The History of the Hungarian Railway
The history of the Hungarian railway – exclusive of the time spent on foundation, planning and building – began with the opening of the Pest-Vác railway line, cheered by contemporary press, on the 15th of July 1846. On the afternoon of the big day, all of the locomotives were in operation. From Pest ‘Buda’ and ‘Pest’, from Vác ‘Hungária’ and Pannonia’ hauled the bogie passenger carriages.
The building in Vác, which is in front of the main building of the current railway station, is still in perfect condition and it is one of the centres of track maintenance. The building in Pest, which later became the Western Railway Station, was soon extended by a railway terminal. This was carried out in a way that first, the glass roof designed by Gustave Eiffel was built around the old building, and then the old building was demolished. This way, the railway traffic was almost unobstructed during the construction.
This railway was not MÁV (Hungarian State Railways) yet, but it was the private railway operating under the name of MKV (Magyar Középponti Vasút - Hungarian Central Railway). In December 1849, the government and the Hungarian Holy Crown were fled from the Austrians on the formerly built MKV railway to Szolnok. During the revolution and the war of independence, the railway had a major role. Subsequently, many of the revolutionaries of 1848 were employed by the railway. The famous Hungarian general, György Klapka, two decades later when he could return to Hungary, became the president of the Tiszavidéki Vasút (Tisza Regional Railway). However, prior to that, as Garibaldi’s general, he gained independence for Italy with Tür and Tüköry.
The state railway was established in 1868 by the so-called Pest-Fülek-Losonc, Northern Railway, which was inaugurated the previous year but went bankrupt soon afterwards. The first starting station of MÁV in Pest was the Józsefvárosi Railway Station. The political and economic Compromise of 1867, which ensured development for Hungary until World War I and was mostly due to Ferenc Deák, was a prerequisite for the establishment of the Hungarian State Railways. The enthusiasm for building railways did not decline as it seemed a promising business. The name HÉV, which is the abbreviation of local railways, comes from this era.
The great nationalisation was carried out in 1894, when the uniformly operated railway was established. Almost one hundred lesser and greater private railways were incorporated into MÁV. Only the SB/DV (Süd Bahn/Déli Vasút – Southern Railway) remained a private railway, but subsequent to the Treaty of Trianon, it disintegrated to several parts. The Hungarian section was operated also under the name of DSA (Duna-Száva-Adria). The nationalisation of the Hungarian line took place in 1931. The last chairman was the legendary Sándor Pogány, who left an outstandingly well-equipped and maintained railway to MÁV. The green locomotive no. 109.109 of the nostalgia railway was originally a DV engine.
After World War I, MÁV has lost most of its railway network, equipment, locomotives and rolling stock. Many of the lines were cut between stations therefore the tracks led to nowhere. The surrounding states used the masterpieces of the Hungarian railway engine production for decades.
MÁV was more than a railway. It had a major role in Hungarian culture. Gyula Belitzay, the CEO of MÁV at the end of the 19th century, a friend of Ferenc Erkel, the greatest composer of Hungarian national opera, was an internationally acknowledged composer. Zoltán Kodály, the world famous musician and pedagogue, was born in the dispatch building of the Kecskemét station, where his father worked as a stationmaster. Later, his father was transferred to Galánta. The nanny of the young Kodály sang the songs there, which later he used for composing the orchestral composition, Galánta Dances.
The MÁV School of Music was located in Istvántelek. The director of the school was the world famous violinist and professor, the founder of the Helsinki Music Academy, Ede Reményi. The violinist, Vilmos Tátrai who came from a railroader family, studied here. He started his orchestral service at the Symphonic Orchestra of the Locomotive Works with the Dvorak’s symphony, called New World. The violinist, Dénes Kovács comes from a railroader family too. Today the Budapest Concert Orchestra MÁV is one of the bests of its kind on the continent.
The legendary steam locomotive no. 424, built in 1924 was an all-purpose engine in compliance with the changed expectations. In the thirties, the Budapest-Hegyeshalom line was electrified and 29 V40 passenger trains and three V60 freight trains were put into operation, which were GANZ electric engines designed by Kálmán Kandó. At that time the Hungarian electric engines were operated on several lines of Europe.
The war remarkably damaged the lines and the rolling-stock of MÁV. Local engine production was overwhelmed by work, therefore more than 500 of the American war locomotives, the S160 series were purchased to fulfil the tasks. These became the 411 series according to the numbering of MÁV. These were later complemented by purchasing one hundred freight trains from the Soviet Union.
In the sixties, rapid electrification began. Subsequent to the war, only twelve pieces of V55 electric locomotives were built in Hungary. The V43 is the greatest electric locomotive series ever in the history of Hungarian railways. The first pieces were built in Kassel and the rest, almost 270 were built based on a licence in Budapest in the GANZ Factory. Today, the flagships of MÁV the 1047 series, better known as the TAURUS series which are high performance, high speed engines suitable for international service and are equipped with a more modern safety and train control system, were produced by Siemens.
Since September 1983, MÁV only has had diesel and electric locomotives on service, but even today the old, smoky, puffing and romantic steam locomotives are the ones that make our heart beat. Like the ones which are still running at the nostalgia railway.