Furka Cogwheel Steam RailwayThe Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway
The Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway (Dampfbahn Furka-Bergstrecke, DFB in German) is a largely volunteer operated heritage railway which operates a partially rack and pinion-operated line across the Furka Pass, between Realp in Uri and Oberwald in Valais. Culminating at 2,160 metres above sea level, it is an old mountainous section of the Furka-Oberalp-Bahn (FO) that was abandoned after the construction of the Furka Tunnel.
It has been gradually brought back into service by the Verein Furka-Bergstrecke with the use of only steam locomotives, with the entire line completed in 2010.
The Furka Railway is the second highest rail crossing in Europe, after the Bernina Railway. The Uri side of the line also constitutes the highest railway in Central Switzerland.
The section of line was always a severe operational difficulty for the FO as its high altitude rendered it impassable due to snow and ice for much of the winter season, hence it being abandoned and a tunnel constructed.
This has remained a headache for the DFB, as every year it must be closed down and then reopened, an expensive process which involves the removal and replacement of a specially folding transportable bridge that would otherwise be damaged by the snow every year.
The rebuilding of the line has also not been without new difficulties. Requiring to cross a busy main road on a rack operated section, the rack over the road is retractable, actuated to raise at the same time as the level crossing barriers by radios fitted to the line's locomotives.
Another section, running through a forested nature reserve, has had to be fitted with a sprinkler system that operates before and after trains pass, again actuated by the radios aboard. Relays allow the system to cascade up or down the section in line with the train, to save water which is supplied by natural water supplies near the summit of the line.
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Current and Future Plans
The organisation is currently restoring 2 HG 4/4 "D" Steam Locomotives. These 0-8-0 locos were built in Switzerland for use in Vietnam, and were repatriated along with locomotives from the Furka-Oberalp-Bahn that had been exported to Vietnam after their use in Switzerland.
The organisation is currently endeavouring to raise approximately Swiss Fr. 1,700,000, or 1,200,000 Euro or 1,200,000 US Dollars for the work required. The test runs of one of the locomotives are planned for 2013, to assess their suitability for the Furka line. The cost of a new firebox, one of the components the HG 4/4s require, is about Swiss Fr. 110,000, or 80,000 Euro.
Another current project is the restoration of a steam-powered rotary snowplough to deal with the heavy snowfall that needs to be cleared from the route before services can commence each year. This may provide a lucrative opportunity as photographers and film-makers from across Europe and the world will be keen to capture such clearances on camera.
The fundraising foundation Stiftung Furka - Bergstrecke (Furka Mountain Line Foundation), which is separate to the operating company, is providing for the reconstruction of the 2 HG 4/4 locomotives and to develop the line's depot at Realp. The foundation provides investment for equipment and construction on the line generally.
The Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Overview
Furka Cogwheel Steam RailwayType: Heavy rail
Furka Cogwheel Steam RailwayStatus: Open
Furka Cogwheel Steam RailwayLocale: Uri / Valais, Switzerland
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Terminal Stations: Realp, Oberwald
Furka Cogwheel Steam RailwayNumber of Stations: 6
Furka Cogwheel Steam RailwayServices: 1
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Website: Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Operation
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Opened: 1925
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Closed: 1981
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Re-opened: 1992
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Owner: Verein Furka-Bergstrecke
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Operator(s): Verein Furka-Bergstrecke
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Character: Heritage railway
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Depot(s): Realp
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Technical
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Line Length: 17.838 km (11.084 mi)
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Track Gauge: 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) metre gauge
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Elevation and Incline
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Highest Elevation: 2,160 m (7,090 ft)
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Maximum Incline: 3.5% (adhesion)
11.8% (rack rail)
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Rack System: Abt
Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway Route Map Legend
0.000 km Realp DFB 1,546m above sea level
Connecting line to MGB
0.150 km Realp Depot
Alt Senntumstafel-Tunnel III80m
Alt Senntumstafel-Tunnel II79m
Alt Senntumstafel-Tunnel I36m
3.660 km Tiefenbach 1,849m above sea level
6.996 km Furka 2,163 m above sea level
Furka Summit Tunnel 1,874 m
Cantonal border Uri/Valais
9.206 km Muttbach-Belvédère 2,120 m above sea level
Muttbach railway crossing
Gletsch 2 railway crossing
12.891 km Gletsch 1,762 m above sea level
Gletsch 1 railway crossing
Line to Furka Base Tunnel
17.838 km Oberwald 1,366m above sea level