Railway Heritage in Hungary

A recent visit to Hungary meant I was able to take a look at some of the countries railway heritage. There is a lot on offer, and sadly some of it I didn’t have time to see and some of it was closed due to the time of year – November & December.

There’s several museums in and around the capital, Budapest, and the state railway operator, MAV operates its own heritage department, with regular excusion trains and fine dining trips, both steam and diesel hauled, many of which depart from Budapest’s main stations, Nyugati and Keleti. This one was the Candlelight Express train running on Martin’s Day (11th November) from Nyugati Station.

There’s a large railway museum in Budapest, that claims it’s Europes’s largest. I didn’t check the stats, but it’s certainly comparable in area to Didcot Railway Centre, with a similar sort of layout. Although there were no standard guage locos running the weekend I visited – it was the last opening day of the year, and Santa was there instead. The extensive miniature railway was running though, with both steam & diesel locos in operation. They have a huge collection of locos and rolling stock, and other smaller items not usually seen, such as a display of permanent way equipment. Well worth visiting if you are in Budapest.

There’s also a smaller museum in Budapest I didn’t get chance to visit, the Budapest Metro Museum. The metro network there is the world’s second oldest after London, and, although a lot smaller than Londons, still has some nice architecture on line 1, with plenty of original features still in evidence. The metro museum is adjacent to Deák tér, metro station.

A short ride out of Budapest on line 5 of the somewhat run down suburban network – the HEV – takes you to the popular and quaint town of Szentendre, which hosts the Urban Public Transport Museum. Sadly, this one was closed for the winter season, though I managed to get a couple of photos over the fence (This was the only time of year I could do an extended Interrail trip and had to accept that some things would be closed for the winter). Even in December this little picturesque town was quite busy, you may recognise it from the quite well know photos of the multicolour umberellas hanging over the street. It also hosts a Retro Museum (which was open) which is a small building crammed with a very eclectic mix of mostly 1970’s eastern bloc household goods, and a yard full of some of their more infamous cars.
If visiting Szentendre, there’s a large (Non railway!) museum on the way, at Aquincum, which was a large city in the Roman Empire. You can see a restored section of aqueduct from the train.

Also in Budapest, but very much a working railway, is the Budapest Castle Funicular. Opened in 1870, destroyed in WWII and left derelict until it was restored and reopened in 1986

Heading further out of Budapest there are several heritage lines around Hungary. There’s also various locomotives stored, and on static display. There’s a useful list at the Steam Locomotive.info pages – although many of the entries haven’t been updated for years. If you find any of the locos it’s good to give them updates.
The working heritage lines are all narrow gauge (that I’m aware of) and many are in the north of the country, and were former forestry railways. There is still a narrow gauge line in the south, operated by MAV, the state owned railway company, alongside Lake Balatonfenyves, you can see more details of it and their other scenic lines here.

For more information on the numerous narrow gauge railways around Hungary there’s a wikipedia page and a somewhat dated list at Narrowrail.net.

There’s still quite a few abandoned locomotives around in Hungary, the most well known are at a depot in Budapest, known as the “Red Star Train Graveyard” due to the red star on one smokebox door. There are a few other locos dotted around Hungary, more info can be found on steamlocomotives.info, but bear in mind that some of the entries haven’t been updated for years.

One narrow gauge line that has little heritage, having been built in 2017, but caused some controversy when Viktor Orban was accused of misusing EU funds to build it is the Val Valley Light Railway. It runs between two villages associated with his childhood, Alcsútdoboz, where his father owns a villa, and at the other end, Felcsút, population 1,700 where he built a 3500 seater football stadium.

If you’re thinking of visiting Hungary, check out the accomodation available at Booking.com. This affiliate link gives me a small commission that helps to pay for the upkeep of this site and doesn’t cost you any extra.

When the left luggage point at the station isn’t convenient I use Radical Storage. The network of shops and other outlets worldwide keeps your bag safe and it’s all managed through the app. So if you arrive in a city with no local currency and the station lockers don’t take card payments, Radical Storage will work. This is an affiliate link that earns me a small commission when you join.

Thanks for reading. Check out my other posts on travel, heritage railways and more.
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