I am a very fortunate fellow. My wife Olive not only shares my passion for football – we were both at Wembley cheering the Seasiders into the Premiership, she is also stirred by the sight and smell of a steam locomotive at speed.
For our 60th birthdays we decided we would treat ourselves to two very special holidays. For Ollie a two-week cruise (courtesy of her Pru pension fund) around the Mediterranean was a holiday she had always dreamed of and the glorious weather meant we cruised in style.
My shopping list comprised the Swiss Transport Museum in Lucerne, the SNCF Museum in Mulhouse and the MAV museum in Budapest. After browsing the web for a few days we discovered there was more to Budapest than Vasuttorteneti Railway Park, so we decided on Budapest. The array of riverside bars and restaurants helping Ollie concur with my decision.
So in the first week of October we flew to Budapest, via Heathrow. We had travelled south to see the family on route. (A mental note – do not fly from Heathrow again. We are not a pretty site stripped half naked for the security searches, but nether were many of the other passengers!)
At Ferihegy airport we purchased our Budapest travel cards and boarded the service bus to Kobanya-Kispest metro station. The narrow passageways and the market stalls reminded us of India before we boarded a venerable and very Eastern European metro train on the M5 line direct to our Ibis hotel, which was right on top of Dozsa Gyorgy metro station.
A quick wash and brush up and back on the metro to Nyugati main line station for lunch. The First Class restaurant is now a MacDonald’s, so we chose a snack in the cafe on the station concourse – reminded us of the Blue Train restaurant at the Gare de Lyon in Paris. We meandered down to the Danube taking in all the attractions on route before enjoying the unseasonal warmth and taking in a glass (or two) of beer and wine at a riverside bar. Felt like home at Blackpool with the trams rattling past every few minutes!
The following morning we took the trolleybus to Heroes Square and wandered through Varosliget Park, passed Vajdahunyad Castle, to the Kozlekedesi Transport museum. A cosmetically restored 2-10-0 adorned the entrance in a structure which also included an old bi-plane.
The following morning we took the trolleybus to Heroes Square and wandered through Varosliget Park, passed Vajdahunyad Castle, to the Kozlekedesi Transport museum.
A cosmetically restored 2-10-0 adorned the entrance in a structure which also included an old bi-plane. Also outside of the museum we came across an old steam shunting loco and a wonderful cafe, once was an Orient Express carriage. Looked very promising, but on entering the museum we told very brusquely ‘ no photos’ and my camera bag ands my wife’s handbag were immediately placed into a locker. I had to fight to keep hold of my notebook and pen! Inside, the collection of old steam locos, cars, bikes, photos and artefacts was fabulous. On leaving we were told by a Dutch visitor that you can take photos but you have to buy a ‘permit’, but the English signage did not make this obvious. Nevertheless, it was well worth the visit.
The following day we scheduled a visit to the MEV (suburban) museum at Szentendre. After a short journey on the metro we boarded a very modern EMU for the very attractive half hour journey alongside the
As we pulled into Szentendre station we could see the old depot, which dates back to 1914. The entrance was like going into a private house but the two ladies on reception were very friendly, even though they could not speak English. The museum comprises 5 exhibition rooms, two displays halls, plus the outside sidings and was opened in 1992.
The exhibits include a trolleybus, over 20 preserved trams, including a steam tram, some of which are operated on public holidays. Displayed in the exterior yard was a collection of steam, diesel and electric locomotives which operated the suburban services before the current fleet of EMUs. The old ladies in reception periodically checked on our well-being as we were the only visitors for most of the time we were there. They could see we really enjoyed our visit and as we left gave us a number of magazines on the current HEV operation. After a visit to the Marzipan Museum and a glass of wine in the old village square, we headed back to Budapest. In many cities this museum would be the star attraction, but this was only to be the hors d’oeuvre…..
On the Thursday we crossed over to the Buda side of the city riding the 1870 funicular up to Buda castle. After taking in the stunning views across the Danube, Ollie was serenaded (not by me!) in the cafe in the ramparts, before riding the quaint M1 metro back to Heroes Square.
Next day – my big Six 0! On arrival at Nyugati Station the vintage diesel railcar shuttle was already indicated on the departure board. The rail fare and the museum entrance fee was included in our Budapest travel card.
The railcar ran along the main line for several miles before turning off alongside a marshalling yard and then on to the tracks of what used to be the Hungarian State Railways (MAV) Budapest North Depot. The 34-bay roundhouse of this huge depot, built in 1911, has remained intact and is the focal point of the museum which opened in 2000.
Our visit was towards the end of the season and again we were the only visitors apart from an Hungarian family who were treating their father, a retired railway worker, to a special day out on his birthday. We wandered passed the display sidings, but they would have to wait until we had been to the roundhouse at the far side of the shed. On passing the cafe, the chef advised us in sign language he would cook lunch for us at anytime. And then – a sight that took my breath away. In front of us was a line up of 17 steam locos in the roundhouse, all in date order and all beautifully preserved. There were very early locos through to the large suburban tanks at the end of steam era and five express locos in full working order. The loading gauge is much bigger than British railways and the size of these giants basking in the sunshine took my breath away.
After photographing the line-up, the sun unfortunately was behind most of the locos, we studied each one in turn with the help of the Hungarian/English information boards. Many you could climb aboard. Inside the roundhouse were carriages undergoing restoration and few diesel locomotives. The demonstration sidings were quiet except for a diesel preparing the stock for the steam special at the coming week-end. The celebrity steam loco 109.109 came into view also being washed, oiled and coaled for the week-end special.
I did not want to turn away from this nostalgia, but my stomach said I should. We then ambled through the display sidings which also contained many gems: a fully restored rotary steam plough, a pre-war stream-lined DMU, a 1912 teak dining car for the Orient Express, as well as many interesting early diesel and electric locomotives. Finally, on our last day in Budapest we dined in the ‘Baross Terem’ the first class international restaurant at Keleti station. Resplendent with its oak panelling , four Corinthian columns, 120 year old ‘Clock Cupboard’ and the white grand piano centre stage this was dining in style from a bygone era, but at the price of a pavement cafe. A glorious end to a glorious holiday
Vasuttorteneti Park – www.mavnosztalgia.hu
Szentendre Transport Museum – www.bkv.hu/english/muzeum/szentendre
Kozlekedesi Transport Museum – www.km.iif.hu