Pioneers’ Railway

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The Szechenyi Hill Children’s Railway

The 760 mm gauge Szechenyi Hill Children’s Railway in Budapest is 60 years old this year and is organising a number of events to mark the anniversary from 17 May until 3 August 2008. On June 7, former and current operators of the railway will serve duty together. On June 23, the Night of Museums, the railway will stay open until midnight. Between July 31 and August 3, a train made up of vintage rolling stock will be in operation every day.

The Children’s Railway was built between 1948 and 1950 connecting Huvosvolgy (Cool Valley) and Szechenyi Hill. At that time, and indeed until 1990, it bore the name Pioneers’ Railway. The Pioneers was the only children’s organisation permitted in the Communist era.

Although the railway is often called ‘the greatest childeren’s toy of the world, the youngsters don’t get to drive the trains. Apart from that, children operate the switches and signals, print tickets and keep passengers informed. They are supervised by adults and the line is operated according to regulations of the State Railways of Hungary (MAV Rt).

Railways are conservative and the Children’s Railway is no exception. The regulations relating to fares are as still complex and unintelligible as they were in Soviet times. The following extract gives a flavour.

Budapest Card
The holder of the valid Budapest Card and his companion aged between six and fourteen can travel along the entire line of the Children’s Railway using section tickets instead of line tickets. The holder of the card is eligible to an adult section ticket, his companion to a children’s section ticket.

The Children’s Railway is a point of acceptance of Budapest Cards but they cannot be bought there.

Validity of tickets
The journey must be completed on the day of issue. The journey must be started at the station where the ticket was issued. Return tickets are valid to the terminal station on the returning leg of the journey.

Suspending the journey and travelling on
The journey cannot be suspended and continued using the same ticket. Family daily tickets excepted. Other types of tickets lose their validity upon the suspension of the journey. Therefore a new ticket must be bought in case of travelling on.

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Still, its ticket regulations notwithstanding, the Children’s Railway has survived the transformation of The Hungarian economy and has become a major tourist attraction in its own right. We recommend paying a visit.

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One Response to “Pioneers’ Railway”

  1. Robert Hall Says:

    Belated comment here (have only recently discovered BTWT). I would dearly like to visit Hungary and experience first-hand, the Szechenyi Hill Children’s Railway. To the best of my knowledge, this undertaking was the subject of the first item of information about railways in Eastern Europe, that ever came my way: in the late 1950s, when I was aged eight or nine — an article about the line, in a then-contemporary issue of Britain’s “Railway Magazine”.

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