A Bit Of Coal Dust. 23rd August

Carnforth Services to Tewitfield.

You can’t come to Carnforth without spending a bit of time at the station here. Yesterday we’d got a train, but today we came back to look round the Heritage Centre.

P1110819smCarnforth Station was used as the location for Brief Encounter which starred Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard in 1945. Written by Noel Coward and directed by David Lean. As it was filmed in the war they couldn’t film it in the south or London due to the blackout. Carnforth was chosen because it needed to have a main line passing through and there be some distance between the refreshment room and the Churley platform, so that a degree of urgency could be shown as the characters ran for their trains. It also needed to have little or no traffic whilst filming was in progress between 10pm and 8am. The station itself only appears in the film for ten minutes but it suited the bill.

The express train that hurtles through the station at the beginning of the film proved hard to film. As the trains approached the station the drivers were confronted with a blaze of light ahead and they instinctively slowed down to walking pace. A message had to be sent down the line to all the drivers that all was well and they were requested to speed up as they reached the station.

P1110807smP1110813smThe Heritage Centre has history on Carnforth and it’s iron works which swelled the population of the town in the 1860’s and 70’s. The railway played a big part and it had some of the last steam locomotives that ran until 1968. There are films that you can watch about the restoration of the station buildings which had been left to decay greatly and took three years to bring them back into use.

Then there is a hole section about David Lean and his films along with a nine seat cinema which shows Brief Encounter 1500 times a year!


After we’d had a good look round surrounded by a coach trip we deserved a cuppa in the refreshment rooms. Here they make their own bread for the day and have cakes and scones for sale. Little is now original in the rooms, but the general atmosphere of a 1940’s station tea room has been captured, just hope no-one ever tries to light the MDF stove!

P1110831smThis afternoon we decided to move on and head to Tewitfield the end of navigation. We slowly wound our way round until we met the M6. Here both boats reached the most northerly section of canal in England that is connected to the network, we were now north of Ripon. The M6 was built after the canal had fallen into disrepair, one bridge over the canal, but when they both reach Tewitfield the canal is blocked several times. A chap I talked to in Garstang had worked on the build of the M6, he suggested that if the motorway had been built 3ft higher at one point then reopening the canal up to Keswick would be easier.

P1110860smP1110866smGetting in to the side proved hard, we’d hoped to be able to stop short away from the motorway, but no space showed itself. So we ended up pulling in just before the marina in Tewitfield, just short of the furthest north it is possible to go. Both boats needed gang planks and our stern is out quite a distance.

P1110883smP1110909smA walk up along the side of the M6 brings you to the first of eight locks that rose the canal up to Kendal. These have been out of use since 1942 although they look in better nick than most lock chambers we pass through. The gates at both ends are missing and I suspect the ground paddle gear could do with replacing. We walked up to the last lock, when they are restored this lock will be moved to the other side of the M6, making the canal low enough to pass underneath.

P1110913smTilly has been very busy since we returned to the boat and has walked past us a couple of times, but refuses to come in. Hopefully she’ll be home before bedtime as we’d like to close the doors as it’s a bit chilly now.

P1110922smDSCF7114sm0 locks, 3.88 miles, 1 photographer, 5 screenings a day at least, 4 cups of tea, 0 free sandwiches today, 3 litres wine, 2 boats moving, 2 gang planks, 8 disused locks, 1 noisy flight with good views, M6, sorry did you not hear me, M6! 1 very wet day in Scarborough, 1 awol cat.

1 hour! thought she said 5, 10pm dirty stop out!