The incline was constructed in 1832 to enable coal from the mines in the Swannington valley to be hauled up to the upper level of the Railway for onward transmission to Leicester by means of a stationary winding engine. This was brought into use in 1833. Coal was delivered to the base of the incline by means of three horse-drawn tram-roads from the mines in the village and from others further north. These mines, leased from the Wyggeston Hospital Trust, suffered from ingress of water held up in earlier mining operations and when the mineral leases began to run out the lessees reduced their operation and the incline became less used.
Finally, in about 1870, the mines closed and surface equipment, including pumps, was removed. Water held underground in mines which had been worked over several centuries began to build up and started to find its way down the slope of the coal seams into the mines which operated at a lower level in Coalville. As flooding problems began to increase pumps were re-installed at some of the abandoned sites and it was decided to form a Joint Pumping Company with the aim of removing this water. In 1877 a huge engine was installed at the former Swannington No.1 (Calcutta) mine to drain the whole area. The Company was jointly funded by the Swannington, Coleorton, Snibston and Whitwick Colliery Companies. It erected the two cylinder, tandem, compound engine supplied by the Robert Stephenson Co., which was able to raise approximately 3000 gallons of water per minute from the old workings. Shortly afterwards coal getting ceased completely in Swannington, which should have led to the closure of Swannington Incline but, in order to fuel the five boilers which fed the huge pumping engine, coal had to be let down the incline from the mines in Coalville. Thus the incline survived in operation, being used in the opposite direction to that originally intended, until 1947 when electrically operated pumps were installed at Calcutta. The last wagons descended the incline on 20th. September 1947 and the incline was closed early in 1948.