The Abandoned Nazi Train Station, Now An Underground Astroparticle Lab

The Abandoned Nazi Train Station, Now An Underground Astroparticle Lab

The Canfranc International Railway Station and its adjoined hotel were the of epitome of transit glamour when it was first built in 1928. But a series of events — including being co-opted by the Nazis during WWII — led to its eventual demise and abandonment. Going from ritzy hotel to Nazi command center to abandoned ruin, the historic station has finally settled into a vastly different role: Subterranean astroparticle laboratory.

In its hay day, Canfranc was a glitzy, glamorous link between France and Spain. And in the early days of WWII, it was used as a lifeline for Jews attempting to escape occupied France. Once the war was in full swing, however, the station came under Nazi control, functioning as a means of shipping out stolen gold and, eventually, carrying Nazi war criminals away from Allied hands. After the war, that station resumed its normal operations until 1970; a train derailed and finally put the train station to rest — along with its accompanying, beautiful Art Nouveau station and hotel.

It wasn’t until 1985 that the station finally garnered some interest once again. As Spanish physicists were looking around for a remote location with a surplus of underground space in which to experiment, the stumbled across the train station, saw that it was perfect, and reopened it as the Canfranc Underground Astroparticle Laboratory.

Now, this station that played such a pivotal role during WWII may seem abandoned from the outside, but take a peek underneath and you’ll find the tunnels below brimming with scientists probing the depths of dark matter, neutrinos, and geodynamics, among other mysteries of the universe.

There has been some discussion of reopening the station to the public, but so far, nothing even remotely definite has been decided as far as the train station’s future. Given the diversity of its past, however, it should be ready for anything. [Atlas Obscura via Slate]

Images: Flickr/Sabionline; University of Zaragoza