A „children’s railway” is actually an extracurricular educational institution, where kids can learn professions connected to the rail. The phenomenon originated in the Soviet Union, and during the communist times was greatly developed in the Soviet Block, as in Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. The world’s first children’s railway was opened in 1932 in Moscow’s Gorky Park, and at the breakup of the USSR, 52 children’s railways existed in the country.
Today the Children’s Railway of Budapest on the Széchenyi Hill is one of the top attractions of the city. Its building was decided in 1947. For the railway construction several sites – like Gödöllő, Népliget, Margaretisland – have been taken into consideration, but finally in 1948 the Hungarian Communist Party has chosen the hills of Buda. The construction started on 11st April 1948. It is almost unbelievable that the first 3,1 km length to stage „Virágvölgy” ( that time „Előre” station) was finished within 66 working days. The first little, red train started from Széchenyi Hill with an opening celebration on 31st July 1948. The whole track was finished on 19th August 1950.
The length of the whole track is 11,2 km and with a 20 km/h speed the trip on it takes 45 minutes. The train passes the most beautiful woodlands of Buda’s hills, while going over even two viaducts, and a 198 m length horseshoe-shaped tunnel, which at the time of building caused considerable troubles to the constructional workers. One of the railways’s top attractions is a turntable.
The colour of the little locomotive and the cars are traditionally red, like the colour of the communists, and their youth organization, the pioneers. Actually at the beginning the name of the rail was Pioneer’s Railway, and was changed to Children’s Railway in 1990. The tasks are the same: to transport passengers and to familiarise interested children with the railway system. The officers, cashiers, pointsman, ticket inspectors and traffic managers are children between 10 and 14, of course – under supervision of adults. During the communist era for those important positions only the most excellent pioneers could be appointed. Communist has gone, but the “the greatest child toy of the world” – for the pleasure of all of us – still whiffing in the hilly outskirt of Buda.