Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 07:24:52 AM EST
As practical exercise for a railway traffic rules course, my department got the chance for a hands-on study: a visit on the Children's Railway in Budapest, a 760 mm narrow gauge tourist line.
Morning view from the depot, while our train and another special train are prepared, and other vehicles are shunted for maintenance works
The Children's Railway was built as Pioneers' Railway in the mountains of Buda in the first few years of communist dictatorship. [EDITED->] Poemless in the comments made me realise that while pioneers' railways were well-known from Berlin to Vladivostok, they may lack Western counterparts and sound strange to Westerners, so a bit of explanation. Pioneers' railways were small narrow-gauge forest or park railways, built as a popularity-boosting measure by/for the communist party youth organisations in many cities all across the East Bloc, that gave volunteering children the opportunity to 'play' with a full-scale model railway: all jobs except that of locomotive driver and depot jobs are held by children. Being wildly popular and with no shortage of recruits, most found funding to survive the demise of One-Party rule, and now operate as de-politicised children's railways. (See for example a site on ex-USSR lines.) However, our visit to Budapest's Children's Railway was on Monday, the day without revenue traffic, when none of the stations were manned.
Here is our beautifully restored railcar, the ex LÁÉV [State Forest Railway Lillafüred] ABamot [No.] 2, built in 1929:
The ABamot 2 rolls from the depot into Hűvösvölgy station
For an hour before departure, we got a thorough introduction to the switches and signals and dispatching rules used at this station. But, given that while I crossed Budapest on the way here, a cold front passed above with a rain band, I froze in sub-zero temperatures, and wet and too light clothes, so departure in the warmed-up train was more than welcome...
Inside, the first-class section
Symbolic: into the 198 m horseshoe tunnel before Hárs-hegy station – and seeing the end of the tunnel
Most of the line curves along steep mountainside. I was just late to catch a roe crossing the tracks.
Track view before mid-way station Szépjuhászné
We stopped along the way for explanations of signals, safety systems, dispatching and traffic situations, which are different in each station: the line's use as exercise field in railway education was an intended feature, for which reason it was planned and built to have as much of the variety used on normal railways as possible. As a result, the other special train caught up with us:
Romanian-built Mk45 2002 (old) / 2945 002 (new), classic look except for red star, reaches station Virágvölgy – station for the highest-placed lookout tower above Budapest, and fortunately destination for the other group
The line passed by one of the largest youth camps built for the Pioneer movement. While most symbols of the ancien régime were removed, and stations renamed, those remaining are well-kept:
Relief with pioneers (see their red ties) on the wall of the station building in Csillebérc, next to what remains of the youth camp
Let me close with one of the many things we came to be shown:
Detail of a remote-controlled, electric motor driven switch, with removed stretcher bar lock. Four levels of safety to keep a switch in one position:
- the switching mechanism (the electric motor is under the iron protection plate on the left),
- a fixing hook (under the rails, end of hook visible between metal plate and rail),
- a metal pin to secure the clamp against opening (that metal on the near edge of the protection plate), and finally
- a normal lock to secure the pin against tampering (left edge center)
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