What was once one of the grandest railway stations in Europe is set for a major revival as the Canfranc International Station on the Spanish-French border prepares to welcome international passengers once again.
Once dubbed the 'Titanic of the Mountains' thanks to its opulent design, 365 windows and vast 200-metre platforms, the Canfranc International Station in the central Pyrenees in Huesca has been lying in ruin for almost half a century. What looks like a grand backdrop in a Wes Anderson movie has enjoyed a brief but colourful history. According to El Pais, the monumental terminal was a "hotbed of espionage" during the Second World War, a strategic trade route for looters and gold traffickers, and served as a "vital lifeline" for Jews fleeing persecution in Nazi-occupied Europe.
It was inaugurated in 1928 by Alfonso XIII, the King of Spain and Gaston Doumergue, the president of the French Republic, but closed in 1970 when the last train pulled out of the station for France and crashed into the Estanguet bridge, causing it to collapse (thankfully, nobody was hurt).
Plans to breathe new life into the vast international terminal have been in the pipeline for years, thanks to coordinated efforts from the local community, Spanish and French authorities and the EU. But now The Times reports that the revival is well underway and the regional government of Aragón is on track to open a new station later this year, even though the border is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The French regional government in Bordeaux is also working on creating a line that will connect with the new Spanish network.
Reports in El Periodico de Aragon (the newspaper of Aragon) suggest that the Modernista building could be transformed into a hotel that would sit alongside the new station.
Despite current appearances, Canfranc Station isn't totally idle. Two domestic freight trains currently run between Canfranc and Zaragoza daily, and the station is popular with tourists with guided tours offered by the Canfranc tourist office that explore the station and its underground bunkers.