Budapest Children’s Railway: A Cheerful Blink From The Pioneer Past

Budapest Children’s Railway is not only an ideal program for those who come to Budapest with little kids, or who simply fell in love in (and with) Budapest and want to see the gentle green forest, the panorama, the old nostalgia trains, and to spend a nice sunny day away from the hustle and bustle. It is also a great historical tour: going through 50 years of the pioneer history in the adjoining Children’ Railway Museum.

Budapest Childrens Railway at Normafa stop in summer

Opening hours:
May-August every day from 9am to 7pm
September-April: (except for Mondays) every day. from 9am to 5pm
Phone: 00-36-1-397 5392
Prices:

  • Adults: one-way ticket for a few stops 450 HUF, full line ticket 600 HUF (return 1200 HUF)
  • Children (6-14): one-way ticket for a few stops 250 HUF, full line ticket 300 HUF (return 600 HUF). Kids under 6 travel free. Budapest card enables you & a kid to buy full line tickets at the price of a ticket for a few stops.
  • Pets (with lead and muzzle): 100 HUF
  • Family daily ticket: HUF 3000

Pioneer working at Budapest Childrens Railway

Getting here: the Children’s Railway is in the Buda hills (the hilly Buda side of Budapest), so don’t expect a central location. It’s about 35-50 minutes by public transportation from the city center. First go to Moszkva tér (red line metro), take a tram (choose either from 18, 56 or 59 – people speak English, so ask them where the stop is) and get off at the 2nd stop called Fogaskereku Vasut (Cogwheel Railway). Hop on the Cogwheel Railway and lean back until the terminal. You are at Szechenyi-hegy (Szechenyi hill), walk a few steps, and you are at one end of the Children’s Railway line. You can take a return tour if you are only here for the railroad ride.

But if you want to walk or get to know another part of Budapest, buy only a one-way ticket, get off at the terminal called Hűvösvölgy (‘Cool Valley’) and take the trams (again, choose either from 18 or 56) for about 13 stop to get back to Moszkva tér. Or get off at János hegy, check out the highest point of the Buda hills at the lookout tower called Erzsébet kilátó, and then take the Chairlift downwards. Number 158 bus takes you back to Moszkva tér again.

I would recommend another third way to get to the Children’s Railway from Moszkva tér though, which won’t take you to the terminal, but to the 1st stop called Normafa. Take buses 21 or 90 (about 16 stops or 20 minutes), get off at Normafa, try the freshly made strudel with mulled wine at the strudel vendor, or the goulash in the ski house (both great and highly popular in winter), or some more exquisite courses at the Normafa Cafe and Grill, which has a lovely, family-friendly summer terrace (open from 12 to 24). At Normafa stop, don’t expect a building for the Children’s Railway, it is a stop, wait, get on, and get your ticket from one of the children railway guys.

Location of Children’s Railway (map icon: blue train) on the Budapest Tourist Map. If you are specifically interested in other ex-communist traces in Hungary, check out the red flames icons for more tips.


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FAQ of Budapest Children’s Railway
Is it true that the trains are operated by kids?
Yes, it is. Children aged 10 to 14 years of age control the traffic, operate railroad switches & signals, sell and validate tickets, etc. under the supervision of adults (many times former kid employees of the Children’s Railway). The train/ engine itself is driven by an experienced adult. However, the railway is not a children’s toy train – all services and operations are in line with the regulations of any other railway line of the Hungarian State Railways (MÁV).
How long is the ride?
Length: 11 km/ 6.8 miles. Duration: about 40 minutes (full length from Szechenyi hegy to Huvosvolgy)
Is there any good Budapest panoramic view?
Sure, just by getting on top of the hill, you’ll surely have some nice photos of the beautiful view. Plus, on the train, you can get an exceptionally good glimpse of Budapest from a height of 323 meter/ 0.2 miles between Szepjuhaszne and Harshegy stops. Further places: Szechenyi Memorial Lookout, Erzsébet Lookout (527 m/ 0.3 miles).
Are there any special programs at the Children’s Railway?
Yes, there are. Quite a lot of them, from spring to fall. March 15 sees hundreds of people participating in a 6-hour tour from the foot to the top of the hill: the route touches upon the major spots of the Children’s Railway and some other memorable places in the neighborhood. The tour is about 6 km in length, starting from Széchenyi hegy leading to Hűvösvölgy. Join the tour for a nominal fee, get your map and off you go. Spots are to be ticked off in order and you can expect warm lunch at the end of the tour (included in the price). :) April 12: the day of the Children’s Railway. May 25 is Children’s Day celebrated at the Children’s Railway. June 14 Graduation ceremony for new children’s rail staff, June 23 Museum Night, July 31- Aug 03 (in 2008): 60 year old birthday of the Children’s Railway, Aug 20: the firework tour on August 20 (a Hungarian national public holiday, the celebration of bread, the Hungarian state and the first king), Aug 24 Farewell party of young children’s railway professionals, Sept 13 Nostalgia Day.

