Image result for brief encounter 1945

1hr 30mins
Dir: David Lean
Starring: Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson

A married woman embarks on a doomed romance with a married doctor

Brief Encounter perhaps more than any other film epitomises the railway station at night during the steam era, an era so fondly remembered perhaps, but not an era recognised by today’s younger minds. None the less, it is the trains and the station that have made this British film a classic, and it is now much-celebrated and rightly so. The screenplay for this drama is by Noël Coward, based on his 1936 one-act play Still Life. The bulk of the action took place at Carnforth, which doubled for ‘Milford Junction’, though it was reported for many years that the evocative shots of express trains passing through at speed were filmed at Watford Junction. Locos that feature include a couple of unrebuilt ‘Royal Scot’ 4-6-0’s and two streamlined ‘Coronation’ 4-6-2’s, but recent study of the scenes proves beyond reasonable doubt that these too were also filmed at Carnforth. Many of these scenes later reappear as stock footage, frequently turning up in films during the 1950’s and 1960’s (e.g. The Battle of the Sexes, Escape by Night, Mandy and Stop Press Girl, among many others). The loco of the ‘Ketchworth’ branch train was Stanier LMS Class 4P 2-cylinder 2-6-4T No.2429 and it becomes a minor character in itself, appearing as it does three times in the film. It probably had the same coaching stock too, and one vehicle, LMS coach No.25149 is prominent in one scene. ‘Ketchworth’ is a studio set, however, as is the interior of the station buffet. In fact, a lot of studio work was undertaken at Denham Studios which was then blended in with the live action sequences. The station set reappeared in the 1949 comedy film Love in Waiting alongside an unused shot of the Ketchworth branch train arriving alongside Celia Johnson! Check it out.

The hugely evocative opening scene of the film sees an express thunder through Carnforth with much smoke and steam. A streamlined ‘Coronation’ pacific is at the helm.
Just as an express disappears in one direction another hammers through at full pelt going the other way. The loco in this instance is an unrebuilt ‘Royal Scot’. The station nameboard on the right reads ‘???ford Junction’. This is likely to be ‘Milford Junction’ so could this have been the reason why Watford Junction was stated as being the location for these shots? Watford Junction is very different to Carnforth. It transpires that the water tower, station canopy, lighting, signal box and signals all look very similar to those at the Lancashire station.
Stanley Holloway crosses the tracks at Carnforth on his way to the buffet
David Lean made sure that the trains played an important part in the film, and they truly add to the atmosphere of this brilliant drama. Another unrebuilt ‘Royal Scot’ passes through as the porter goes about his business.
The doe-eyed Celia Johnson is by far the best thing in the film, and she looks on as Trevor Howard arrives in time for his train, hauled by Class 4P 2-6-4T No.2429.
This elevated shot of an express is now much used, cropping up in a good number of other films
As No.2429 does its best to overshadow the actors the station signage gives a clue as to the real location of ‘Milford Junction’. Hellifield, Leeds and Bradford are among the destinations visible.
In what is my favourite shot of the whole film, Celia Johnson walks down the ramp to suffer the consequences of her brief encounter and, as the branch train on the right pulls out, an express thunders through on the left. The brilliance of this shot is a timely reminder of the story: the station may well be the setting, but it is the characters that are the main players.