Realp - Furka
Report about the journey Realp - Tiefenbach - Furka
The journey with the Furka Steam Railway (DFB) begins at the edge of the village Realp, in a mountain valley near the St. Gotthard pass, a few kilometres beyond the winter sport resort Andermatt. The DFB Steam Train boarding station is located adjacent to the Matterhorn-Gotthard Railway station (MGB) at 1546m above sea level. A parking area for the guests arriving by car or bus is situated near the DFB-Station. You can go on board of the steam train using the platform (adapted for wheel chairs) either on the open observation coaches or the nostalgic coaches. Once one of the 80years old but refurbished steam locomotive is coupled, the adventure journey to the Furka and Gletsch can start.
The upward journey starts
The engine driver let's the steam flow into the cylinder and slowly the train starts to run. The railway line follows now the river bed of the young Furka Reuss. At the left hand side you can see the entrance of the Furka base tunnel of the MGB, in operation since 1982 with a length of 15,44km. At your right we pass now the site of the DFB workshops, built in 1990 and extended in 2015. Here most of our vehicles are maintained. The track with a moderate gradient follows now the river Furkareuss. Along a first rock wall we can see at the left the side river Witenwasseren-Reuss, coming from the Bianco ice and snow covered massif.
The driver reduces the train speed to approximately 10km/h to allow the cog wheels of the locomotive and the coaches to snap into the now beginning Abt rack with a metallic hitting sound. With this more than 100years old technics, the train now runs upwards with a gradient of 1 to 9. We cross now the Reuss on the Wiler bridge, rebuilt in steel structure after the collapse in 1955. The train follows now the right side of the valley along a steep slope.
Tunnels and bridges
The valley gets now narrower and the track gets winds up in a constant gradient through barren cliffs. Various afforestations should reduce erosion and so protect the steam trains from mudflows.
The stoker throws continuousely coal into the firebox and we come closer to the three Alt-Senntumstafel-tunnels. The locomotive should now produce little amount of steam only so that the guests are not too much bothered by it when crossing the three tunnels. The puffing noise of the locomotive sound from the tunnel walls and the steam envelops the train. In the meantime, the train has climbed up at a level of nearly 1800m and the stony bed of the river Furka Reuss down in the valley can be admired.
The valley gets wider again. Look at the appearing mountain peaks but concentrate now to the most important construction on the canton Uri side of the pass, the famous Steffenbach bridge. The train composition crosses now this unique bridge, 36m above the creek. The special construction of the bride allows a dismantling in three pieces during wintertime, so that it is protected against the avalanches.
While down in the Urserental near Realp the warm summer sun could already be felt, here at 1800m a.s.l. spring has just arrived. Here the last snow fields are finally melted until July and the first flowers sprout. In August, the alpine roses can be admired in an intensive red. The summer is limited in the high alps to about two months, during which a magical flora and numerous cows and cattle on the pastures do excite the passengers.
Crossing station Tiefenbach
The railway line now reaches "Kalt Hersbrig", where the train leaves the rack on the flat section. Here the train stops at the station of Tiefenbach at (1849 a.s.l.). Not far from the station you can see the water intake for feeding the Göscheneralp reservoir, located in the neighbouring valley. Of the station building you can only see the front facade, as it is gut into the rock, to protect it against the avalanches coming down every winter.
After a short stop used to fill up water a shrill whistle of the locomotive annouces the departure. Immediately after the last switch the rack starts again to allow the steam train to climb the 1 to 9 gradient up to the Furka.
The Furkareuss now has more water and it can get very wild, depending on the season and rainfall. On your right you can see a new path parallel to the railway line. This path is used in summer by the herdsman on the Steinstafel Alp, to allow him to transport the milk of his animals down to the cheese making house.
The railway line leads now over several curves through the sliding slope "Bärentritt" which is fixed by wooden barricades. On the right hand slope the Tiefenbach creek brings its spray down to the valley. High up is the settlement Tiefenbach with a hotel along the Furka Pass road. Near the left hand side close to the track you can see a stable near a rock. Behind it the house of the alpine herds family. Mostly the children rejoice to the train and swing their handkerchiefs.
An interesting event for the passengers is now the Steinstafel viaduct we cross. This viaduct has 5 natural stone arches over the Furka-Reuss river. The line now follows the hill on the left hand side, climbing up to the Furka vertex tunnel. We cross several creeks, where the most important bridge is the Sidelenbach bridge, where the pastures of the Sidelenbach group starts. We are now at 1950m asl. The train still climbs up panting and snorting. The locomotive reaches the Blauberg Mountain where you can still see some snow fields which may not melt until the next winter is coming about in October.
The cows with their bells and the cattle look curiously to our hissing composition. Once we have passed them they turn again to their grass of the alpine meadows. .
Crossing station Furka
After a varied run of about 50 minutes the train leaves again the rack rail for entering the Furka station (2163m). Until the end of the running season in 1999, the DFB steam train ended here. The station building, again built into the mountain, contains the service rooms for the new safety installation.(block system for the tunnel). There are also toilets and a small homely restaurant for hikers and friends of the rail, who can refresh during the train stop.
The steam locomotive cannot take a rest as it must be turned on the newly restored turntable for the descent run to Gletsch. With regard to the water level in the boiler, it is usual to run down with the cab in front.
If it is good weather, nature lovers can observe the summit of the little Furkahorn and the Muttenhorn. Far away they can see some pieks of the Oberalp region.