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Study visit on the Pioneers' Railway

by DoDo 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:

  1. the switching mechanism (the electric motor is under the iron protection plate on the left),
  2. a fixing hook (under the rails, end of hook visible between metal plate and rail),
  3. a metal pin to secure the clamp against opening (that metal on the near edge of the protection plate), and finally
  4. a normal lock to secure the pin against tampering (left edge center)

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Enjoy. In your warm rooms.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 02:37:22 PM EST
Some colleagues did paparazzi shots...



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 10:08:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nice hat.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 10:34:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is why I read ET.  A railroad run by children!  Who knew???

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 02:48:36 PM EST
They were all over the East Bloc. See for example these photos at a Russian one.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 03:05:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(Where I'd hope you could translate interesting stuff from that webpage :-))

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 03:06:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I can't even get it open.  Translate it?  ha.  

Wait!  "Budapest." "East Bloc." DoDo, you've had me convinced for the last year that Hungary is Central Europe... I'm so confused...

As for the young pioneers running railroads...  I cannot decide if it is a charming fairytale, the stuff of dreams, or a horrific violation of child labor rights.  All of the above, probably.  Looks like the communists were in league with my mother - forcing children to do cute but disturbing things to promote social morale and productivity while simultaneously stripping them of their dignity...   Maybe my mother was a communist?  Would explain so much...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 03:19:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Strange, maybe NSA filters it out? ;-) I just tried the link I posted and the page still loads, and that fast despite loads of photos.

'East Bloc' included the Asian parts of the Soviet Union, so it has little to do with position on continents...

Work on pioneer/childrens' railways isn't forced, and they don't act for parents but 'play' for themselves ;-) Think of a life-size model railway. (I missed out of this myself. But a colleague brought along his teenage daughter, who was there a few years ago and regularly comes back to visit -- depot staff knew her by name --, and who knew better how to handle 50-year-old Siemens-Halske switching/signalling equipment than anyone else present.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 03:30:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. I don't think there is any filtering going on (not here).  Might just be too much to load?  

  2. Was preying on your geographical sensitivity.

  3. From what I understand, being a young pioneer was not absolutely mandatory, but an assumed requirement if you wanted to get ahead in life.  Well, I don't doubt there were benefits to it, or that the railway and other pioneer projects were probably mostly harmless & provided kids with skills, discipline, etc.  But patriotic youth movements always freak me out.  Even our own Boy/Girl Scouts in the US.  You know, I was in that.  Again, totally voluntary, but every self-respecting little girl in my town wanted to be a "brownie" (our version of the pioneers).  

Still, I'm not sure I can convey to you the basic sense of weirdness a railway run by communist children evokes to my, ahem, Western mind.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 03:46:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. To put it another way, my geographical sensitivity is Westerners' equation East Bloc = Eastern Europe. Thinking about it, BTW, 'East Bloc' or similar was almost never used in local languages -- '[countries of the] Warshaw Pact', 'Socialist Camp' was in use not just in official propaganda.

  2. Oh, about being pioneer, I agree. It was practically obligatory, it was meant as ideological drilling, it was a hoot, and I hated that kind of uniform even without any political association. But the pioneer railways (and today the heir children's railways, not pioneer anymore!) were choice, and a choice of a few.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 04:17:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1.  I know I am totally derailing ... hahaha ... your diary, but can you at least acknowledge that there is stigma attached to being labeled Eastern?  We can differentiate between East Bloc and Eastern Europe, but both entities were/are defined in oppostition to the (civilized, modern, humane, rational, etc.) West.  Meaning the not ever Communist part of Europe plus North America.  FWIW, I don't remember the term "East Bloc" being used here much either, in my lifetime, but when it was, you can bet people were not talking about Asia, whatever the official definition was.  

  2.  It's kids!  Running the trains!  It's mad!  ;)


"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 04:28:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Eastern Block not being used, hmm, my Granny called it SBZ, while I was studiying in Leipzig after the reunification.

SBZ Sowjetisch besetzte Zone. Soviet occupied zone. The name the GDR had, before it became GDR in 1949.

And on another note, while it was not necessarily compulsory to be a member of the Young Pioneers in the GDR, it entirely depend on local circumstances and it also changed fundamentally over time. Until 1954/55 a parallel education of Christian and Atheist youth indoctrination (aehem) took place. After that it was made "compulsory".

This gives a reasonable summary (in Engish)

Actually not reasonable, no, very good, (It quotes one of my favourite Professors....)

by PeWi on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 08:55:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
SBZ Sowjetisch besetzte Zone. Soviet occupied zone. The name the GDR had

Including the Soviet Union itself?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 09:02:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As you know Germany was divided in four parts after 1945?

and those Zones were called ABZ, BBZ, FBZ and SBZ.

