Canfranc: welcome to Europe's most magnificent abandoned railway station
Posted on 08/10/2017
Visit the Canfranc Estación today and you will no doubt feel an eerie sense of neglect and abandonment emanating throughout this disused railway site. The station, which was opened in 1928, is nestled on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, bordering France. Yet only 42 years after its grand opening the station was abandoned. With rusted tracks, a rotting structure and overgrown surroundings, the once majestic Canfranc Estación is a ghostly shell of its former self, falling slowly into disrepair.
Canfranc Estación today
However, back in 1928, Canfranc Estación was the protagonist of an altogether different story, a story of grandeur, luxury and powerful relations between France and Spain. Building an impressive railway linking these two countries through the Pyrenees was a grand and ambitious project. Its main objective was to boost international trade, but the Canfranc Estación was much more than simply a physical link between the two European countries, it held a diplomatic and symbolic significance.
No expenses were spared on the Canfranc Estación project, which was piercingly evident back in its glory days. Canfranc represented the second largest station in Europe, with 200m long platforms and a design which was both bold and extravagant. The station was architecturally astounding, built in a grand Art Nouveau style, with iron and glass. The station even boasted a hospital, dining facilities and accommodation for its workers. It was given the nickname of "Titanic of the Mountains"; in hindsight perhaps this name foreshadowed the eventual end of the impressive Canfranc Estación.
Unfortunately there were more than one or two obstacles that complicated the construction and later the running of Canfranc Estación. Physically it proved very hard to manipulate the mountainous landscape where the tracks and tunnels were built, so construction was a laborious process. Once built, it became apparent that engineers had overlooked a major flaw. Spain and France had different rail gauges, meaning that passengers had to change trains at the border. This played a role in the station's low footfall, averaging at only 50 passengers a day.
Derelict and abandoned
Canfranc has a historic past
Canfranc has played an important role in Spanish and French history. During the Spanish Civil War, Franco famously had the tunnels to Canfranc sealed to prevent arms being smuggled into Spain by the enemy Republicans. Later during the Second World War, the station remained open and was used as a route for persecuted Jews and fleeing citizens to escape war-zone Europe to the safety of Spain.
Canfranc Estación was finally closed in 1970 after a train derailed on the French side, destroying a bridge, which marked the end of services. The abandoned station then began deteriorating and fell into disrepair. Although it attracts a fair few visitors each year and there are occasional services running from Zaragoza, Canfranc Estación is nothing like it was back in the day. There are however rumors circulating that talks of a refurbishment and reconstruction of the site could be happening. Surely a railway with such history and heritage deserves to be brought back to its prime!