Canfranc International Railway Station – Canfranc, Spain - Atlas Obscura

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Canfranc International Railway Station

Canfranc, Spain

Abandoned Nazi train station turned underground astroparticle laboratory. 


In 1928, the Canfranc International Railway Station was the biggest rail station in Europe, and was the centerpiece of a railway between France and Spain. Glamorous and over the top, the Spanish government hoped to attract rich visitors from across the continent to the station’s hotel.

Despite its grandeur, the luxurious station was overtaken by warfare, Naziism, and a train accident that forced its abandonment in 1970.

Only eight years after it opened, the station and the tunnel across the Spain-France border were closed after tensions during the Spanish Civil War. After the war, the 800-foot-long station reopened and enjoyed a brief period of success before the outbreak of WWII.

During the early points of the war, the train provided a lifeline for Jews able to escape through the railway and station, but by the early 1940s, the Nazis had taken control and a Swastika flew above the Art Nouveau station. Under Nazi control, gold plundered from murdered Jews left occupied France on the rail line bound for Portugal and Spain. After the war, Nazi war criminals slipped through allied hands on these same tracks.

During the 1950s and 1960s, after years of warfare, the station finally returned to business as usual, but the end of the station was in sight. In 1970, a huge steamer jumped the rails and crashed. No one was killed, but the wreck effectively shut down the railway. The station was slowly abandoned, beginning yet another new phase of life for the slowly decaying building.

In 1985, the abandonment, and remote location of the station, opened a new opportunity — the current and perhaps best incarnation of the old train station. With abundant space below the earth, Spanish physicists opened the Canfranc Underground Astroparticle Laboratory, with an entrance beneath the station and movable labs setup on the old railway.

Update as of March 2023. Now renovated as a hotel. Very nicely done, and the public areas are beautiful. 

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