Crewe Heritage Centre (and why you need to go)

8 September 2021

I first drafted this post way back in 2020 right before the first lockdowd. I didn't publish it then or soon after because it's taken this long for the Heritage Centre to be able to re-open - I've included images from our most recent visit in September 2021.

I lived away from Crewe for ten years, when I told people where I was from they'd either say "all change at Crewe" and proceed to tell me that there's a lot of trains in Crewe or, stare at me blankly. There are a lot of trains in Crewe, it's what our town is built on (not actual trains but the industry) and it's something we should be proud of. Crewe Heritage Centre has been at the back of Tesco (or Safeway if you're old enough) all my life, The Centre opened in 1987 by The Queen herself to pay homage to Crewe's railway history, based on the old Railway works site the centre showcases a variety of trains, including the APT prototype, a miniature railway that provides rides, three signal boxes, an exhibition centre and a cafe. Since Fred has developed an arguably unhealthy obsession with TRAAAINS, we've been bringing him to the centre every few weeks and we all properly bloody love it. It's become the perfect afternoon out that's still pretty much within the town centre, affordable, safe and friendly. 

There is an admission fee for the centre with adults costing £6 and children aged 5-16 costing £4, this means that for another three years it's free for Fred to buzz his baps off over trains and only costs £6 to give him the absolute time of his life. One of my favourite things as a parent of a mental toddler is the safety of the site, although it is a working site, when we've been it's been very quiet traffic-wise allowing Fred to be out of his buggy and properly toddle around whilst gobbing off about TRAAAAINS and as the only entrance and exit as at the very far end of the site, this allows us to relax and really enjoy the facilities. Talking about the facilities, it's all very buggy friendly, obviously, the signal box has stairs but the chap in the gift shop kindly let us keep the buggy down there whilst we ran up with Fred to spot some TRAAAINS. The cafe is also perfect for a quick bite to eat and very reasonably priced, last time was there I bought *takes a deep breath* a coffee, a coke, a Frtuishoot, some biscuits, ham and cheese toastie, cheese and onion toastie and a tuna came to just over £8 and I was well happy about that. The food was tasty and made quickly allowing us to fill up and watch a documentary about signal boxes in the cafe before we went to look at TRAAAAINS. Please note that the cafe is currently closed however, food was being served from a BBQ/grill station outside on the day that we visited. 

The APT - Prototype (not pictured)

This is my second and Fred's favourite attraction in the centre, the Advanced passenger prototype was built in Crewe and gifted to the centre in 1994.  The train was created and built with the technology of tilting to allow for faster speeds rumour has it (my Mum told me ) that the APT fleet never made it to use because everyone got really travel sick in the travels because of the tilting - I have no idea how true that is but I like it all the same. The APT is very much stuck in 1984, whilst the interior isn't really that much different to trains these days, the food in the food cart is brilliant, what is a Marathon bar please? chuffed about the Guinness supply though, This is one Fred's favourite trains to drive and it's very important business. 

Miniature Railway 

The miniature railway was installed in 1994, I remember riding on this as a kid and loving it, it feels lovely to thing that twenty-odd years later I'm riding it with my own little boy. There doesn't seem to be set fee for the railway rides but a donation box is placed at one of the miniature stations - yes one of the miniature stations, there are three miniature stations and plethora of locomotives included in the miniature railway. More information about the track, locomotives and coaches can be found here.

Exhibition Centre 

The large exhibition centre is perfect for the plethora of events that it accommodates throughout the years from beer festivals to craft fairs but when it's not in action it boasts an impressive insight into Crewe's history from the first royal visit to the works, the demolition of the Chetwode Arms and my favourite - the miniature model of Crewe town centre in the 80's (look how many shops there were). There's also a  number of model railways on display, that I can never stop looking at and a jam-packed kid's corner with a range of toy TRAAAAINs for your little ones to enjoy. 

Signal Boxes

The Centre has three signal boxes, I don't know much about signal boxes but one centre having signal boxes is pretty impressive to me. The Crewe North Junction Signal box is situated at the very end of the centre and has a gift shop and cafe underneath. From the top of the signal box Crewe station is clearly visible allowing train enthusiasts to not only have a nosey around some trains, tiny trains and even teenier trains but to then have a look at some real-life working trains as they whizz by. It's mind-blowing stuff.

Crewe Heritage Centre needs support now more than ever, it's entirely funded by donations and managed and worked by volunteers. We all know Crewe doesn't have the widest range of activities and places to visit so let's not let this gem fall victim to COVID restrictions and have to close. 

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