Riding the Children’s Railway in Budapest

Up in the hills above Budapest is a unique railway – the Gyermekvasút (Children’s Railway), where children aged 10 to 14 operate the railway under the supervision of adult staff.

A bit of sunshine in the snow at the Children's Railway

Opened in 1948, the 1.2 kilometres long 760 mm narrow gauge railway was built by the Hungarian Communist Party as a venue for teenagers to learn railway professions, today the line is a popular tourist attraction.

We joined the train at the Széchenyihegy terminus, a short distance from the upper terminus of the Budapest Cog Railway.

Széchenyi-hegy station on the Gyermekvasút in Budapest

A young girl was running the ticket office.

Buying a tickets from the young girl at the booking office window

And class photos in the waiting room listed previous graduates of the railway.

Class photos from the previous Children's Railway participants

We then stepped outside to our waiting train.

Three carriage train waiting at Széchenyi-hegy station

Hauled by a MÁV Mk45 diesel hydraulic locomotive.

Locomotive Mk45,2004 shunting a single carriage

The young stationmaster saluted our departure.

Young stationmaster and an even younger onlooker salute the departing train

The first stop of Normafa was just a short platform.

Passing 'Normafa mh' halt on the Children's Railway

The first real station being Csillebérc, where a communist-era patriotic mural adorned the side of the station building.

Station building at Csillebérc on the Children's Railway

The young train guard and their adult supervisor give the green signal to the train driver.

Young train guard and their adult supervisor give the green signal to the train driver

Sightseers waved to our passing train.

Sightseers wave to the passing train

Until we reached a crossing loop at Virágvölgy station.

Young boy in charge of the crossing loop points, saluting our approaching train

Another salute from a young stationmaster.

Departure time, the young stationmaster and his adult supervisor salute a second time

Then off into the forest again.

Heading through the snow covered forest

We passed straight through the crossing loop at Jánoshegy.

Station building and crossing loop at Jánoshegy station

And the halt at Vadaspark.

'Vadaspark mh' halt on the Children's Railway

But at Szépjuhászné station we came to a stop.

Arriving at Szépjuhászné station to cross an opposing train

So we could cross a train coming the opposite way.

Father and son ride the Children's Railway

Back on the move, and we soon reached Hárshegy station and another crossing loop.

Leaving the crossing loop and Hárshegy station behind

And then a tunnel.

Emerging from the tunnel

198 metres long.

Looking out the tunnel portal

Until we arrived at the Hűvösvölgy terminus.

Young girl in charge of the points at Hűvösvölgy station

Our locomotive ran around the train.

Yellow flag from the little girl in charge of the points at Hűvösvölgy

Then back onto the carriages.

Smoko time for the adult railway staff

Ready to take us back to Széchenyihegy.

Further reading

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McFoxy – the McDonalds knockoff

On my visit to Kyiv I found an interesting local fast food chain – McFoxy.

'McFoxy' fast food restaurant in Kiev

Best described as a McDonalds knockoff, they served burgers, chips and drinks.

Beer on tap at Ukrainian fast food chain 'McFoxy'

The real McDonald’s opened their first restaurant in Ukraine in 1997.

Advertisements light up Maidan Nezalezhnosti

With McFoxy’s most famous location being outside Kiev’s main railway station, right next door to a real McDonald’s.


Google Street View

Established in 2009, McFoxy expanded to include 10 restaurants across six cities – Kyiv, Zaporizhia, Sumy, Khmelnytsky, Kropyvnytsky and Dnipro – until tax evasion charges saw the chain shut down in 2016.

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Catching the train to Domodedovo Airport

I ended my epic rail trip across Europe in Moscow, so what better way to get to my flight home than to catch the ‘Aeroexpress’ train to Domodedovo Airport.

Aeroexpress EMU ЭД4М-0408 awaits departure time from Paveletsky railway station

I started my journey by catching the Moscow Metro to Paveletsky railway station.

Main entry to Paveletsky railway station

Bought my ticket from the machine.

Ticket office for the Aeroexpress train at Paveletsky railway station

And boarded a train.

Aeroexpress type ЭД4М EMU at Paveletsky railway station

The next platforms over were full of long distance trains.

Many of Russia's railway carriages carriages still use coal fired boilers for heating

Upon departure, we passed rail freight yards.

