Canfranc International Railway StationEdit profile
In 1853 Juan Bruil, himself executive director of a bank, from Zaragoza already had the idea to install a train connection through the central Pyrenees, the shortest link between Madrid and Paris. He submitted his proposal comprising 30 pages to the "Friends of the Country"; the latter a club of influencal enterpreneurs. In the same year at Christmas two engineers received a particular present: they should work out the initial plan for the project. This marked the begin of the quarrel regarding the best route and the fight of representatives of towns and provinces, who wanted to take advantage of the plans. It almost took 30 years until in 1882 the government approved the project.
At the beginning however there was the problem to built a tunnel through the Pyrenees and no solution to it. Over 15 years experts watched the weather before they agreed on the valley of Aragón and Canfranc as the future site of the boarder train station as well as the southern end of the tunnel. Technical obstacles and diplomatic difficulties marked the development of the construction project; the construction work were repeatedly stopped and caused delays. In 1915 the tunnel, which was 7875 meters long, was finished; the architects built an artificial plateau by using the stones taken out of the mountain and on this area the building of the train station arised, a mixture of classicism and art nouveau.
"The Pyrenees do not longer exist", proudly called King Alfonso XII. of Spain at the inauguration, general Primo de Rivera and the president of the French Republic being present. After 70 years of planning and construction work people of the sparse mountain valley hoped for a bit of the luxury built there, intended to attract guests from all over Europe to stay in the hotel of the train station. However already during the time the connection was built the Spanish government refused to adjust the width of their rail tracks according to the European standard, thereby planting the seed for the project to fail. Intermediate stops were always necessary. Each passenger had to pass passport controls in the train stations, each bit of luggage customs, goods were shifted by crane from one train to the other. Soon it became apparent that the loss of time in Canfranc caused the connection to become not profitable for hauliers. Only 8 years after its opening on account of the Spanish civil war the Somport tunnel, cutting through the Pyrenees and connecting France with Spain, became closed because of the Spanish civil war.
When the war was over traffic was restarted in the tunnel. During the second World War, Canfranc became really important: As it is clearly known, wolfram ore, which is urgently needed for the production of arms, was transported to the German Reich via this line. The ore was payed with gold, which was also transported via Canfranc. One part of this gold consisted of captured assets of the European central baks and the other part consisted of haul taken during the persecution of Jews. Furthermore, the line became important as an escape route: first for people who were presecuted for political reasons and for Jews, as for example Marc Chagall and Max Ernst and later also for Nazis on the way to South America. After it was closed again by general Franco for a short time after the war, Canfranc regained importance. It served for example an location for the film "Dr. Schiwago". In 1970 a fully loaded train moving down the Pyrenees on the French side was derailed and caused the railway bridge of Estanguet to brake down. This marked the end of the international railway traffic. Nowadays, trains only move twice a day from Zaragoza to Canfranc an back on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees.
The resumption of the railway traffic has been demanded again and again. Every year, the community of Canfranc has a Fiesta on the day of the train station's opening. The mayor of Canfranc has strongly advocated the reopening of the station for years. According to official statements of the European Parliament the line from Pau to Canfranc is expected to be reopened by the French railway company SNCF by the year 2006. Moreover a thesis for a degree, which examined the profitability of the line an compared the latter to similar Swiss lines, was finished in Switzerland. The result of this thesis was positive. There have also been claims to preserve the building, but they have not led to a clear result. You will find more information by following the links on our homepage.