Mar 16

A Brief Encounter with Carnforth Station

by in Culture, QT Review, UK

Celia johnson and Trevor Howard Carnforth StationCarnforth is a small Lancashire town on the Cumbria border, famous for its Railway Station which was used in the classic movie Brief Encounter‘. Filmed at the end of WWII in 1945,  the Ministry of Transport chose Carnforth Station as it was deemed safe from enemy fire – why would anyone bother to come so far north to bomb this town?! Filming took place at night so as not to interrupt regular train operations.

The film had a great cast, with relative new-comer Trevor Howard making his name and Celia Johnson overcoming her dislike of filming (she preferred stage acting and didn’t like being away from her family) to win an Oscar nomination for her delicate performance as a married woman verging on infidelity.  It may come as a surprise to know that Trevor was 8 years younge than Celia.  Stanley Holloway created a memorable comedy cameo as the Station Master. It was co-directed by David Lean, famous also for ‘Dr Zhivago‘ & ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’.  What is less well-known is that Noel Coward co-directed it, produced it, wrote the screen play AND the music.

There is now an award-winning Visitor Centre at the station with lots of interesting railway memorabilia.  You can have a cup of tea at the Refreshment Room, faithfully restored to 1940s splendour, as it looked when Celia and Trevor gazed adoringly at each other whilst Stanley flirted outrageously, oblivious to the heart-breaking drama being played out nearby …

Find out more at Carnforth Station Next time you are in the area, why not visit and who knows, you may have your very own Brief Encounter …

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20 Responses to “A Brief Encounter with Carnforth Station”

  1. From Sean Eatherden:

    Hi Zoe, I love it when I discover something new.
    No idea about the major part Noel Coward had in the making of Brief encounter.

    Posted on March 16, 2010 at 4:13 pm #
  2. From quirkytraveller:

    Cheers Sean. I was surprised too – have got ‘Special Edition’ Box of film with lots of quirky facts. And on the doorstep too. Hope all going well with your new office. Z

    Posted on March 16, 2010 at 4:33 pm #
  3. From Nancie (Ladyexpat):

    This sounds like a great place to visit. Thanks for all the info.

    Posted on March 20, 2010 at 11:45 pm #
  4. From Zoë Dawes:

    Thanks so much Nancie – it is and you are welcome 🙂

    Posted on April 1, 2010 at 9:10 pm #
  5. From Jools Stone:

    Thanks for sharing this Zoe, I’m not that much of a B&W movie buff TBH, but I really must visit the station next time I’m down Lancaster way! Had no idea there was a proper VC and cafe there, all sounds rather lovely indeed. There are some really charming stations here, especially in more rural areas, like the Highlands of Scotland.

    I’d love a version of this as a guest post on my own blog, Trains on the Brain, which is all about… well you can work it out I’m sure, but here’s a few links to give your readers a flavour. Hope you enjoy them!

    On Berlin’s divided subway:

    On some handy sites for planning train trips:

    On finding cheap UK tickets online:

    Posted on October 17, 2010 at 5:47 pm #
  6. From Zoë Dawes:

    Happy to share it on your quirkilicious site Jools and thanks for the really useful links.

    Posted on October 17, 2010 at 5:57 pm #
  7. From iknow-uk:

    Hi everyone, We also love the film Brief Encounter and wanted to share some more information with you. You can visit the station here: // definitley worth a visit with its quirky cafe.


    Posted on February 7, 2011 at 9:37 am #
  8. From Zoë Dawes:

    Thanks for your comments and the link to the iknow website for more info on Carnforth Station. We were there yesterday talking to the heritage trust guys who are doing so much to preserve and restore this historic place. There is so much more here than just the film story too; part of our cultural industrial history …

    Posted on February 7, 2011 at 12:56 pm #
  9. From John Adams:


    So glad you enjoyed your recent visit – we are delighted that you are making this little gem in North Lancashire more widely known. More details of the Centre and Exhibitions can be found at

    Keep up the good work

    Posted on August 11, 2011 at 8:00 am #
  10. From Zoë Dawes:

    Thanks John – it’s great to be able to support and promote a local gem …

    Posted on August 11, 2011 at 8:56 pm #
  11. From Malcolm Reynard:

    Bonjour All !

    As a matter of interest – way back in 1944, I spent four nights on the station platform while the film was being made – my “mum” was an “extra” and had to take me with her during the filming !

    Another more recent Film also used Carnforth Station – the 1995 Richard 111


    Posted on October 29, 2011 at 11:47 am #
  12. From Zoe Dawes:

    Thanks so much for sharing that memory Malcolm – what a treat for you and your Mum! Didn’t know about Richard III – or that they had trains in those days 😉

    Posted on November 2, 2011 at 2:03 pm #
  13. From Alex Gibson:

    Everytime I read this story I am tempted to say Comeforth Station, I don’t know why? I would love to take a cup of tea there with my significant other, just to re-live the old times.

    Posted on February 25, 2013 at 10:13 am #
  14. From Zoe Dawes:

    Do hope you get to take your significant other (which of course Trevor was for Celia!) to Comeforth some day. Tea room is very good 🙂

    Posted on November 8, 2013 at 2:18 pm #


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