Estación Canfranc

You can view my images of the old, derelict railway station at Canfranc here

All images were taken on a Canon 5D Mk3 with either an EF 16-35mm f/4L, EF24-70mm f/2.8 L Mk2 or EF 70-200 f/2.8L Mk2 IS lens.

Located at more than 1.000 meters above sea level in the Spanish Pyrenees, this grandiose station has not seen a French train pass for almost fifty years, although the local RENFE service from Zaragoza operates each way, twice a day.  The trip takes just under four hours each way.

Stranded there, among the Aragon mountains, with its 240 meters long, 365 windows and 156 doors, this architectural jewel designed by the Spaniard Fernando Ramírez de Dampierre amazes you by its sheer physical size. A feat of construction in a hostile, mountainous landscape between the threat of blazing sun, torrential rain, snow and avalanches.  The station was opened with great pomp and circumstance on July 18, 1928 in the presence of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and the president of the French Republic, Gaston Doumergue.

Through traffic from France to Spain (and vice-versa) was not possible due to differing railway gauges used by France and Spain; France uses the standard gauge of 4ft 8,5in (1.435mm) whereas Spain used (and still does for the majority of its railway network) the Iberian gauge of 5ft 5 21/32in (1.668mm).

The station never exceeded fifty passengers per day.   During the Spanish Civil War Franco had the tunnels on the Spanish side sealed up to prevent smuggling, but were opened again during the Second World War, when many Jews and Resistance fighters fleeing occupied Europe escaped through the tunnels.  Many tons of gold stolen by the Nazis travelled through Canfranc southwards, and tungsten traveled northwards to feed the Nazi war machine. 

On March 20, 1970 a nine-car train left Pau for Canfranc headed by two SNCF locomotives, No.4227 and 4235. Having passed the station at Lescun Cette-Eygun, the train started to climb the Aspe valley towards Etsaut and Urdos. However, with the substation at Urdos not working,  the voltage dropped from 1500 V DC to 900 V DC further down the line towards Oloron-Sainte-Marie.  Consequently, the substation at Forges-d’Abel peaked and blew its circuit breakers, leaving the unmanned train with no dynamic braking, only hand-applied braking. The train passed through Lescun Cette-Eygun station at more than 100 kilometres per hour, leaving no time for the automatic road crossing to close. On reaching the bridge at Estanguet, with the train moving at over 280 kph, the train derailed. The first locomotive hit the bridge and derailed the whole train, destroying the bridge. No one was killed or injured in the accident.  Although the bridge was replaceable, SNCF decided that as they were experiencing major financial difficulties at the time,  replacement was not possible and terminated services at Bedous.  There is now a scientific laboratory located deep within the tunnel.

The site is currently the property of the Aragon government: the weeds have taken the advantage and cover the old rusty wagons all around the site.  The clock in the station is still, the windows locked and the central booking hall is still deserted….

Using Format