At the time of its completion in 1885, Andrássy Avenue with its sycamore alley, netly arranged villas and elegant tenement houses, separate pathway for riders, and shiny wooden cubic coverage was considered a masterpiece of city planning and building, and to preserve its unique character even public transport was prohibited. But in 1896 the Millenium Celebrations were coming, and mass of people were awaited to pariticipate on the exhibitions and events held in the City Park. At that time there was only one outleading street from the city (Király street), so the idea to build a railroad beneath the Andrássy street arised. This is how the first subway line of the continental Europe was opened on 2nd May 1896. Some says, actually this underground is the first metro of the world, though London’s subway was opened in 1859, but while the cars of London’s underground was driven by steam, here in Budapest the Siemens company installed electrical locomotives.
The Millenium Underground was built only in 21 monthes. As builidng a metro by boring still was not a known technology, the surface of the Andrássy street was opened, the tracks and stations were completely built, the cars of the subway were placed on the tracks by cranes, and the avenue was reburied. The distance between the surface of the Andrassy street and the ceiling of the tunnels is only 40 cm. The newly opened underground was able to carry as many as 35,000 people a day (today, about 100,000 people travel on it on a workday), and the cars – just like today – followed each other in a rigorous 4 min – 400 m – distance. The first cars were made from wood, and were divided in three parts: in the left cabin, where smoking was allowed travelled gentlemen, in the middle, where take-ons and take-offs happened there was a place for anyone, and the right cabin was reserved for ladies. Tickets were sold on the stations in the same tiny wooden cabins just like today. At the beginning evenso there were transitional balks too, as the tickets were considered to be valid only from the stop, they were bought, and only for the next train! The operational company of the subway issued some free ticket for the workers of some govermental offices as well, but the metropolitan police of Budapest was not included! Indignant officers blamed the underground’s corporation to assist the quick escape of the criminals, and the whole matter headed in a juicy action at law. As a result, the police corps got 20 free rides in every year up to the WWI.
Originally the operational permission was issued for 90 years, but the cute yellow cars serves the citizens of Budapest punctually and without stopping since the openening more, than 120 years before. The Millenium Underground of Budapest originally went only up tu Zoopark, and from the Heroe’s Square on the surface. When the line was extended in 1974, all stations were placed under the earth.
At Deák Square a tiny museum commemorates the continent’s first metroline. In the museum’s entrance hall, visitors can see the original inscription „Gizella tér” of the downtown terminus (genuine Zsolnay glazed tile coverage). One of the specialities of the museum is a marble plate, which recounts that Franz Joseph, visiting Budapest on the occasion of the MillennialCcelebrations, travelled by the underground railway with his accompaniment on 8th May 1896 in a decorated royal car, and „permitted most graciously” the underground railway to be named after him. The exhibition displays three carriages of the underground railway: those with track numbers 19, 1 and 81. The vehicles on show were lifted in 1975 with a crane through the open ceiling on the tracks. In the array of showcases opposite the carriages, relics, original documents (plans, maps, building reports etc.), photographs and models represent the history of the underground railway.