A History of how Public Transport Opens up New Possibilities
Over time, the city leadership of Hungary’s capital not only created the current ring-radial street pattern, but also paid special attention to the development of public transportation.
In 1866, the first horse-drawn tram line opened in Budapest, ensuring a connection between what is today Kálvin Square and Újpest Városkapu, the sixth such tramline in Europe. However, this did not displace horse-drawn omnibuses, which could still be seen on the streets of Budapest until 1929.
In 1877, the first tram service in Europe was opened in the Hungarian capital, initially from the Western Railway Station (“Nyugati”) to nearby Király Street.
Second only to London on the continent, Budapest’s underground railway opened in 1896, and still operates today on an extended line with 12 stops. It starts downtown at Vörösmarty Square, which serves as the location for the annual Book Week and the famed Christmas Market, follows the route of Andrássy Avenue, proceeds down through City Park and ends at Mexikói Road. It is interesting to note, that the underground was originally built for left-hand traffic, and the stairs of the stations are located accordingly. The city only introduced right-hand traffic in 1941, well after the underground was built.
The Castle Hill Funicular was already in operation in 1870, some time before the city was unified. Originally powered by a steam engine, it now operates using an electric motor. It runs from the base of the tunnel near the Chain Bridge up to the Castle, and provides spectacular panoramic views of the Danube river. Its two carriages, named Margit and Gellért, alternate going up and down. The funicular was designed by Henrik Wolfhart, built on the initiative of Ödön Széchenyi (son of Count István Széchenyi), who had seen a similar cable car operating in Lyon.
Another unique means of transport in Budapest is a 3.7 km cog-wheel railway, or as it is affectionately known here, the “fogas”. The first such vehicle was launched in 1812 in Middleton, in England. It was built with a special rack and pinion track, upon which the cogwheels that move the train turn, ensuring safe operation even on steep terrain. The cogwheel railway in Buda currently runs from Városmajor to Széchenyi Hill, passing through many beautiful hiking spots along the way.
The chairlift in Buda opened about a century later, in 1970, but provides a similarly memorable experience of the heights and the hills. Its track is 1040 metres long, and runs between Zugliget and János Hill. At the top of the latter is the Elisabeth Lookout, the city’s highest point. It is named after the wife of the former Austro-Hungarian Emperor, Franz Joseph the 1st. The beloved “Queen Sissi” of Austria-Hungary actually visited the area on more than one occasion.
Established at the behest of Gábor Baross, Minister of Trade and Transport, in 1888, the Hungarian State Railway’s Naval Enterprise brought significant changes to Budapest’s main waterway, the Danube. For instance, in 1893 it transported 166,000 passengers, 1,200 wagons of pigs and nearly 2 million cubic metres of goods, using 12 steamships and 40 barges. But in the end, the railway itself prevailed: at the time of the unification of the city and in the following decades, most goods arrived to the city by train, and the same trend held true for passenger transport.
The first railway line in Hungary was opened between Pest and the city of Vác, 33.9 km away, on 15 July 1846. The railway network was subsequently developed at a rapid pace, which was a boon to the city’s industrial development in the 19th century.
See also: Architectural Revival
The Alrite speech recognation (speech-to-text) program helped to write the publication.
Photo: Lágymányosi Bay, Connecting railway bridge, 1906
(source: Fortepan / György Szémán)
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