Route of the Narrow Gauge Railway

Here at “MARCH” we are constantly looking at ways of improving the Heritage Centre, Nature Trail and Railway. Our volunteers work tirelessly to maintain, improve and extend the site. We have achieved so much that on January 25th, 2017 HM King Charles III chose to visit and acknowledge the amazing work of our volunteers.

Robert Stephenson’s 1834 Lift Bridge

Lift Bridge March 2024In 1831 railway pioneer George Stephenson won the contract to build the Leicester to Swannington Railway. He was still hard at work completing the Liverpool & Manchester Railway so he sent his son Robert to Leicester to oversee the building of the new railway line.

The new railway required the construction of a bridge over the Grand Union Canal at Soar Lane in Leicester, this would give the railway access to the goods yard beyond. The bridge would be quite special in that the deck had to be able to lift up to allow barges to pass underneath the railway.

Robert Stephenson went on to become one of the greatest engineers of the Victorian era, constructing almost half of the entire UK railway network, which included breath taking feats of engineering such as the tubular bridge over the Menai straits in North Wales, but at the time of building the lift bridge at Soar Lane, he was still a young engineer, very much finding his feet.

The Soar Lane lift bridge is one of few early examples of the railway revolution that still survives and is a very special example of Stephenson’s early work. The bridge is so old that it became asset number 6 of the Midland Railway Company, one of the largest railway companies in the UK in the Victorian era, with well over a million assets on it’s register.

The bridge continued to be used into the late 1950’s and in the 1960’s when the West Bridge site at Leicester closed, the bridge’s massive historical importance was recognised and it was preserved and resited at Abbey Meadows, close to the fledging Leicester Science Museum (later Abbey Pumping Station). In 1992 the bridge was relocated to Snibston Discovery Park at Coalville.
Lift Bridge March 2024
When Snibston closed in 2016 the bridge’s future was uncertain. The bridge was dismantled but the timbers were in a poor condition and couldn’t be saved. Leicester County Council gave the extensive collection of metal components of the bridge to Leicester City Council.

After three years of discussion about the bridge’s future, Leicester City Council kindly donated the remains of the bridge to the Mountsorrel & Rothley Community Heritage Centre, so that the bridge could be restored to it’s former glory, and importantly, operated again with the deck able to lift.

Restoration of the bridge is one of our greatest challenges, particularly as none of the timbers survived and the bridge hadn’t lifted in operation since the mid 1950’s.

Thanks to donations form the Edith Murphy Foundation, Helen Jean Cope Charity, Association of Industrial Archaeology, local businesses who have provide practical help and to members of the public who are donating, this important and iconic piece of historical railway engineering is finally coming back to life! Most of the funding required to complete the rebuild of the bridge itself is now in place, we seek a further £2000 to complete the final elements of the restoration.

In addition to this we are constructing an interpretation building alongside, which will have on display the original components of the bridge that were too fragile to be reused in it’s restoration, audio and visual displays and a working model of the bridge that visitors can operate at the touch of a button. Construction of the building has been funded by a generous supporter but we still need a further £1800 to be able to complete the interpretations and presentations inside.

If you would like to help us to complete the restoration of this unique and very special part of our industrial railway heritage, the following options are available:

  • Smaller donations by cash can be made in our donation boxes, either on the counter in Granite’s or at the top of the path from the patio that leads to the interest areas of the site.
  • Larger donations can be made by cheque, made out to “MARCH” (Mountsorrel And Rothley Community Heritage Centre), and can be handed in at the Heritage Centre or posted to the Mountsorrel and Rothley Community Heritage Centre (MARCH), 240 Swithland Lane, Rothley, Leicester LE7 7UE.
  • Direct donations to MARCH via internet transfer are also welcome. If you would like to donate in this way, please email David at and they will explain what to do.
  • Finally, you can also donate via our GoFundMe page at or by clicking the button below.


Thank you very much for your support!