The International Steam Pages


Steam on the Budapest Children's Railway 2019

James Waite went to Budapest in 2006 at a time when there was no active steam on the Children's Railway. Elsewhere you can read about the city's two railway curiosities, a funicular and a rack railway.

The railway's website is https://www.gyermekvasut.hu and as of June 2019 it had an English version (said to be under construction) - https://www.gyermekvasut.hu/english_eng/.

If you fancy a visit then please consult the railway's timetable, the URl was https://www.gyermekvasut.hu/menetrend-2/ in 2019, which showed there would be no steam after the month of June.


Here are some photographs from the Budapest Children's Railway for the weekend of 15th and 16th June. It's a most interesting 760mm gauge railway, not only because all the staff (other than the locomotive crew) are children aged between 10 and 14 but also because riding on the line is a very popular activity for the people of Budapest. It has always been run by MAV.

The railway starts at the north western end of one of the city's main tramway routes at a place called Huvosvolgy and climbs through the forests of the Buda hills, on the western outskirts of the city, for most of its 11.7km length in a generally southern direction. Only for the last 2km does it enter the city's suburbs - otherwise it runs through a national park from which cars and buses are prohibited - so it provides the only means of access to what has become a much-visited recreational area away from the heat of the city during the summer. It usually carries about 350,000 people every year. The southern section, from Szechenyihegy, opened on 31st July 1948 and the final stretch to Huvosvolgy on 19th August 1949 so it's now 70 years old. The main shed and workshops have always been at Huvosvolgy. In addition to the tram connection at Huvosvolgy there's a standard gauge rack railway, operated as part of the tram system, which connects with it at Szechenyihegy. Other than these the only road which crosses the national park provides access to Szepjuhaszne station, a fair distance along the line and close to our hotel.

The first section was worked initially by two railcars built by Ganz in 1929, peculiar-looking vehicles with radiators mounted above the roof-line. They were borrowed from a forestry railway at Lillafured in north-eastern Hungary and later returned there. In 1949 three of the MAV 490 class were converted to oil firing and sent to the railway including 490,039 (Bp 5260/1942), the working locomotive in these photogrpahs. The oil firing wasn't successful and in 1950 the locomotives were moved away and converted back to coal firing. No 490,039 went first to Bekescsaba (why do the Hungarians have such unspellable names?!) and then to an agricultural/mining railway at Szob. It was withdrawn in the early 1970's and arrived at Huvosvolgy as a plinthed locomotive in 1973 to celebrate the line's 25th anniversary. From the early 1950's it was worked by a series of railcars, none of which have survived. Five of the standard MAV Raba-built Mk48 locomotives arrived in 1961 but were unsuccessful and had all been transferred away by the following year, probably because the line's steep gradients and sharp curves were too much for them. From 1963 seven Raba-built Mk49 diesels arrived, more powerful locomotives. Three of them remained in service until 1973 when six considerably larger Romanian-built L45H locomotives (classed as the Mk45's in Hungary) arrived. All six are still in service. No Mk49,2006, was plinthed at Szechenyihegy in 1974 and remained there for about 30 years before being taken into the workshops at Huvosvolgy. This seems to be a very lengthy process and 15 years later is far from being finished.

In about 1988 the last surviving Lillafured railcar returned as a heritage vehicle. By then the Lillafured line's forestry operations were over but it had become a popular tourist railway and this was part of a swap with MAV which also included four old carriages. Two of them now form the heritage train and are painted in the old Lillafured white and blue colour scheme. In exchange MAV provided some Mk45's and some more modern coaches which were better suited to the heavy traffic there.

The line was without any steam locomotives for 50 years from 1950 until no 490,056 (Bp 5848/1950) arrived as a working heritage locomotive. No 490,039 was restored to working order between 2004 and 2007 in time to celebrate the line's 60th anniversary. The two locomotives have worked intermittently since then. When I asked in 2015 and again in 2017 neither was in working order but no 490,039 is now back in action. Our visit saw its last advertised working for the time being. I don't know whether this is because of fire risk in the summer or some other problem. There were two steam runs each day. Chasing is probably impossible because of the lack of roads. There are so many regular diesel trains (sometimes one every 20 minutes) that it would be quite feasible to ride on them to a photo spot and move on later but of course you'd need to know first where the photo spots are and as the line runs continuously through forest there aren't that many opportunities for views away from the trees. We rode on the morning train and then drove to Szepjuhaszne station and walked on paths through the forest to reach spots for the afternoon one. Fortunately there's a good 1:25,000 scale map of the district which marks the forest paths accurately.

The first 490 class locomotive was built in 1905 and production continued until 1950 by which time 142 had been built. There was a lull in production after the Treaty of Trianon in 1920 under which Hungary lost more than 70% of its territory and almost all its state-owned narrow gauge lines. The design was reworked in 1942 at a time when the country had regained some of the 1920 losses, the redesign including Walschaerts valve gear and steel fireboxes. No 490,039 is one of 20 built to this new design in 1942. It's the oldest surviving 490 in the country though some of the earlier design survive in Romania including one at Viseu de Sus. Twenty more were built for Yugoslavia in 1948. A final batch of thirty were built in 1949 and 1950 for export to several eastern European countries but the final ten, intended for Yugoslavia, stayed in Hungary after Tito fell out with Stalin. They included more modifications including welded tanks and larger bunkers. Eight of them became MAV no's 490,054-061 including 490,056 at Huvosvolgy. This locomotive also ran at Szob in regular service and later at the Lake Balaton line as a heritage locomotive before arriving at Huvosvolgy.


The first set of pictures show 490,039 at work through the day:


490,056

Coach Bk 357 was built in 1905 so is much older than the railway!  

Romanian built Mk45 diesels

Raba-built Mk49 diesel

Original Ganz 1929 railcar

Coach interior


Rob Dickinson

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