Langwathby Station was opened by the Midland Railway on 1 May 1876 as part of their Settle-Carlisle link to give them an independent route to Scotland. Up until that time they could only reach Scotland by exercising running rights over the London North Western Railway who were not averse to delaying the Midland Railway trains.
The station like all those on the Settle-Carlisle except Culgaith was designed by John Holloway Sanders and is of style known as Derby Gothic. This was a Midland Railway house style used at various places on their network. J.H.Sanders is best known for the design of Bath Green Park Station on the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway,
The building was built by George Black of Carlisle.
The Midland was a real blue-chip company in those days and not surprisingly its buildings had to be made of the best quality materials. Local sandstone, best Welsh slate, massive oak roof trusses. The buildings have slate and pitch dampcourses - dampcourses were very rare at that time.
The station is what is known as a Settle-Carlisle type B. The largest buildings were type A of which Appleby is the best remaining example. Type B was the middle size with wings either side of a single main building and type C were the smallest. These have only a wing at one side. A good example of a Type C can be seen at Little Salkeld (2 miles away), now a private house.
Langwathby also used to have a signal box, cattle dock and a large good yard and goods shed (this can still be seen in the yard ). Part of the goods yard is now the car park of Brief Encounter. The remainder and the goods shed now form part of the Frank Bird Ltd plant.
None of the Settle Carlisle stations provided accommodation. The Station Master lived in a separate house - you pass it on your right as you come up the drive. Other staff lived in cottages and a row of these can be seen below the station on the Culgaith road. You will note that all these buildings are of a similar architectural design.
Langwathby was quite a busy station. In the closing years of last century 7,567 tons of goods moved in and out of the yard and over 20,000 passenger journeys were made from the station. By 1963 this had dropped, but even in that year 1,571 tons of freight and 10,000 passenger journeys were made from the station.
The station along with many others on the Settle Carlisle was closed to freight on 6 July 1964. The station became an unmanned halt on 1 January 1967 and finally closed to passengers on 4 May 1970. From then until 1976 no trains stopped at Langwathby. Happily from that year onwards services began to be re-introduced on a regular basis. The station had of course been sold in the intervening period and so could not be re-opened as a station.
The station was purchased from British Railways by the Henderson family local hauliers based in Langwathby and used as a store.
In 1996 Sandra and Tony Henderson turned the building into the award winning Brief Encounter restaurant.
In April 2003 they sold the business to Gordon and Elsie Edgar of Carlisle who are now in their second year of running the restaurant. They have maintained and improved on the standards set by Tony and Sandra Henderson.
As originally built, what is now the main restaurant area was the Waiting Room. The smaller restaurant area used to be the Stationmaster's Office and the archway through to that area was not originally there but was the site of the ticket window. The original ticket barrier is still retained but not quite in its original position.
The kitchen was originally the Ladies Room and retains its original Victorian patterned WC in what is now the staff toilet. The disabled toilets and freezer store is the site of the original Gents Urinals and WC . The other toilets were the site of the coal store. The Antiques Shop (not part of Brief Encounter) was the Lamp Room where the oil lamps were filled and wicks trimmed etc and the Porter's room.
Of particular note is the window frames at the disabled entrance from the platform. These are in fact made of cast iron and came as a kit of parts for assembly on site. The design of these screens differs from station to station.
The platform has been raised to normal carriage floor level in recent years. The old steps which passengers had to use can be seen outside the restaurant.
Brief Encounter, although a former station, does not form part of the national rail network. You cannot buy tickets at the station and the staff do not know anything about how the trains are running. They will however always try to help with general train time information and timetable leaflets are usually available.
The line does enjoy steam specials from time to time and where possible details of these are posted in the restaurant.
Brief Encounter Film
Brief Encounter is not the tearoom featured in the Trevor Howard/Celia Johnson film, that is at
Carnforth, in Lancashire. When Sandra and Tony Henderson chose the name for their restaurant the original had been closed for many years and has only recently re-opened as a café.