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Besatzungszone

When the German states became 'independant states' in 1949 those names were 'officially' dropped, but not by some people...

by PeWi on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 11:48:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do know those occupation zones, as well as Bizonia and Trizonia, but the question is, did your Granny also apply the term SBZ for all Warshaw Pact countries collectively (e.g. as another synonym for Eastern Block = Ostblock)?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 02:17:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frankly I was confused about your question. And am glad that of course you knew the term, hope I did not cause offense.

And no, she only applied it to the GDR - interesting thought though.

by PeWi on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 08:01:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
1) Can you load the (devoid of photos) main page?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 04:19:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nyet.  "Cannot find server or DNS Error."  Should note: everything is now running sluggishly for me..

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 04:29:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a shame. But maybe no such problems with this other site in English.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 07:03:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't load it either... I'm ahem... feeling conspirationist tonight.

Rien n'est gratuit en ce bas monde. Tout s'expie, le bien comme le mal, se paie tot ou tard. Le bien c'est beaucoup plus cher, forcement. Celine
by UnEstranAvecVueSurMer (holopherne ahem gmail) on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 09:12:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Must be some really strange DNS error. I still do see the page, but whichever IP lookup service I try, it gives 217.16.29.51, which doesn't load. And if I try tracert or ping mojd.by.ru, those try to track the above IP too (and fail). Anyone around with ideas?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 06:44:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
HA! Found one Western childrens' railway:

There are still a couple of childrens' railways in East Germany, see the Berlin Parkeisenbahn page.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 07:47:28 AM EST
and here the one near Leipzig (which I never visited, even thought I drove past it time and time again - shame on me)
http://www.parkeisenbahn-leipzig.de/chronik.htm

they also have an interesting history of Liliput Railways...

by PeWi on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 08:58:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
quote:

1905 9.April Inbetriebnahme des Verschiebebahnhofes Wahren zusammen mit der Güterverbindungsbahn Wahren - Leutzsch (Wahrener Viadukt).
Erprobung der ersten englischen Einheitstype einer 15-Zoll-Spur-Liliputlok "Little Giant" (2'B1', Konstrukteur: H. Greenly, Hersteller: Werkstatt von W. J. Basset-Lowke). Bis 1924 werden mindestens 8 Stück davon gebaut und auf Ausstellungsbahnen inner- und außerhalb Englands betrieben (u.a. ab 1913 im Budapester Vidam-Park).

by PeWi on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 08:59:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
und another one

1935   In der Sowjetunion entsteht die erste "Pionier-Eisenbahn" in Tbilissi. (1960 bestehen solche Schmalspurbahnen in 36 Städten der SU.)

by PeWi on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 09:00:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ab 1913 im Budapester Vidam-Park

Long gone. The first (and so far last) liliput railway I saw is the one in Vienna's Prater.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 09:46:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did a quick search on "kinderspoorweg" (childrenrailroad).
Seems our tourist offices know about it, especially Budapest's as shown in this link:

There's a long description (only in Dutch), more interesting for you I suppose are the numurous pictures.

Wikipedia gives one long page in Dutch only, with surprisingly detailed information.  There are no pictures and no links (except to Gorki Park, Moscou), looks like a draft.

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)

by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 12:53:20 PM EST
The first link takes the image from and leads further to the Budapest Childrens' Railway's own Dutch-language page :-) Beyond Hungarian, English and Dutch, they were ambitioned enough to have pages in German, Russian, Spanish, and, curiously, Danish.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Nov 27th, 2007 at 02:28:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Really enjoyed the ride from my semi-warm room in those nice old cars.  -Nothing technical, but did the originals use coal, steam engines?

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Wed Nov 28th, 2007 at 01:16:39 PM EST
The Pioneers' Railway started with diesel railcars:

However, in the initial years when traffic grew much faster than expected, steamers also came to help out. One of these, plus another steam locomotive from another railway, today pulls regular nostalgic trains.

But for most of its life, the line saw diesel service. After the railcars, there were the Mk49 locos, purpose-built for this railway, but failed (to weak):

The Mk49 was replaced in 1973 by the East Bloc's narrow-gauge standard locos, imported from Romania as type Mk45.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Nov 28th, 2007 at 04:30:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, and here is a picture of a steam train on the Childrens'  Railway:

More at RailFanEurope.net

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Nov 28th, 2007 at 04:35:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Study visit on the Pioneers' Railway
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-politised childrens' railways.
Mind-blowing. Thanks for this diary.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 4th, 2007 at 10:51:19 AM EST


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