The Canfranc International Railway Station (Spanish: Estación Internacional de Canfranc) is a formerly international railway station. We can find it in the village of Canfranc in the Spanish Pyrenees.
History of Canfranc Estación
During the nineteenth century, two major border crossings were operating between France and Spain. However, even prior to the start of the twentieth century, it was clear that there was consistently insufficient capacity to accommodate demand for cross-border traffic. And that a third border crossing would be necessary.
The decision makers came to the conclusion to build such a facility at Los Arañones. Situated in a relatively undeveloped valley near the village of Canfranc. The practicality of building a grandiose station was the decision for the French and Spanish railway operators to share the facility. Rather than having its own individual station. Which meant that Canfranc would serve as a prominent hub for the route, greatly shaping its design and scale. Concretely, the main building incorporates elaborate Beaux-Arts architecture, featuring 365 windows and 156 doors, along a length of 240 metres.
The station opened during July 1928, and constructed on a grand scale to serve as a major hub for cross-border railway traffic between Spain and France. Already more modest than imagined. This came to a full and abrupt end during 1970 following a train derailment that damaged a key bridge in France. With only minimal services over five decades, Canfranc station experienced a major decline and neglect. Resulting in much of the site becoming derelict.
About the Train Station today
The government of Aragon, since 2013 owner of the station, long held various ambitions for the rehabilitation of the station. Plans were mooted to redevelop the main station building into a hotel. Which would involve the construction of a new station in the former freight halls to replace it.
In February 2020, it was announced that funding from the European Union had been made available for the purpose of reopening the through line and relaunching international services.
As of 2018, architects Joaquín Magrazó and Fernando Used, in conjunction with the government of Aragon and the Barceló Hotel Group, were preparing designs to transform the station building into a hotel. As announced, the new station building was built behind the existing one, with its entry via the hotel vestibule. In 2020 the exterior of the old station was renovated and the interior was reinforced. The tracks around the old station were removed and the area turned into roads and parks. For the buildings and their site were also proposed a 200-seat conference centre. A branch of the regional railway museum, shops, and a pilgrim refuge. As Canfranc is on one of the routes to Santiago de Compostela.
The French customs chief – Albert Le Lay
The station – during World War II – was a strategic crossing point for goods between Spain, France and Germany. Medics, food, tungsten, steel, not to mention 86 tons of German gold. 12 tons of which remained with the Franco government.
Albert Le Lay – the French customs chief those times saved the lives of a lot of people. Until the Gestapo discovered him. Albert had surreptitiously snuck hundreds of Jews fleeing the Nazi regime across the border. Among them the artists Max Ernst, Marc Chagall, and the singer Josephine Baker, who was married to a French Jew. It is not known how many people Albert Le Lay exactly saved. But there were ‘very many‘ and they survived thanks to his determination, his humanity and his courage.
He – when discovered – starred in a bizarre escape and escaped aboard a ship. When the war ended, he refused posts and honors and expressed to his family the wish to keep quiet about his activities during those years.
Canfranc Estación, a Royal Hideaway Hotel
The Royal Hideaway Hotel opens in January 2023. You can already book their rooms, don’t miss this opportunity to be one of their first guests in this amazing hotel.ç
Canfranc Estación, the Royal Hideaway Hotel has 104 rooms designed with warm and elegant spaces. That merge with subtle art deco elements to create contemporary and nostalgic atmospheres. Where noble materials such as wood and brass, rich fabrics such as velvet and a chromatic range inspired by the 1920s stand out. Also noteworthy is the integration of Aragonese popular culture in certain textile elements and with colours inspired by the rich and varied regional costumes of the area. Fully equipped, the hotel rooms feature premium amenities.
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