Gantry crane in the Paveletskaya freight yard in Moscow

Towering apartment blocks.

Fields of apartments in Moscow's southern suburbs

Elektrichka trains running suburban services.

Commuter train at Rastorguyevo platform on the Paveletsky direction of the Moscow railway

Until we left Moscow behind.

Railway bridge over the Pakhra River (Пахра́) south of Moscow

Passing fields of dachas.

Dachas near the Pakhra River (Пахра́) south of Moscow

High voltage power lines.

Electrical transmission lines outside Домодедово (Domodedovo)

And level crossings galore.

Steel plates prevent cars driving around the level crossing

We ran express through Домодедово station – which serves the town, not the airport.

Railway staff at Домодедово (Domodedovo) head off to clear more snow

Our train then diverged onto the branch line towards Domodedovo Airport.

Crossing railway tracks outside Домодедово (Domodedovo)

We overtook a snowmobile rider.

Snowmobile scoots along the railway access track

Then soon entered the airport grounds.

Transaero Airlines head office on the grounds of Domodedovo International Airport

Then arrived at Domodedovo Airport itself.

Passengers arrive at Domodedovo International Airport by train

The station being directly connected to the airport terminal.

Waiting in front the airport departure boards

Then a few hours later, I boarded my flight home to Australia, with Qatar Airways via Doha.

Waiting at the gate, Qatar Airways A321-231 rego A7-AIA

A note on the trains

Way back in 2012 the Aeroexpress used ЭД4М electric multiple units to operate the service to Domodedovo Airport.

Aeroexpress EMU ЭД4М-0408 awaits departure time from Paveletsky railway station

They now use updated ЭД4МКМ-АЭРО trains.

And ЭШ2 double deck trains built by Stadler.

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Customer service counters onboard Amsterdam trams

Onboard the trams of Amsterdam is a strange sight – customer service counters!

The customer service counters are located onboard 151 Combino trams operated by GVB.


GVB photo

And replaced an enclosed conductor cabin.

A better passenger experience was the driver for the change.

All conductor cabins in trams will be replaced by a service desk. This service desk improves the contact between conductor and passenger, according to a test we conducted in recent months on lines 1 and 2. Travelers feel more welcome and better served.

Mark Lohmeijer, director of operations & technology: “GVB wants to become the best city transport operator in the Netherlands and believes that this can be achieved by treating travelers with hospitality in a personal way. The service desk supports this in various ways. We notice that the openness of this service concept is well received by both travelers and employees.”

With a single tram converted in 2018 as a prototype.

After a thorough evaluation of the test with those involved, some adjustments were made to the test design, such as a different seat and more room to move for the conductor. The first tram with the definitive service desk will run from 23 February, alternately on lines 1 and 2.

The conversion of the remaining 150 Combinos is expected to be completed in October 2018. The first converted tram will be festively inaugurated with passenger-oriented surprises on board and a special visit between 10 am and 12 noon and between 2 pm and 4 pm.

And conversion of the remainder of the fleet following soon after.

The conversion took place from the end of February to the end of October 2018 in our Lekstraat tram depot. A professional team of technicians and fitters worked there from early in the morning until late at night on the conversion. In a time frame of 15 hours by tram, both the conductor’s cabin was dismantled and the service desk was completely installed. In the video below you can see that process accelerated, in 50 seconds.

Conductor’s desks elsewhere

German-language Wikipedia has an article on “Schaffnersitz” – which translates to “conductor’s desk”.

Schaffnersitz is a – now largely extinct – facility in a tram, trolleybus or bus that serves as a permanent workplace for the conductor for tickets sales or for ticket inspections. It is usually a waist-high enclosure arranged in the entry area of ​​the vehicle, with the conductor usually sitting with his back to the window and serving the passengers from the side or front. Completely closed conductors’ cabins are less common.

The conductor’s desk is usually elevated above floor level, so that the door areas can be overlooked, and include:

– desk with payment tray, often with integrated coin dispenser
– microphone to make stop announcements
– departure signal to the driver, as a replacement for the traditional bell cord
– buttons for door operation, if this is not done by the driver

Conductor’s desks are usually used in conjunction with “fahrgastfluss” (“pay-as-you-enter”) operations, where passengers board via one door, pass the seated conductor, then exit via any of the other doors. Sometimes conductor’s desks are only used during the busy rush hour periods, with the tram driver taking over fare collection duties off-peak.

