Crewe IEMD

International Electric Maintenance Depot

Originally authorised as part of the 1956-approved West Coast Main Line electrification, this is one "international" depot which resides over 200-miles from the Chunnel portal as the crow flies. It forms part of a list of depots outside of London, which were either adapted or newly-built to cater for international railway stock. This was at a time when daytime "Eurostar" services were expected to extend as far north as Glasgow and Edinburgh, and international sleepers were proposed to run from there and the West Country to the continent. Additionally, the optimism spread to envisaging a healthy continental rail freight traffic, culminating in the opening of eleven Euro-Terminals nationwide at a cost of £87,000,000.

Crewe International Electric Maintenance Depot (IEMD) was originally known as "Crewe District Electric Depot" (DED), having been commissioned as part of the Crewe to Manchester electrification in 1960. This became the first British main line to be equipped with 25kV overhead wires, and the inaugural scheduled electric service ran on 12th September of that year. Maintenance of electric stock was shared between Crewe and a similar depot constructed at Longsight, Manchester. Crewe DED was situated on the south side of the Chester and Holyhead line, upon the former site of Crewe Carriage Works. The main depot building measured 310-feet by 100-feet, covering four tracks, and the early allocation comprised a fleet of 3,300 H.P. electric locomotives (latterly Classes 81 to 85), in addition to four-car "AM4" electric multiple units (Class 304 under TOPS).

The depot's peak allocation in the 1960s totalled eighty locomotives and forty EMUs; by the mid-1970s, this had reduced to fifty locomotives and 19 EMUs. The remaining EMUs were reallocated to Longsight in 1987, after which Crewe was dedicated to freight locomotives. The depot came under the auspices of the Railfreight Distribution (RfD) business sector in 1988, the latter being formed on 10th October of that year through the merger of "SpeedLink" and "FreightLiner" operations. RfD's Traction & Rollingstock department was headquartered at Crewe, but the business sector's overall operations were controlled from Tournament House, Paddington. The sector's main line diesel traction was concentrated at Tinsley Depot, South Yorkshire, and wagon repair and maintenance was undertaken at Allerton, Liverpool.

Crewe Electric Depot becomes Crewe International Electric Maintenance Depot

In the 14th to 27th September 1994 issue of Rail Magazine, it was announced that "the depot is to be renamed.... to recognise the changes flowing from the Channel Tunnel opening and the fact that the SNCF Class 92s will be coming to Crewe".

The Chunnel formally opened with ceremony on 6th May 1994 and the first commercial traffic through it was freight, which commenced on 1st June of that year. With reference to the Class 92s, this was a fleet of forty-six high-tech electric locomotives which had been ordered for Chunnel freight and night passenger operation. Each locomotive was priced at £3,000,000 (£6,869,000 at 2019 prices), making them the most expensive ever ordered by the British Rail Board. Thirty were destined for Railfreight Distribution, seven for European Passenger Services, and the remaining nine for the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF: French National Railways). From the outset, all received allocation to Crewe IEMD.

Prior to the arrival of the first Class 92 electrics at the depot, it was reported that RfD's Traction & Rollingstock division - headquartered at Crewe IEMD - was responsible for controlling "600 staff who maintain the RfD fleet of no less than 61 electric locomotives ..... 150 diesel locomotives, 1,000 Freightliner and Channel Tunnel intermodal wagons and 60x5-car rakes of articulated car carriers" [Modern Railways, October 1994]. Of the 600 staff, 125 were stationed at Crewe IEMD.

With the impending delivery of the Class 92s, and to reduce costs of using other depots' facilities, construction on a wheel lathe started at Crewe IEMD in October 1993. The work was priced at £2,500,000 and the lathe was supplied by German firm "Hoesch", work being completed in June 1994. At the same time, plans were also made to commission a Class 92 test track at the depot, which included an electrified third rail - the locomotives were expected to have an availability rate of 95%.

RfD was the last of British Rail's business sectors to be privatised. It was sold to US-based "Wisconsin Central" on 22nd November 1997, which had purchased BR's other freight sectors, and was re-branded as "English, Welsh & Scottish Railway" (EWS). Crewe IEMD came under the EWS umbrella and perhaps had a rather inauspicious start to the privatised era. EWS had initially considered acquiring RfD without the Class 92 fleet, given the rather tortured process of getting the type approved by Railtrack, the latter organisation of which had banned the fleet from operating over key sections of line. Then, after the cancellation of the "Nightstar" sleeper project on 9th July 1999, the depot's sidings became a dumping ground for EPS' seven Class 92 electrics, these going into store there in April 2001. Five of these - Nos. 92020, 92021, 92032, 92040 and 92044 - were purchased in 2007 by Eurotunnel, with a view to recommissioning for Chunnel freight work. As for the remaining two EPS Class 92s, Nos. 92045 and 92046, these were removed from Crewe IEMD by low loader in 2008 and taken to Brush Traction, Loughborough, where they remain.

On 28th June 2007, the entire EWS operation was purchased by Deutsche-Bahn AG and, from 1st January 2009, was rebranded as "DB Schenker".

25th February 1989

Class 85 No. 85018 was seen parked within the shed, nearing the end of its career. Shortly after this photograph was taken, the locomotive was dispatched to Longsight, Manchester, where it was used for empty stock movements to and from Piccadilly station. No. 85018 was withdrawn in October 1991. © David Glasspool Collection

15th October 1994

To mark RailFreight Distribution's association with Chunnel freight traffic, three Class 90 electrics were painted into continental colours in 1993. Nos. 90128, 90129, and 90130 wore SNCB, Deutsche Bahn, and SNCF schemes respectively. The three are seen here in attendance at Crewe IEMD Open Day. © David Glasspool Collection

25th November 1995

Four brand new Class 92 electrics are seen within Crewe IEMD. That nearest the camera is No. 92011, whilst in the left background is No. 92019. Both belonged to the Railfreight Distribution pool of locomotives, but those allocated to EPS and SNCF were still officially allocated to Crewe. © David Glasspool Collection

29th October 2000

Originally part of the InterCity business sector, Class 90 No. 90025 transferred to Railfreight Distribution in 1992, being outshopped in the sector's two-tone grey livery in June of that year. No. 90025 was taken out of service and stored in non-electrified sidings at Crewe IEMD in January 2004, where it remains at time of writing (January 2021). © David Glasspool Collection