Although the romantic film Brief Encounter was set in London and Surrey, Carnforth Railway Station in Lancashire was chosen as the star location for the film due to the unique qualities of the Northern England station. Today, the railway station truly leans into its notoriety as a filming location for this classic British film.
When choosing a railway station for his film about an extramarital affair, David Lean had a specific criteria. Since they were shooting in 1944, he couldn’t film night scenes anywhere in or around London. Filming at night required huge spotlights which were a no-go during The Blitz. So the production team looked further north. The station needed three tracks where the team could park their fake trains during the working day, and a cafe with a door opening right onto one of the tracks. Carnforth Railway Station was the only station to meet those requirements.
Today, the big round analog clock that features prominently in the film still hangs over the platform traversed by visitors. The “refreshment room” may have been shot in a studio back in the 1940s, but Carnforth has recreated the set into a real-life cafe.
Along with authentic and recreated touches, the station is also home to a David Lean museum and heritage center. The museum features information and memorabilia from the film shoot, facts on other David Lean films, and World War II in general. But the true stroke of genius is the makeshift, cozy cinema with plush red seats where visitors can sit and watch Brief Encounter all day every day (well, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.) as it’s played on a loop. It has become a pilgrimage site for fans of the film.
Know Before You Go
Carnforth Railway Station is, unsurprisingly, easily accessible by rail and the Heritage Center is completely free though donations are welcomed.