For generations of British railway users, the term “Change at Crewe” is as much a part of the English language as “The weather can’t make its mind up” or “Only if you’re having one”. That’s because Crewe is the countryside junction where a host of historic railways met, so travelling from North to South or East to West quite often involved a change on one of the platforms that were built. Its location away from the major cities, but central in England, made it perfect.
Inevitably, it became a prime location to site railway works, and around them came homes, shops, businesses, hotels and all the trappings of modern life. So while most stations are named after the town or city they are in, with Crewe, it’s the other way round – the town was named after the junction and the station, as there wasn’t much here before the railways came.
All that engineering know-how concentrated in one place was music to the ears of later industrialists, and it was here that the Bentley and Rolls Royce factories were built, and during the war they switched production from cars to aircraft engines for the war effort. Crewe remains a great place to build things and is home to BAE Systems, Bentley, Bombardier, Fujitsu and the most important industry of all – Whitby Morrison, who make most of Britain’s ice cream vans.