Listening to Radio 4’s The Film Programme podcast recently, I was surprised and excited to learn that Carnforth railway station – which played Milford Junction so well in David Lean’s Brief Encounter – is not only a working station, but has a Heritage Centre celebrating the location filming of the Palme d’Or winning film.
Carnforth is only 90 minutes from Manchester by train (we could have driven, but it seemed more appropriate to arrive by train) so my friend and I set out to see what was to be seen.
Arriving at the station, we first had to make our way to the correct platform, which meant that we immediately found ourselves here:
It doesn’t look as good in colour with the electric lighting, I admit, but it does retain that grubby feel that Laura experienced in her assignations with Alec.
Following the red railings up the slope, brings you here:
Starting to look familiar?
The Heritage Centre is fascinating – not just for lovers of the film, but also if you are interested in the history of railways – for a long time, Carnforth was a major junction on the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, and there are plenty of displays and video installations to delight the train buff too. It was selected as the location because it was far enough away from major cities to be able to get around the blackout rules during the war. And when you watch the film, you’ll notice that the platform scenes are all at night – this was to avoid having to close the busy station during daytime.
There are lots of railway-related artifacts from the past, including this fire extinguisher which I have to admit prompted a few giggles with its instructions (sorry).
There’s a tiny cinema area which shows Brief Encounter on a constant loop, and you can sit for as long as you like and watch the film before buying your souvenirs in the little shop.
You can also see the commemorative plaque, for some reason located right next to the ladies’ loo …
But the real highlight is the Refreshment Room, which, with the exception of the espresso machine, looks exactly as it did when Trevor Howard removed that speck of grit from Celia Johnson’s eye.
Of course it was necessary to have a cup of tea.
We had a lovely couple of hours in the calm environment of the station, and if you are a railway enthusiast, or if you love Brief Encounter, then it’s well worth a visit.
Here’s a selection of pictures from the visit.