Carnforth Station and Visitor Centre
Getting older does have its advantages - especially my trusty bus pass that enables my hubby and I to do a lot of travelling around our local area free of charge!!
I never visited the station despite the fact that I have lived only 10 miles from the Carnforth Station and Visitor Centre for the last 12 years and being a huge fan of both the film "Brief Encounter" and its director David Lean that was filmed there; the film starred Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson
When on one of our regular bus journey's last summer stopped outside the station we decided to get off and visit the attraction - I was very impressed!!
Just what and where is it?
Carnforth Station Heritage Centre and the Brief Encounter Refreshment Room is still a working railway station located in the Lancashire town of Carnforth, just outside Morecambe.
Carnforth Railway Station was opened in 1846 by the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway Company and was originally just a single platform; the station ceased to be a main line station in 1970 and consequently fell into disrepair. On the 17th October 2003 following 3 years work to renovate the derelict buildings, it was restored to how it was in the 1940's when the Refreshment Room was famously used as the setting for “Brief Encounter”.
The Visitor Centre is free to enter.
What is there?
I was particularly keen to have my photograph taken below the famous Carnforth Station clock that was made by Joyce of Whitchurch in the late 19th century, and which has been made famous by its use in 'Brief Encounter'.
The clock has been fully restored and hangs at the top of platform 1 and needs to be hand wound every day.
This is a regular railway platform and trains still go through regularly; however there is a small picket fence around the area in front of the "Brief Encounter" refreshment room and the visitor centre. The whole area is just as it appeared in the old 1940's film and there are lots of old luggage trolleys with old leather suitcases, old bicycles and piles of old cases dotted around.
'"BRIEF ENCOUNTER REFRESHMENT ROOM"'
In "Brief Encounter", Carnforth Station was referred to as Milford Junction and the film starts with Celia Johnson's character saying the words "That's how it all began, just through me getting a little piece of grit in my eye" , it is here that the 'Brief Encounter' between Laura and Alec began in The Refreshment Room. This room has now been beautifully and faithfully restored to how it appeared in the film and has a varied range of home made food,a licensed bar and hot and cold drinks.The Refreshment Room is open every day apart from Christmas and New Year from 9am - 4pm.
"THE VISITOR CENTRE"
The Visitor Centre is housed in some really beautifully-restored buildings with a fascinating range of exhibitions of times gone by. Considering that entrance is free to this attraction there is plenty to see and it is all very entertaining.
For fans of the film, "Brief Encounter", there are lots of interesting things to see - plaques about the film are located on the walls by the toilets and there is an interesting “Brief Encounter” exhibition dedicated to the 1945 film, the actors, the director - David Lean- and the film’s connection with the station.
The Albert Halton room is full of some interesting WW I and WWII exhibits and has lots of information about how the war affected the area as well as telling about the many servicemen who had passed through the station as they travelled abroad to fight.
Another room is full of railway and train memorabilia with a third room - the Thomas the Tank Engine Playroom - is full of games, toy trains and colouring materials to entertain young visitors..
Then of course, there is a Gift Shop where you can purchase souvenirs of your visit - there were lots of products from low prices upwards with such things as mugs, postcards, sweets,biscuits in, trains etc. as well as some black and white stills from "Brief Encounter".
If you are ever in the area I would really recommend a visit . It is perfect for film or railway enthusiasts alike.
Entrance is free although there are parking charges, these are £3.80 for the full day (handy if you want to jump on one of the trains) or £1.50 up to 2 hours / £2.50 up to 4 hours.
Carnforth Station and visitor Centre
During our few days staying at Pine Lakes resort we explored the local area and one of our visits was to the station at Carnforth which was made famous as it was used in the David Lean film "Brief Encounter".
This is still a working railway station with all the usual ticket offices and platforms and some of the express trains go through at such a rate that the entire station appears to shake. Because of the fact it is a working station entry is free but it is also free to enter the special visitor's centre too, although they do say that donations are very welcome.
There is a car park and as we visited in December it was pretty easy to get a space and then you had to 'Pay and Display' and we paid £1.50 for two hours which we thought was pretty good value compared to our local prices. I suspect that if you came in peak time in the summer holidays then you might struggle to park at times.