Check out this great video on Budapest Children’s Railway (yes, kids still salute the train and travelers):

History of Budapest Children’s Railway

The idea of the Children’s Railway in Budapest came only two years after the end of WW2, in 1947, and in a year (strictly in line with the expectations of the government) in 1948 the first 3 km of the railway was completed, the first couple of boys and girls aged 12-14 took part in a six-week course and started to operate the Children’s Railway (in the beginning it was called either children’s or pioneer railway). Mind you, some people were quite unhappy about the Children’s railway. There were opponents: those who doubted that kids could possibly run such a serious institution, and those who wanted to allocate resources to re-build the country elsewhere.

The Children’s Railway was modeled after the pioneer railways in the Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia. The aim was not simply a railway for and by kids, but the establishment of a tightly-knit children’s community. Needless to say, the plot for the Children’s Railway (as well as the neighboring pioneer mega-camp, also called Pioneer Republic in Csillebérc, Budapest, also build at that time) was a free gift from the Budapest municipality. By 1949, the second, more challenging part of the Children’s Railway was given over. There was special attention paid to the design: panoramic view and a tunnel were default, so they added a fancy tunnel of 198 m length to make the railway trip more interesting. The first elevator in Hungary was also built here, for the Children’s Railway. In 1956, during the Hungarian revolution against the Soviet dictatorship and occupation, the railway stopped working: but people saw the railway more for kids and families than as the emblem of autocracy, so there was no damaged caused. As the communist regime forgot to notify the Pioneer Railway management that the railway services should be resumed, the director sat down with the kids and decided to resume normal services at their own responsibility. Strangely enough, nobody made a big fuss about it. From the 1950s to the 1970s about 6-700,000 people used it per year (these days it’s about 300,000). It was extremely popular and it was a great pride to be a pioneer railway girl/boy.

After the change of regime in 1989, the Children’s Railway way reconstructed, and modernized. The communist red star emblems disappeared from the trains, the red scarves of the pioneers were replaced with blue ones, and the Children’s Railway pioneers stopped greeting each other with the traditional pioneer greeting ‘Előre’ (which means approx. “Forward!”). Instead, they just used the normal Hungarian greetings in accordance with the daily hours. Another big change was making the Pioneer Railway Museum public (earlier it was restricted to special guests).

Photos and info from the official Children’s Railway site.

Comments

  1. Paul Warren says:

    I was on holiday this year in BudaPest, and someone sang us some old communist-era songs related to the children’s railway. I think there was one about a little red squirrel; and another one about (I think) Csilleberc … could you tell me more, or give me a link where I could download the songs? Or are they (strictly) banned nowadays?

    thanks
    Paul W

  2. Hi Paul,
    the Hungarian pioneer song you are looking for is here with video and lyrics: http://budapestpebbles.topbudapest.org/pioneer-song-from-hungary-like-a-squirrel-mint-a-mokus/

    The other song is called Csillebérc, I guess, this was also a big hit, but I can only find the lyrics now:
    http://www.zeneszoveg.hu/dalszoveg/45013/best-of-communism/csilleberc-zeneszoveg.html

    Maybe one day I will sing, or you could try one of the file sharing sites torrent/best-of-communism

    Anna
    TopBudapest.org

  3. Hi could you tell me what is worth to see in Budapest in one day – we are going for a day trip from Bratislava. No children.
    Can you goto see the castle, is it open for public?

  4. I don’t drop many responses, but i did some searching and wound
    up here Budapest Children

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