It was in 1840 that the Grand Junction Railway decided to construct a locomotive works at Crewe and, on 10 March 1843, the transfer of work from the previous works at Edge Hill was completed. Later that year the first locomotive to be completed on the site, GJR No 32 Tamerlane was completed. However, ‘Crewe’ class No 49 Columbine, which was completed in July 1845 is traditionally regarded as the first locomotive built at the works; twice rebuilt, this locomotive now forms part of the National Collection. The following year, the GJR (which had merged with the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in 1845) became part of the London & North Western Railway and Crewe became the new owner’s primary locomotive works.
It was to be more than 20 years before the works completed its 1,000th locomotive; this was ‘DX’ class 0-6-0 No 613 that was completed in December 1866. This was one of 943 locomotives built to John Robinson’s design between 1858 and 1862; the ‘DX’ class was the single largest class of locomotive built for operation on a British railway. All were withdrawn between 1902 and 1930.
The 2,000th locomotive emerged in May 1876; this was No 2233, which was a 2-4-0T designed for passenger traffic. A total of 50 of the class were built to a design of Francis Webb between 1876 and 1882 of which 14, but not No 2233, passed to the LMS in 1923. Nicknamed ‘Chopper Tanks’, one of the class was to survive to be withdrawn by British Railways after nationalisation.
In July 1887, the 3,000th locomotive appeared; this was three-cylinder compound 2-2-2-2T No 600. This was a one-off locomotive, one of a number of experimental locomotives constructed by Webb as he tested out the operation of compound locomotives.
Completed in March 1900, the 4,000th locomotive to be built at Crewe was ‘Jubilee’ class 4-4-0 four-cylinder No 1926 La France. A total of 40 of this class were built to a design of Francis Webb between 1897 and 1900. Proving unreliable in service, as with a number of other Webb designs, and so George Whale, Webb’s s successor, undertook the rebuilding of the type as two-cylinder simple locomotives of the ‘Renown’ class from 1908 onwards. A total of 31, including No 1926, had been rebuilt by 1923; the remaining nine all passed to the LMS. Of these three were withdrawn before being rebuilt with the remaining six being rebuilt by the end of 1924. No 1926 was rebuilt in March 1922 and became LMS 5180 at Grouping. It was to survive in service until December 1931.
The 5,000th locomotive to appear was one of the ‘George the Fifth’ class 4-6-0s designed by Whale’s successor, Charles Bowen- Clarke. No 1800 Coronation was completed in May 1911 and, reflecting its place in Crewe Works’ history, operated briefly as No 5000. Renumbered 5348 at the Grouping in 1923, Coronation was to survive in service until June 1940. Three of the class survived to nationalisation in 1948.
It was to be almost 20 years before the works completed its 6,000th locomotive; this was Hughes-designed 2-6-0 No 13178, which was completed in June 1930. A total of 245 of these locomotives were built at Horwich (70) and Crewe (175) between 1926 and 1932 as No 13000-244; they were renumber 2700-2945 as part of the LMS’s renumbering of 1933 and thus became Nos 42700-944 at nationalisation. All were withdrawn between 1961 and 1967, including No 13178 in its guise as BR No 42878, in September 1965. Three of the class — BR Nos 42700/65/859 — survive in preservation.
The 7,000th locomotive was Ivatt 2-6-2T No 41272, which was completed in September 1950. A total of 130 of the class were built at Derby and Crewe works between 1946 and 1952. A number, including No 41272, were push-pull fitted. All of the class were withdrawn between 1962 and 1967; No 41272 was scrapped in January 1966 but four of the type — Nos 41241 (for which the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway is currently undertaking an appeal to see the locomotive restored to mark the railway’s 50th anniversary of reopening in 2018) 41298/412/13 — survive in preservation.
After the completion of No 41272, Crewe continued to build steam locomotives, including No 70000 Britannia, the first of the BR Standard types, and a number of Class 9F 2-10-0s, with the last steam locomotive to be constructed being ‘9F’ No 92250 in December 1958. Officially No 92250 was the 7,331st locomotive to be completed at the works.
In 1957 the works completed its first diesel locomotive; this was a 0-6-0 shunter No D3419. This became No 08349 and was to survive in service until July 1983 and was scrapped at Swindon in June 1986. The first main-line diesel locomotive to be built at Crewe was Type 2 No D5030, which was completed in 1959. As No 24030, this locomotive was withdrawn in July 1976 and scrapped at Swindon in May 1977.
In the mid-1960s new locomotive construction ceased at Crewe with the completion of Type 4 No 1111, the last of the future Class 47 to be built. Later No 47528, the locomotive was withdrawn in June 1998 but not finally scrapped until 2008. Following the creation of British Rail Engineering Ltd in 1970, new construction was resumed at Swindon in 1972 with the building of the prototype HST power cars; these were followed between 1973 and 1975 by the construction of 36 Class 87 25kV electric locomotives and, from 1976 until 1982, the building of 197 HST powers cars; one of the latter, No 43081, which remains in service, was officially the 8,000th locomotive to be built at Crewe.
The most recent locomotives be built were 20 Class 56 diesel-electrics, No 56116-35 in 1983 and 1984, the unique Class 89 No 89001 in 1981, the 50 Class 90 electric locomotives Nos 90001-50 between 1988 and 1990, and the 31 Class 91 locomotives built as a subcontractor for GEC between 1988 and 1991. No 91031, completed in February 1991, was the last locomotive to be constructed at Crewe in a history that stretched back almost 150 years. Although there is still a facility at Crewe, now owned by Bombardier Transportation, it is now much reduced, employing less than 1,000 — a far cry from its peak when some 20,000 were employed in construction and maintenance of locomotives.
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