• This line was part of the Leicester & Swannington Railway, one of the first railways to be built in the world
  • The line of the railway is now a mile-long public footpath towards Glenfield tunnel
  • Originally intended to carry coal, carrying passengers was not a priority

A city park, built on one of the first railways in the world

The Rally Park has been created on what was the southernmost part of the Leicester & Swannington Railway, designed to bring coal from the North West Leicestershire coalfields into Leicester. It was one of the first railways to be built in the world. Opening in 1832, it was engineered by Robert Stephenson, son of the famous railway pioneer George Stephenson. Its route was northwards through the mile long tunnel at Glenfield, to Desford, Bagworth, Long Lane (Coalville) and Swannington.

West Bridge Station

The original railway buildings were a wharf shed, joiner’s shop, company office, engine shed, workshop and smithy. The railway was originally intended for coal so carrying passengers was not a priority. For many years local inns and tiny cabins served as booking offices and passenger carriages were attached to goods trains. It was not until 1840 that alterations were made to the office building to provide ‘some accommodation’ for passengers. There was no platform at the original station and passengers had to climb aboard using steps and handrails attached to carriages. A narrow passenger platform was eventually created in 1876. By 1893 a new purpose built station had been constructed next to Tudor Road.

The first West Bridge Station with narrow platform, Mary De Castro Church spire is in the background

The end of the line

The passenger service ended in 1928 although coal and oil traffic continued until 1966. The track was removed and the station buildings demolished in 1979. A short length of platform was rebuilt on the site of the second passenger station (of 1893) with some track and a signal. The line of the railway is now a mile-long public footpath towards Glenfield tunnel.

Visitor information
Public access to The Rally Park

Gallery

Roman Leicester

(47- 500) A military fort was erected, attracting traders and a growing civilian community to Leicester (known as Ratae Corieltauvorum to the Romans). The town steadily grew throughout the reign of the Romans.

Medieval Leicester

(500 – 1500) The early years of this period was one of unrest with Saxon, Danes and Norman invaders having their influences over the town. Later, of course, came Richard III and the final battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought on Leicester’s doorstep.

Tudor & Stuart Leicester

(1500 – 1700) The wool trade flourished in Leicester with one local, a former mayor named William Wigston, making his fortune. During the English Civil War a bloody battle was fought as the forces of King Charles I laid siege to the town.

Georgian Leicester

(1700 – 1837) The knitting industry had really stared to take hold and Leicester was fast becoming the main centre of hosiery manufacture in Britain. This new prosperity was reflected throughout the town with broader, paved streets lined with elegant brick buildings and genteel residences.

Edwardian Leicester

(1901 – 1910) Electric trams came to the streets of Leicester and increased literacy among the citizens led to many becoming politicised. The famous 1905 ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ left from Leicester market when 30,000 people came to witness the historic event.

Early 20th Century Leicester

(1910 – 1973) The diverse industrial base meant Leicester was able to cope with the economic challenges of the 1920s and 1930s. New light engineering businesses, such as typewriter and scientific instrument making, complemented the more traditional industries of hosiery and footwear manufacturing.

Modern Leicester

(1973 – present day) Industry was still thriving in the city during the 1970s, with the work opportunities attracting many immigrants from all over the world. While industry has declined in recent years, excellent transport links have made Leicester an attractive centre for many businesses. The City now has much to be proud of including its sporting achievements and the richness of its cultural heritage and diversity.

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