Once we had parked we went in through the station entrance as normal then down through the underpass and we followed the well labelled signs up to the 'Brief Encounter' refreshment room. As we walked up to the platform we saw the famous clock which is huge and so obvious it would be hard to miss.
This famous landmark was made in the late 19th century by Joyce of Whitchurch . It has been fully restored and hangs as I said at the top of platform 1. This is no modern digital clocks and has to be wound by hand every week. The name 'Joyce' can clearly be seen on the clock as can 'Whitchurch' and the face of the clock is very simple and clear with a roman numeral for every number going around and also every minute has a mark so it is pretty accurate.
The actual platform is pretty much as any platform but they have put a small picket fence around the area in front of the "Brief Encounter" refreshment room and the visitor centre. This area is set up as it was in the film with luggage trolleys with old leather suitcases and piles of old cases in other places.
THE VISITOR CENTRE
We walked through the main door and into the centre. On our left was a 'map'' or train line map which was actually a time line for Carnforth station. It gave you dates and events at the station from when it first opened with steam trains stopping, through to its starring role in the film and then its war time history and on to the setting up of the visitor centre and its place today. In front of us was an easel with the films that the station has starred in.
Just in front to the left was the gents toilets but the sign above it was the old original sign which was just enormous. Between the ladies and the disable toilets on the opposite wall were the plaques that told you that the station had been the setting for meeting of the stars of the film, "Brief Encounter" and below that another telling visitors that David Lean had been there to film said film.
Off to the right were two rooms with exhibits relevant to the station. The first room, called the Albert Halton room was full of WW I and WWII exhibits and had a film playing on TV telling you about the role the town and surrounding area played in the war. During WWII thousands of servicemen passed through the station en route to service overseas and this room is a sort of tribute to them.
The second room had exhibits about trains, particularly steam trains and their place in the history of the station. Steam trains first left Carnforth Station in 1846 and it was a bustling junction linking stations across the north west of England. The station had its platforms removed in the 1970s and then it became virtually derelict but about ten years ago restoration began and the Carnforth Station and Railway Trust Company turned this station back into a really lovely place from which to catch a train or just visit for the experience.
Going back across to the other side was the souvenir shop with memorabilia from the film, the war and steam trains. Souvenirs included mugs, postcards, sweets, fudge, toffees and biscuits in special boxes as well as black and white stills from "Brief Encounter".
Walking on through the shop was a room dedicated to "Brief Encounter". This had a large TV showing the film and a few rows of old cinema chairs for you to sit on to enjoy this. On the walls were photographs, letters and various pieces of information about each of the stars of the film and all kinds of other photos and bits related to the film and the people connected through the film.
BRIEF ENCOUNTER REFRESHMENT ROOM:
"Brief Encounter" the classic film tells how Laura and Alec meet and fall in love in a railway Refreshment Room (Carnforth). "That's how it all began, just through me getting a little piece of grit in my eye" says Laura and that is how the affair in the film started
This room has been faithfully restored to resemble the film set and you can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee, tea and cake or even have a cooked light lunch if you fancy it. You can enjoy being transported back in time and admire the various memorabilia such as the stove fire, the cash register, photos and more. You could choose to sit in the Station Master's Office in front of the log fire with a special Christmas tree and this room is where Celia Johnson sat and chatted to the real station master between takes on the film in order to keep warm.
We enjoyed a lovely hot coffee and mince pie in the Refreshment Room before heading on our way out into the surrounding area to explore further.
Today this station is an award winning visitor centre which has thousands of visitors from both the UK and abroad and deservedly so. They have taken an ordinary derelict and run down station and turned it into a place of interest in a tasteful and interesting way.
If you are in the area it is certainly worth a visit, if nothing more than it being a nice atmospheric cafe to have a cup of coffee or tea . If you have an interest in trains or film history then you will love what they have done and find it well worth the visit. We spent an enjoyable hour soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying our coffee and would certainly pop in again if we are in Carnforth.
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