Occasionally there were also long articulated trams with two conductors’ seats, an example of this was the Stuttgart type SSB GT6 . In this case, the two conductors sat in front of and behind the joint, each responsible for one half of the car. Even bidirectional vehicles sometimes had two conductors’ seats so that passengers could always get on at the back as usual, regardless of the respective direction of travel.

Wikimedia Commons also has many more photos of conductor’s desks.

And closer to home

Melbourne’s Z1, Z2 and Z3 class trams once had conductor desks – some photos here – until they were replaced by ticket machines in 1998.

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Mobile traction substations for powering trains and trams

The power for an electric railway has to come from somewhere – and that place is a traction substation, a facility that convert hogh voltage electricity from the power grid to the voltage and frequency that trains or trams use. The vast majority of them are fixed in place, but a number of tramway and railway operators across Europe have mobile versions, able to be deployed wherever they are needed.

CFR railway traction substation outside the town of Azuga

Deutsche Bahn

In German a mobile substation is called a ‘Fahrbares Unterwerk‘. The first Deutsche Reichsbahn built their first two units in 1935, featuring rotary converters of 7MVA nominal power. Newer units were built in the 1960s, of 10 MVA or 15 MVA capacity, with twelve units still in service by the 1990s.
Early units

Swiss Federal Railways

The SBB operates a massive fleet of mobile traction substations – 18 in total, with 17 permanently positioned pending the construction of fixed substations, as well as a mobile spare. The usage of mobile substations commenced following the Second World War, when military planners saw the advantage of being able to relocate a substation in case of attack, or quickly replace damaged facilities.

Swedish State Railways

SJ was another rail operator worried about war, so following the Second World War they also built mobile traction substations, as well as a network of underground rock tunnels to protect them from enemy air strikes. Abandoned following the end of the Cold Car, one of these tunnels is now managed by the Norrbottens Järnvägsmuseum, along with a complete mobile substation train.

Russian Railways

Russians call their mobile substations ‘поставка передвижных подстанций’, with more than 30 in service on the Russian Railways network. Switchgear, transformers, rectifiers and control equipment are located on separate wagons.


ДАК-Энергетика photo

Austrian Federal Railways

The Austrian Federal Railways have eight mobile substations (fUW) built between 1986 and 1993. They are used to provide short-term support to the traction power supply, as a backup while equipment in stationary substations is upgraded, or as an interim step before the construction of additional stationary substations.

Trams in Vienna

The tramways of Vienna also have a long history of mobile traction substations. Known as Gleichrichterwagen or fahrbare Umformeranlagen the first unit was built in 1925, and was used to meet the demands of peak traffic on Sundays or summer public holidays.

A second unit entered service in 1928, with two more built in 1944.

The latter two units have since been upgraded with modern solid state rectifiers, and are still in service today.

Trams in Kyiv

The tramway network of Kiev once had mobile traction substations built from retired passenger tramcars.


Kyiv Museum of Electric Transportation photo

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Turning trams on a turntable in Kiev

Unidirectional trams are common across Eastern Europe and the former USSR, with reversing loops provided so trams can turn around for their reverse journeys. But the Ukrainian capital of Kiev once turned trams a different way – on a turntable.


Kiev Museum of Electric Transportation photo

The tram route along Набережне шосе opened in 1951, with the Dnieper River on one side and the hills of Kiev to the other.


Central State Film and Photo Archive of Ukraine photo

On this route “Dnipro” metro station was the destination of many trams during morning and evening rush hours, connecting the housing estate on the eastern bank with their nearest metro station.

Type 'EЖ' train emerges from the tunnel at Dnipro (Днiпро) station

A conventional reversing loop takes up a lot of space.

Tatra T6 tram #077 stops for passengers

So a turntable was provided instead. Overhead wires allowed trams to drive onto the turntable.


Kiev Museum of Electric Transportation photo

A sign reminded the driver to apply the brakes before entering the turntable, and what appears to be signal lights tell them when to stop.


Kiev Museum of Electric Transportation photo

Inaugurated on 2 April 1965, the need for the turntable disappeared a few months after opening, when the Kiev Metro was extended across the Dnieper River to “Hidropark”, “Livoberezhna” and “Darnytsia” stations.

