Railway & Canal Walks & Explorations
A rough, illustrated, guide to the former Charnwood Forest Railway, Canal and
Tramways - 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.
Many Flickr photos for this map are also viewable at https://flic.kr/s/aHsmf2eNnX as well as by clicking on the individual map markers.
The railway and tramway routes are shown in
orange and purple
and the canal route in
The canal route eastern end is 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, at the western end, with a 'Y' junction, from 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 good indication of the routes - particularly the southern two routes where there are enough indicative remains in the form of cutting sections and embankments. 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 Cloud Hill - or just to Barrow 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 were originally 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 but after extensive searching, even the northermost extensions have been documented with great help of LIDAR imagery. On the other hand, the line to Swannington Common remains clear.
I have also added the short Califat tramway from the mine(s) near Hough Mill. This ran down to the foot of the Swannington incline; where there was presumably transhipment to the standard gauge system near the junctions with the Coleorton Railway and the Calcutta mine branch. The Hough Mill area holds much of interest to the industrial archaeologist and is well worth exploring as many of the sites have interpretation boards and local information.
Most recently I have been made aware of another short 'Y' shaped tramway in what is now Pegg's Green. This has now also been added to the map, complete with photos, and has a magnificent embankment viewable from adjacent footpaths.
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.
For a historic map of the route, follow this link to the resource at the
National Library of Scotland and then adjust the
transparency on the slider scale to view the present day appearance:
The area is fortunately well-endowed with local history societies which have been a great help in my research:
There is the Coleorton Heritage Society
which has some useful information and also links to other sources.
Unfortunately, some 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.