Canfranc abandoned train station, Spain: Ghost station set to return from the grave

It was once the second biggest train station in Europe.

The opening was visited by royals and it was dubbed the "Titanic of the Mountains".

But you won't find this extravagance in a major European city, or even in a small town - in fact Canfranc International Railway Station was built high in the Pyrenees mountains in a village of only 500.

So how did this magnificent building get created and why did it fall into disrepair?

Well Canfranc was envisioned as a major crossing point in the Spanish Pyrenees on the border with France.

Construction of the station was started in 1923 and completed five years later.

The structure is huge -  there are 365 windows, one for each day of the year; hundreds of doors; and the platforms are more than 200 metres long.

Canfranc was mainly in Spain but part of the station was considered French territory; a school was established in the village for the children of French staff.

It was formally opened on July 18, 1928 in the presence of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and the president of the French Republic Gaston Doumergue, but it wasn't long before troubles emerged.

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One crucial issue was the different rail gauges used in both countries. This became a logistical nightmare as passengers and goods had to be transferred from one train to another.

Then the worldwide financial crash of 1929 hit and soon the massive station was only catering to 50 passengers a day.

The Spanish Civil War then saw Francisco Franco close all the surrounding tunnels to stop arms smuggling, but the station survived through World War II and ended up being an escape route for many Jews and Allied soldiers.

The station limped on until 1970 when it finally closed following a train derailment into a nearby bridge. It was decided that the bridge was too expensive to rebuild and Canfranc's fate was sealed.

The stunning facade was left to rot; buildings fell into ruin; and the "Titanic of the Mountains" slowly decayed. The village shrunk as the population faded away.

But then a revival began. Tourists began to wander around the dilapidated station, entranced by a time capsule of the recent past. 

In fact in the past four years 120,000 people have visited the site.

Encouraged by this the local government in the surrounding region of Aragon are determined to turn the station into a hotel.

Plans are afoot to reopen the line into France and there is promised money from Europe to relaunch rail travel through the Pyrenees, reports the BBC.

Trains are running again, albeit on a much more modest scale, and hopes are that in five years time Canfranc will rise from its ghostly shell once again.

- Stuff.co.nz

See also: The world's most beautiful country to see by train

See also: 10 things you need to know about travelling by train in Europe

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