The site of today’s museum was built in 1896 as the “Transportation Hall” for the Milleneum Exhibition. Three years later the Royal Hungarian Transport Museum was opened in the same building. Unfortunately in WWII the museum suffered serious damages, – only about one third of the exhibits were spared. The building was restored in a simple style without its ornaments and dome, and reopened in 1966. Due to the small space, most exhibits in the area of railway and shipping are scale models – of course the museum’s collection of 1:5 steam engine models was famous even before the war.
Now, one of the very few hungarian words used in english and other foreign languages is “coach” (Kutsche/coche/etc). It is derived from the name of a Hungarian village, Kocs, where the first comfortable and forward design of carrieges were manufactured in the 15th century. To commemorate this, the museum has a selection of carts, carriages and wains on display. For tram enthusiasts, the most interesting part is quite possibly the ground floor of the new wing, which houses a few old trams.
The highlight of the museum is inevitable „La belle Libelle” – the first Hungarian airplane. The two-cylinder „Libelle” was designed after Bleriot’s monoplane, and was supplied with 18,4 kW (25 HP) Dedics-motor. “Libelle” took off first time in Budapest’s Rákosmező on the 9th of January 1910, but this attempt has failed due to technical problems of the wheels. The second attempt on 10th January was a total success. Though when landing „Libelle” touched the earth in the middle of a little sandhill, while cruising on the sky everything went smooth, and the enthsiastic audience greeted the pilot with enormous applause. This was the first time in the history of aviation, that a Hungarian pilot flew with a plane designed by a Hungarian. „Libelle” made still several successful voyages between 1910 and 1911.
The first flight of Libelle conmemorated by a tablet on the wall of Budapest’s Transport Museum, where a recently completed accurate copy of „Libelle” is put on display. The aircraft, made in 2010 for the 100th anniversary of the original’s first voyage weighs 210 kilogrammes, and is 7.3 metres in length. The wings were made of pine and the trunk (very light) and of a highly durable bamboo, just like the original