The heart of the London & North Western Railway will forever be Crewe and in turn Crewe substantially owes its rapid transformation from a tiny village in the early 19th century to a significant regional centre of over 70,000 inhabitants today to the London & North Western Railway; its antecedents and descendants. The existence of the prestigous Rolls-Royce and Bentley in Crewe, both marques of engineering excellence that owe their existence to the long and rich engineering tradition of Crewe, first established down by the coming of the railways.
Crewe is richly steeped in railway history and the railways and Crewe are forever entwined. Crewe Station was completed in 1837 by the Grand Junction Railway and is one of the world’s most historic stations as well being one of the major junctions on the West Coast Main Line. Crewe Works was opened by the Grand Junction Railway in 1840. To support the new locomotive works, over 200 railway cottages were constructed for the workers and their families who settled there, dramatically enlarging the tiny hamlet’s population. By 1848, after the merger in 1846 of the Grand Junction Railway with the Liverpool & Manchester Railway and London & Birmingham Railway, the works employed over 1000 men and were already producing one locomotive per week.
Crewe Works witnessed a number of firsts and milestones. Locomotive Superintendent, John Ramsbottom developed the first reliable safety valve and water scoops for the collection of water by passing locomotives from troughs positioned between the rails. The works was also the site of the first open-hearth furnaces employed on an industrial scale anywhere in the world. And another milestone among many – Ramsbottom’s 0-6-0 ‘DX Goods’ class went on to become the largest single class of engines in Britain with 943 built at the works in Crewe! Ramsbottom and his successor Webb, revolutionised the standardisation and interchangeability of parts and tools in manufacturing.
With the formation of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1923, Midland Railway locomotive and engineering practice was broadly adopted and the new company’s centre of engineering was located at the Midland’s former headquarters and works in Derby. However, with the appointment of William Stanier as Chief Mechanical Engineer in 1932, Crewe’s experience with heavier locomotives (Claughtons and various 8-coupled good classes for example) led Crewe to regaining pre-eminence. Crewe became the centre of construction for the LMS’s most distinguished passenger and mixed traffic classes; the Princess Royals, Coronations, Jubilees and the redoubtable Black Fives.
Following nationalisation in 1948, Crewe’s place as a centre of engineering continued and the works turned out various Standards including Riddles’ Britannias and Clans. By the end of steam, Crewe works had turned out over 7000 locomotives. It’s worth noting that the LNWR George the Fifth class ‘Coronation’ of 1912 (which can be seen in our photo-collection on the main-site) was in fact Crewe’s 5000th engine! The George the Fifth class was indubitably a product of Crewe and an exemplary class embodying Crewe’s and the the London & North Western Railways’ engineering excellence.
The 1955 Modernisation Plan saw the rapid transition from steam to diesel and from 1957 on, the works were turning out a succession of diesel types, including the famed Intercity 125’s, which remain in service today.
For over 150 years Crewe has been and remains a centre of railway engineering, and while today the works are a shadow of their former self, Crewe’s proud railway heritage isn’t forgotten thanks to the tireless efforts of the Crewe Heritage Centre. The Trust’s cause is aligned with that of CHC as our locomotive similarly represents a celebration of this heritage. Our locomotive will be a living and breathing testament to Crewe and to the London & North Western Railway’s position as the largest and arguably most prestigious of the pre-grouping rail companies, and at the time of grouping, Britain’s largest business!
As with the tremendous efforts of the Crewe Heritage Centre in preserving the rail history of Crewe and of Britain more broadly, we hope that our LNWR George the Fifth new-build will be an ambassador for Crewe to present and future generations and a living celebration of Crewe’s contribution to early 20th century engineering. Our locomotive will exemplify the sophistication of the twentieth century London & North Western Railway, bringing it to life for the enjoyment and education of all.
With a common cause in mind, we are very pleased to announce a partnership between the Trust and the CHC. We commend the Crewe Heritage Centre in their efforts and encourage to our readers and supporters to pay the CHC a visit with their families and friends to experience their many fascinating and unique attractions including the only surviving Intercity APT. The Crewe Heritage Centre reopens in March 2014.
The website to the Crewe Heritage Centre can be found here. We have also conveniently listed it on the links page to our main site. We commend the work and efforts of the volunteers at the Crewe Heritage Centre most warmly and we at the LNWR Steam Locomotive Trust hope to have a long and close relationship with them. We most humbly thank the Friends of the Crewe Heritage Centre for listing us as partners on their site.