A seperate shed houses an exhibition of the products of industrial concerns from Crewe that are not always directly connected to this most railway of railway towns.
If you want to look at an example of how a Crewe company converted normal cars into ice-cream vans then you are in luck !
For some reason my five-year-old found this more interesting than the beautifully constructed Bentley continental GT. Quite why Rolls-Royce made the decision to manufacture here I don't know, but it remains the place that furnishes wheels to numerous political leaders of tinpot nation, big brother winners, footballers, scrap metal dealers and comedians. All money and no class. Owning a Bentley however is another thing altogether.
The Crewe heritage centre runs a little minature railway around the centre. It is not what you would call a scenic railway. Most of the line runs inbetween the APT train (see previous tip), and the metal fence bordering onto the main west coast railway line. Despite the attrations of crisp packets and mars bar wrappers blown over from the tracks the trip will be sure to please anyone under the age of 7. The train will pull about 20 people sitting straddling the track on a bench like carriage each entrant gets free rides included in the entrance ticket. The staff were very happy to let kids on as many time as they like - if there was room. My kids had about three rides, which made the five quid entrance ticket very worthwhile.
Apart from the APT train (see first tip), the Crewe heritage centre has a good number of Crewe related exhibits that are worth exploring.
The most impressive piece of Industrial heritage squashed into this triangular site is the old signal box that looked after a section of the West Coast Main Line. The trains still run by the building (and a viewing platform is provided for any trainee train-spotters), but computerisation has seen an end to its use. I can't pretend that I could understand virtually anything of the complex electro-mechanical machinery, but the sheer complexity of it turns you into a wide-eyed six year old boy in a trice.
There is also a much smaller signal box on one side of the centre on a branch line that heads off west. This is on a much more 'human' scale with old fashioned levers that connected directly by big lumps of metal to points and signals. My grandfather worked in such a place as this, so it evoked some wonderful memories of the times I was allowed to visit him at work.
Jimmy Saville used to do an advert for British Rail with the slogan ' This is the age of the train . This was later given a satirical slant along the lines '78 - this is the age of THE train'. ummm.
The prime exhibit of the Crewe heritage centre (formerly 'The Railway age') is the APT (advanced passenger train). This was the train that would transport British rail into the new millenium. Unfortuantely on a 'test run' shortly before launch they packed the train with journalists and crates of booze. As the train was designed to 'tilt' as it went round corners it was hi-tec affair. The problem was that they hadn't quite perfected it. The result was a train of drunk, sick and vomitting hacks who gave such a bad write up in theiur newspapers that the whole project ended up being scrapped. It took the Italians (i mean come on , the Italians ?) to perfect the system. The 'tilting train' was thus re-born as the 'Pendalino' about 30 years later.
Having seen the APT in all it's glory, I suspect that the bile-inducing upholstery of the 1970's didn't help much either.
As soon as you walk into the reception of Crewe Hall you feel the grandeur of the place - huge fireplaces, and the wood panelling all around are splendid. Mind you its splendid prices to stay here too -£160 for a double room, more if you want a period roon with 4-poster. Have to be a real special treat like a weddding to stay here. On our weddding reception arrival we were greeted with champagne and then canapes were served.
Have a look around the grounds of Crewe Hall too -its set in over 500 acres of historic parkland. With the late afternoon sun and the tres beginning to take on their autumn colours its was an ideal settting for those wedding photos.
Crewe Hall stands a few miles from the town of Crewe. Its a majestic Jacobean stately building, which dates back to 1615. The Hall was originally built by the Earl of Crewe to impress and entertain on the most lavish of scales and was owned until recently by the Queen, as part of the Duchy of Lancaster - even though its in Cheshire!
The earliest record of the site is dated from 1170. It became Crewe Hall when Sir Ranulph Crewe bought the mansion in 1608. He demolished the decayed building in 1615 and took 21 years to rebuild it. In 1837 it was restored and an extension added. A fire in 1866 almost completelt destroyed the building and it had to be rebuilt. Today it is an impresssive hotel and a marvellous place to hold a wedding reception.
In the grounds of the Hall - and especially at the external rear staircase leading down to the grounds - are many satues to notice. There seemed to be a fair few dragons here!
Crewe Hall has its own little chapel - probably hold about 20 people. Other rooms are licensed for weddings here so you could have the service and reception all in one place.