A Railway Ran by Kids? The History of The Children’s Railway in Budapest
About four years ago, Devon read an article about Budapest and learned about a railway that was run entirely by children. Since then she has come to Europe quite a few times, but for some reason we never quite made it to Budapest together. This time around, we were determined not to miss it. Budapest is a gorgeous city, and it is very easy to spend a couple of days there just taking in the architecture and good food, but this time, we wanted to take the train.
The Children’s Railway was started in the 1940s as a Soviet project. In fact, there are other railroads run by children in other parts of Europe that had Soviet occupation, like Dresden for instance. Called the “Pioneer” Railway in the beginning, it was a way to start introducing kids to real world jobs, and of course it’s lasted because how fun is working on a train? According to one boy I talked to, he has been working on it for four years; he loves it.
From selling the tickets, to changing the tracks, waving the flags, herding the passengers, and even selling souvenirs, just about every job on the train is done by the students. Of course they are not allowed to drive the train, so the engineer not only drives but he oversees the children and teaches them all about locomotion.
The day we went was on a weekend and it was rather busy. We decided a one-way trip would be enough, so we took the tram to the beginning of the route. On the platform were kids of all ages. There were a few older couples that were there without children, but an all adult party was the exception. Jim and Erika went in search of the tickets, while Devon and I waited on one of the shaded benches watching all the families out for the day with their kids.
The train is well suited for summer travel as the cars are open from about halfway up. The benches are all wooden, so rain wouldn’t bother them either. You could either stand or sit, it was up to you. We enjoyed the winding track through leafy woods, imagining life as a Pioneer Scout during the Soviet times as there were plenty of reminders in the shape of sculptures and signs.
At each station a young person would come out and flag the train into the station, then out again as it left. Most of the stops had things for families to do. There was a park, a ropes course, a picnic area, lots of things. Many families start in the morning and take their time doing the circuit. Kids go home with cotton candy still sticking to their lips or boiled corn stuck in between their teeth, but with huge smiles on their face.
We had huge smiles, too, as we watched how much the kids who worked there enjoyed their tasks. When we were done, we took the tram back down to the center of the city where we had much more to explore.
Take the 56, 56A, 59B, or 61 tram or the 61 bus to Hűvösvölgy stop then ride the children’s railway to Széchenyi-hegy, Gyermekvasút where you can take the 60 tram back into town.
Have you been to Budapest? Would you like to ride on the Children’s Railway?
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