Canfranc International Station, Huesca, Spain

by Javier Lopez, view of Canfranc International Station

Canfranc International station is located in Aragon, close to the Franco-Spanish border in the province of Huesca. It is the second largest station in Europe by the size of its facilities. Built with the intention of a great future, nowadays is dedicated to local traffic on the Spanish side and it is probably the biggest railway waste of the world.

The intention to build a railway between Spain and France, through the Pyrenees, was manifested around the half of the 19th century. The project once started, was interrupted many times, because of political disputes between the two countries and because of its environmental impact, until in 1907 a location was finally chosen: Canfranc.
Designed by the architect Fernando Ramirez de Dampierre, the station was meant to embody the importance of a great international project and the Spanish openness to Europe. Inaugurating it the 18th July of 1928, Alfonso XIII in his speech said “The Pyrenees do not exist anymore”, stressing the strategic importance of the railway project and magnifying its station, Canfranc.
All this importance vanished just a few years later, when it became clear that the railway was not so strategic as it appeared to its inspirers.
Canfranc partially recovered during WWII because of its international status and its geographical position. Hundreds of Jews, resistance fighters, Allied airmen, as well as Nazists crossed this small city during this period (the Nazists, in particular used the station to transport the gold sent to general Franco, in return of the strategic minerals banned by the Allies they received from him, see Pascal Desmichelle’s site).
Closed during the last years of the war, the railway line reopened in 1948 with no success and not enough interest. An accident happened on 27th March 1970 was the perfect pretext for the closure of the international line, and since then Canfranc has been crossed only by local traffic.

After three decades of decline and abandonment, the site continue to attract tourists for its historical and landscape importance. Many projects have been discussed through the years for the station’s restoration, but the huge investment necessary and long debates about the possible new destinations of the facility have slowed the process. Recently some intervention has been made for its restoration, and we hope soon to tell you more about the future of such a wonderful place, where I guess it’s definitely possible to benefit investing in its rescue!!

- The Canfranc Project by Matthias Maas and Stefan Gregor;
- Canfranc on wikipedia;
- Canfranc railway station by Forbidden Places
- Pascal Desmichelle , “The monumental station Canfranc the test of time. Rise and Fall of a railway heritage of the mountain Aragon (Spain)”.

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