Crewe Works

Crewe Works
Rebuilt Royal Scot Class 46123 Royal Irish Fusilers receiving attention at Crewe Works with other locomotives

Crewe railway works is a British railway engineering facility built in 1840 by the Grand Junction Railway. It is located in the town of Crewe, in the county of Cheshire.

The railway also built 200 cottages establishing a new community in what had been the rural township of Monks Coppenhall. Among the first workers to arrive were those from the old works at Edge Hill producing an increase in the town's population by some 800 men, women and children.



Grand Junction Railway

The first locomotive built at Crewe went into service in 1843. By 1846 the demand for space was such that wagon building was moved, first to Edge Hill and Manchester, then to a new works at Earlestown. By 1848 the works employed over 1,000 producing one locomotive a week.

London and North Western Railway

Erecting shop at the L.N.W.R. works, c1890

In 1845 the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was merged with the Grand Junction. These, in turn, merged in 1846, with the London and Birmingham Railway and the Manchester and Birmingham Railway to form the London and North Western Railway (LNWR). All four had their own workshops but, in time, locomotive building was concentrated at Crewe.

In 1857 John Ramsbottom became Locomotive Superintendent. He had previously invented the first reliable safety valve and the scoop for picking up water from troughs between the tracks. He went on to improve the precision and interchangeability of tools and components.

In 1862 locomotive work was transferred from Wolverton. Wolverton became the carriage works, while wagon building was concentrated at Earlestown.

In 1853 Crewe had begun to make its own wrought iron and roll its own rails, and in 1864 installed a Bessemer converter for manufacturing steel. In 1868 it became the first place to use open-hearth furnaces on an industrial scale. It also built its own brickworks. Later the works was fitted with two electric arc furnaces.

Production increased steadily and, with the sale to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway of ten 2-4-0 and eighty six 0-6-0 locomotives, privately owned manufacturers took out an injunction in 1876 to restrain the railway from producing anything but is own needs. (This remained in force until BREL took over in 1974.)

London Midland and Scottish Railway

When the LNWR became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) in 1923 its passenger trains were eclipsed by those of the former Midland Railway, which offered light, fast and frequent services. As traffic density increased there was a need for longer trains and more powerful locomotives to haul them. In 1932, William Stanier became Chief Mechanical Engineer and set out to rationalise production. Since Crewe had experience with heavier locomotives and had its own steel making facilities, he chose it as his main production location.

There followed the Princesses and Duchesses, along with the Jubilees and the "Black Fives". Crewe produced all the new boilers for the LMS, and all heavy drop stampings and forgings. It also produced most of the heavy steel components for the track and other structures.

During World War II, Crewe produced over 150 Covenanter tanks for the army.

Stanier 8F 2-8-0 on the Crewe Works internal railway in 1948

British Railways

After British Railways (BR) was formed in 1948, R.A.Riddles introduced the BR standard classes, and Crewe built Britannia and Clan passenger engines and some of the Class 9 2-10-0 freight locomotives. At the end of steam, it had built over 7000 locomotives in its long career. From 1957 it built a succession of diesel locomotives including the Class 43 High Speed Train power cars and over 200 Class 47 locomotives.


Much of the site at Crewe was cleared in a major redevelopment in the mid 1980s.

Crewe works became a part of British Rail Engineering Ltd. in the privatisation of 1988, along with the other heavy engineering works of BR. This company was soon sold to ASEA Brown-Boveri, which merged with Daimler Benz in 1996 to form ADtranz. ADtranz was itself taken over by the Canadian engineering company Bombardier in 2001.


At its height, Crewe Works employed over 20,000 people; in 2005 fewer than 1,000 remained on site, with a further 270 redundancies announced in November of that year, and more cutbacks or even closure possible. Current work is largely focused on general maintenance, and the inspection of seriously damaged stock. Much of the site once occupied by the works has been sold off and is now occupied by a supermarket, leisure park, and a large new health centre.

Locomotive production

Bowen-Cooke Class G2a 0-8-0 48932, built at Crewe in 1902 as a Webb Class B four-cylinder loco, was later rebuilt to two-cylinder status. Buxton shed August 1960.

Under the London and North Western Railway, Crewe works produced many famous locomotives: the Webb 2-4-0 Jumbo class and the compounds, the Whale Experiment and Precursor classes, and the Bowen-Cooke Claughtons. In particular, Whale's 1912 superheated G1 Class 0-8-0 developed from a locomotive introduced by Webb in 1892, lasted, in many cases until 1964, near the end of steam in 1968.

Under the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, the works was especially noted for Sir William Stanier's locomotives and in particular the 'Jubilee' 4-6-0s, the Class 5 mixed traffic 4-6-0s and the 'Princess Royal' and 'Princess Coronation' 4-6-2s.

Under British Railways, the works built many notable steam designs including the 'Britannia' 4-6-2s and the remarkable 'Franco Crosti' 2-10-0 freight locomotives.

See also

Bibliography references

  • Brian Reed (deceased) Crewe Locomotive Works and its Men Contains black-and-white photographic plates, charts and diagrams, plus an index.[1]
  • Larkin, E.J. and Larkin, J.G. (1988). The Railway Workshops of Britain 1823-1986. London: Macmillan Press. ISBN 0-333-39431-3. 
  • Simmons, J. (1986). The Railway in Town and Country 1830-1914. Newton Abbott: David and Charles. ISBN 0-7153-8699-9. 
  • Talbot, E. and Taylor, C. (2005). The Crewe Works Narrow Gauge System (2nd Ed. ed.). Derby: The London & North Western Railway Society. ISBN 0-9546951-1-9. 
  • Martin Evans Inverness to Crewe: The British 4-6-0 Locomotive Contains black-and-white photographic plates, charts and diagrams, plus an Index.[2]


  1. ^ From a copy of Crewe Locomotive Works.... published by David and Charles in 1982 with ISBN 0-7153-8228-4
  2. ^ Detail from a copy of Inverness to Crewe..... published by Model Aeronautical Press (UK) in 1966 with no ISBN

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