Abandoned former Nazi train station set to reopen in Pyrenees

It was once the largest station in the world

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Former Nazi train station to reopen

It was the largest and most glamorous railway station in the world - a shining jewel of Art Nouveau elegance nestling high in the Pyrenees mountains.

But after a chequered history which saw it seized by the Nazis during the Second World War, Canfranc International Railway Station has slowly slipped into disrepair and is now little more than a crumbling shell.

See also: The world's quirkiest train rides

See also: World's most luxurious scenic train trips

The former station, in the village of Canfranc, sits at one end of the Somport railway tunnel alongside the Spanish Pyrenees.

Opening in 1928 in the presence of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and the president of the French Republic Gaston Doumergue, the passage served to carry trains back and forth under the mountains.

But after the Second World War, the French lost interest in the line and allowed it to deteriorate.

Credits: www.alamy.com

A derelict ticket hall in the Canfranc train station in 2005

Inside the creepy abandoned holiday resort dubbed the "Georgian Switzerland' for communist elite

The grand building began to rot, the tracks rusted and the ceilings fell in.

In 1965 Hollywood used it as a set on the Omar Sharif epic Doctor Zhivago.

Now the Aragon government wants to refurbish the station as a hotel and relaunch rail travel through the Pyrenees, the BBC reports.

According to president Alain Rousset, the route will be called the "western trans-Pyrenean line" and he has promised to find £175 million to pay for it.

Canfranc station's main building is 200 metres long, has 365 windows - one for each day of the year - and 156 doors.

Its size made it the one of the largest stations in Europe - known at the time as the "Titanic of the Mountains".

Credits: www.alamy.com

A bar left covered in mould and debris at Canfranc railway station

Inside the housing estate time forgot which is now 'infested by bats with caved in roofs and decaying buildings'

The station opened to a great fanfare and was the shining centrepiece of the main line between France and Spain.

For years, wealthy travellers marvelled at its stunning architecture and checked into its very extravagant adjoining hotel.

During the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, the tunnels were sealed on the Spanish side to prevent arms smuggling.

But due to the Franco-Spanish international convention under which it was built, the station remained open during World War II.

Credits: www.alamy.com

A derelict room in the adjoining hotel - one lavish and beautiful

The Spanish authorities came to an operational agreement with the Nazi German Wehrmacht authorities, with freight-trains carrying mined tungsten north and French grain plus trans-shipped Swiss gold south.

Passenger services also continued, providing an escape route into Spain for some Jews and Allied soldiers.

The station's main purpose came to an abrupt halt in 1970 when a train derailment demolished a bridge on the French side of the mountains.

Under financial pressure from French national railway company SNCF, the French government decided not to rebuild the bridge, and hence the cross-border line was closed.

Credits: www.alamy.com

An abandoned rolling stock at Canfranc station

Today, the site is mostly overgrown, but most of the buildings are largely intact.

The main building has been re-roofed, but is otherwise in a state of disrepair, fenced off and closed to the public except during guided tours in July and August.

In 2013 to 17, approximately 120,000 people, mostly Spaniards, toured the station, more than used it when it was in service.

The railway station, using rather more modest facilities, is still open for the two daily passenger trains to and from Zaragoza-Delicias railway station, plus occasional freight trains.

Beautiful train stations around the world

Beautiful train stations around the world


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