Carnforth station restoration was a labour of love

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The Independent Online

It was one of the most romantic scenes in the history of stiff-upper-lip British movie making.

Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson played out the agonisingly chaste love story, Brief Encounter, at Carnforth station in Lancashire.

Despite a starring role in what turned out to be a movie classic and its one-time importance as a railway junction, the station fell into disrepair.

But thanks to the dedication of a team of railway and film enthusiasts, the station and the tearoom where the couple wrestled with their consciences, has been renovated ready for any 21st-century romantics who care to re-rehearse the doomed love story.

Margaret Barton, who played the part of Beryl in David Lean's 1945 movie, will today cut the ribbon to the station which has been restored to full 1940s glory.

Peter Yates, chairman of the Carnforth station and Railway Trust which helped raise funds for the restoration, said the hard work had begun to pay off but there was more to do.

"It's a great achievement by so many people that here we are on the eve of reopening the famous tearoom, and having Margaret Barton doing the honours is a real and proud link with Carnforth station's past," he said.

"We don't rest on our laurels though. Our ambition must be to get the West Coast Main Line trains to stop here once again."

The restoration, which was also supported by Railtrack, includes a heritage centre and exhibition centre.

Although the refreshment room in the film was actually a film set, it bore a strong resemblance to the genuine Carnforth cafe and the new one has been named the Brief Encounter Tearoom in its honour.

The station master's office, where Celia Johnson warmed herself in front of his fire in between takes during what was a bitterly cold winter shoot, has become a gift shop.

Brief Encounter was originally a short stage play written by Noel Coward, but under the direction of David Lean it was re-written for filming.

It was supposed to have been shot in London but wartime bombing prompted the move to Carnforth station which was considered safer. The Ministry of War Transport thought that even with film lights, Carnforth was sufficiently far from the capital to avoid attack.

Brief Encounter was made between February and May 1945 with the Carnforth scenes filmed in February. Work on the film started late in the evening, after the last local train, and finished before the first local train arrived the next morning.

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