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'Brief Encounter' railway station is reborn

October 18, 2003|Paul Majendie | Reuters

LONDON — The railway station immortalized in the British film classic "Brief Encounter" has been restored to its former glory, and the tearoom waitress returned on Friday to relive the poignant tale of frustrated love.

As a teenage actress, Margaret Barton served tea to Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard in Carnforth Station as the repressed middle-class couple talked in clipped accents of a love that was not to be.

"It is known all over the world. It is utterly amazing," the aging actress said before opening the northern England station that was lovingly restored by enthusiasts who raised $3 million for the 10-year face-lift.

The original 120-year-old station clock has been retrieved from a London shop. Gone are the crumbling walls and broken windows. A museum, tearoom and information booth now welcome lovers of the 1945 romance that launched a million tears.

"Its attraction is nostalgia. It reminds us of days gone by," said Peter Yates, chairman of the Carnforth Station and Railway Trust. "It is a good thing for us to learn from. Restraint is one of the biggest lessons that everyone should learn. Anticipation is greater than the act."

Carnforth still attracts tourists, and Yates hopes mainline trains will now stop again at the still-working station.

"In the visitors book, you name a country and someone has come from there -- Germany, Switzerland, New Zealand, America," he said.

Film director David Lean scoured Britain toward the end of the war for the ideal setting to film the Noel Coward love story. He picked a remote station in Lancashire, 260 miles north of London, where it was felt that the arc lights would not attract German bombers.

At the steam-shrouded station, he crafted a bittersweet tale of a couple who meet in the station tearoom. They manage, amid much trembling of stiff upper lips, to restrain their passion and return to their separate homes for the sake of family values. Morality reigned supreme.

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