I’m now into the last knockings of the East Midlands Ranger Area challenge. Number 71 of 76 was visited on Tuesday 25th October; the westernmost station at Crewe in Cheshire.
I’ve been to all of the stations on the line from Newark Castle to Crewe before, but this was my first time at Crewe itself. It only took an hour and a half from Burton on Trent, changing at Derby on the way. Crewe is one of Britain’s “railway towns”, having grown massively since the inception of the railways in the early 19th Century. Other railway towns include Wolverhampton, Derby and Swindon.
Crewe was the home of the Grand Junction Railway’s Crewe Locomotive Works. Formerly a vast site employing up to 20,000 people at its height, the works were scaled back in the mid to late 20th century, and only a small part of the site survives today, the rest having been sold off for housing and retail. The history of Crewe is rather confusing, but an interesting fact is that the town was actually named after the railway station, and not the other way around.
Crewe railway station was opened in July 1837. It is an important junction station on the network, with routes to almost all parts of Great Britain. In normal non-virus years, the station sees around 3 million passengers annually. It has twelve platforms, shops, cafes and a ticket office. The entrance on Nantwich Road was rebuilt in 1985, and there is another entrance on Weston Road. The station is popular with train spotters and enthusiasts; I did see a couple of people taking videos and photos on the platform while I was there. Crewe will be one of the stations for High Speed 2, with the rolling stock also due to be manufactured in the town.
After leaving the station on a lovely sunny autumn day, I headed for Queens Park, a public park to the west of the railway station. It was opened in 1887 to give the people of Crewe something to do while they weren’t building and maintaining locomotives. It has changed little since it opened, although it was renovated in 2014.
I’ve been to many parks in my time, but Queens Park is up there as one of the best. It has a large lake within it, where you can hire a paddle boat to have a sail around it. In the centre of the lake, accessible by bridge, is the Burma Star Island, which is a memorial to those killed in the Burma campaign in World War II. The island and memorial were created and opened in 1968.
The park was fairly busy, what with it being a fine day and half term for the children. After spending some time walking around, I left the park and headed for the town centre. Crewe has a market hall and two small shopping centres. The Lyceum Theatre, opened in 1911, is a famous venue where actors such as Richard Beckinsale of Porridge fame, Lynda Bellingham of Oxo advert fame and Glenda Jackson of Morecambe & Wise fame all learned their craft.
Just around the corner from the Lyceum is the Memorial Square, in front of the register office which can just be seen behind the tree in the picture above. After a stroll around the town centre, I headed back towards the station. I had some time before my train was due to leave, so I had a walk over to the Mornflake Stadium, better known as Gresty Road, home of the local football heroes Crewe Alexandra since 1906.
Crewe Alexandra, nicknamed ‘The Railwaymen’, currently play in English League Two, having been relegated in 2021-22. Their only trophy success was the Football League Trophy in 2013, although they have also win the Welsh Cup twice, despite not being Welsh.
I headed back to the railway station for what I hoped would be a short wait for my train. The train did arrive, and I boarded it, only to be told that it had been cancelled due to a fault. This meant I had another hour’s wait for the next train to Derby. These things happen, I suppose.
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