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Carnforth Station - - 463829.jpg
Carnforth railway station
Grid reference: SD499704
Location: 54°7’23"N, 2°45’58"W
Population: 5,350  (2001)
Post town: Carnforth
Postcode: LA5
Dialling code: 01524
Local Government
Council: Lancaster
Morecambe and Lunesdale

Carnforth is a small town in Lancashire, near the county town, Lancaster. Carnforth stands at the northeast end of Morecambe Bay. The parish of Carnforth had a population of 5,350 recorded in the 2001 census.

Due to the closeness of the coast and the hills, Carnforth is a popular base for walkers and cyclists exploring the area. The River Keer, the West Coast Main Line, the A6 and the Lancaster Canal pass through the town. The M6 motorway passes just to the east, linked to Carnforth by the A601(M). It is these transport links which shaped the town and its industry, and which have brought some fame to Carnforth amongst film buffs, as Brief Encounter was filmed at its station.

The name "Carnforth" is thought to derive from its old function as a ford of the River Keer on which it stands; "Keer ford".


Much of the history of Carnforth revolves around the railway and ironworks. Vast deposits of limestone located locally made Carnforth an ideal place for an ironworks, as limestone is a key component of the smelting process. In 1846 the Carnforth Ironworks Company established a works, located near the railway station. In the same year a recession occurred in the Earl of Dudley ironworks in Worcestershire, this meant there was a surplus of workers. A number of workers moved to the ironworks and lived in the nearby company village of Dudley (now called Millhead). In 1864 the Carnforth Haematite Company took over the works and production was vastly increased due to iron ore that was brought in by rail from the Furness Peninsula. By 1872 steel production became the main focus for the works using the new Bessemer process. By 1889 this ceased. Iron production continued at the works until 1929 when it eventually closed down. The site was taken over by the War Department as an ordnance depot and remained as such until the 1960s. From then to the present the site is now an industrial estate consisting of several businesses.[1]

In the 19th century, Carnforth grew from a small village into a railway town when it became the junction of three major railways. With the closure of Carnforth MPD in 1968, the station facilities were closed, and the main line platform removed. As a result, no express services on the West Coast Main Line call at the town. The town is served by trains from Lancaster to Barrow and to Leeds.

An important motive power depot was located to the west of the WCML and was one of the last to retain an allocation of steam locomotives until mid 1968. The buildings are now occupied by the West Coast Railway Company[2] who still maintain and overhaul steam locos in their premises. The concrete loco coaling tower is a rare survivor.

Brief Encounter

In 1945, Carnforth railway station was used as a set for the David Lean film Brief Encounter, starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. Fans of this film were one of the major factors in the recent refurbishment of the railway station, including construction of a refreshment room to match the studio set used in the film, which is now run by the Carnforth Station Trust.[3][4]


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