The advent of railways transformed a rural parish into a hive of industry. The first railway station appeared at Crewe in 1837, but the town’s growth really began when the Grand Junction Railway built workshops here in 1843.
The first steam locomotive was built at Crewe the same year – the Tamarlane, No. 32. A celebratory ball and banquet was held in its honour. Then two years later No. 49, Columbine, a Standard six-foot locomotive, was rolled out.
By the 1860s Crewe served as a junction for several railways. Steel manufacture came to the town with the LNWR’s Bessemer plant in 1864. During the heyday of Crewe Works, just before the First World War, some 8,000 workers were employed on site.
The last steam locomotive serviced at Crewe was Oliver Cromwell (Britannia Class) in 1967. Over the next two decades diesel electric locomotives, heavy freight locomotives, and high speed trains were all constructed here.
Crewe Heritage Centre, built on the Grand Junction workshops site, opened in 1987. The city’s story is told through paintings and local history displays. You can see where the mail was sorted in the beautifully restored travelling post office, or explore the signal box where a real-time simulation recreates a day in a signalman’s life in the 1960s. You can also view passing trains on the West Coast main line where steam locomotives sometimes visit.
Don’t miss: a hands-on five lever signalling frame working a model railway in the north junction signal box.
Read Sue Wilkes' blog