Alpine Research Station Furka (ALPFOR)
The Furka Pass road connects the uppermost Reuss Valley and the Gotthard Pass road (cantone Uri, picture Teufelsbrücke) with the uppermost Rone Valley (Obergoms, Vallais). It is one of the most prominent historical pass roads in the Swiss Alps and reaches 2435 m. Give the steepness of the terrain and the heavy winter snow pack (several meters at the top), the road is closed in winter and commonly opens in May and closes in October.
The pass had been used back to pre-Roman times, the road became a horse-wagon route in the 18th century (picture). During her in cognito visit to Switzerland in 1868, Queen Victoria stayed at Furka Pass, which had aleady a hostel by that time, with only the dependance building left (picture). In her diary, the Queen painted 3 aquarells of the Furka region (pictures), and she reported from talking to cowboys and her visit to the Rhone glacier, which ended near a place called Gletsch at those times.
The road opened to motor cars at the beginning of the 20th century, the time, when the hotel Furkablick (see picture) and the barracks had been constructed (1917), part of which now became ALPFOR. During those early years of pioneer rail roading, the old Furka-tunnel was built, which was abandoned I the 1980s, but was re-opened in 2000? for historical trains as a tourist attraction.
The todays Gotthard-Matterhorn-Bahn uses a modern, lower elevation tunnel, which is also used for shuttling cars from Realp (Uri) to Oberwald (Valais) year round(?), which is particulalry important when the pass road is closed. Because of the strategic position during the 20th century wars (the ‘fortress Switzerland’), the whole region saw a lot of military infrastructure, currently in a process of abandonement.
The road is under permanent improvement, and is open to modern coaches with up to 40 seats and, unfortuntely, became famouse as a motor bikers’ highlight. Tourism is likely to become an even more important economic stronghold for the whole region, since income from military presence and agriculture decline.
During summer, the Furka Pass can also be reached by public transport by a post bus service from Andermatt, Realp or Oberwald (railway stations). The Swiss lowland railway system is connected to this upland region, via trains connecting at Göschenen, near the entrance of the Gotthard rail-tunnel.