaflets you can download giving the industrial achaeology of the area.
The Friends of Thringstone have a similar site albeit a number of their links have failed as mine below:

Unfortunately, the following sites seem to have disappeared since my last edit. I will update the links if they reappear - especially the original survey map which has proved extremely useful in my research.
The original survey map for the canal and tramroads is embedded above from this host site (not mine) which some people have reported issues with. Click here for the original host site.

These websites, for the canal and for the railway are also of some interest.