Train arrives into the terminus of Line 1 at Lisova (Лiсова) station

The tram turntable was removed at an unknown date, but the tram line along the river remained until 2011.

When it was ripped up to make room for highway expansion.

Freeway passes beneath Dnipro (Днiпро) station

Sources

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What happens if you combine a turntable with a train lift?

Turntables are a common sight on railways, allowing rolling stock to be turned around. But the Kiev Metro had a unique piece of engineering at their first train depot – the «Метролифт» (metrolift) that combined turntable with train lift.

Transition from viaduct to tunnel at Dnipro (Днiпро) station

The depot

Construction of the Kiev Metro commenced in August 1949, with the first stage running 5.24 kilometres from Vokzalna and Dnipro. Due to the deep level construction of the line, the new line only reached the surface at one location – Dnipro station, where the metro met the Dnieper River on an elevated viaduct.

Type 'EЖ' train emerges from the tunnel at Dnipro (Днiпро) station

Delays in construction saw tunnels towards the proposed depot at Shulyavskaya postponed to a later stage, so the search began for a replacement location. Construction of an underground link at the Vokzalna end of the line was rejected, leaving Dnipro station as the only option. This constrained location made provision of a railway depot difficult, with the river bank preventing the construction of a curve back to ground level. The solution – a temporary depot beneath the viaduct, accessed via the rotating train lift – the «Метролифт».


Photo via Central State Film and Photo Archive of Ukraine

The train lift was the length of a single metro carriage, and would lower each car from the elevated station to ground level, where the train would be rotated 90 degrees to meet the depot tracks. The depot was constructed parallel to the Dnieper River and had space for the repair of two carriages at a time. Equipment included a gantry crane, repair shops, and a warehouse for spare parts and materials.

And delivering trains

Delivery of metro trains to the depot was equally convoluted. Each carriage was delivered from the Mytishchi Machine-building Factory by rail to Darnitsa station, where a temporary ramp around 150 meters long was constructed towards the neighbouring tram line. Each carriage was place on temporary bogies so that it could negotiate sharp tramway curves, and then transferred via the tram network, crossing the Dnieper Rover via the Paton Bridge, until it arrived at the temporary depot, where standard bogies were then reinstalled.


Oleksandr Prymachenko photo via Central State Film and Photo Archive of Ukraine

On 21 October 1960 the first metro carriage was lifted up onto the viaduct at Dnipro, and a test train ran the next day. The new line opened to the public on 6 November 1960.

Due to the difficulty in accessing the depot, the majority of trains were stabled overnight in the running tunnels, only being lowered to ground level for major inspections and repairs. This procedure remained in place until 1965, when the eastern extension of the Metro to Darnytsia was completed, including the Darnytsia електродепо (electric depot) between Livoberezhna and Darnytsia stations.

The new depot also made the delivery of new trains to the Kiev Metro system much easier – trains transferred from the mainline network thanks to a Трамвайно-залізничний гейт (tram-rail gate) provided at the neighbouring Київ-Дніпровський (Kyiv-Dniprovsky) station.

Footnote – turntables never die

The remains of the metrolift at Dnipro station were removed in 2011, but the replacement Darnytsia depot still has a turntable for the turning of metro carriages.

And at the Kiev Metro Museum they have a scale model of Dnipro station, including the temporary depot and Метролифт.


Kiev Metro photo

And a similar situation in London

The Waterloo & City line on the London Underground is shuttle service that runs between two stations, with no surface connection for trains. Instead the depot is located underground, with a vertical lift once used to transfer rolling stock to and from the tunnels, until it was replaced by road cranes.

Sources

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Abandoned escalators in Rome

Recently I came across an interesting photo on Twitter – a grass covered set of escalators headed underground somewhere in Rome. An abandoned metro station, or something else?

I found a set of photos showing the same location over on Imgur.

Abandoned Escalators, Rome

And I eventually found the location.

It’s the Luigi Moretti designed underground car park at Villa Borghe.

Which allowed me to eventually find the site.


Google Street View

But it took a while to pin down – from the air I found a few possible locations, but none of them matched on Google Street View. Turns out the escalators were boarded up in 2018, removing them from view, so I needed to go back in time to see them.

About the car park

Luigi Walter Moretti was an Italian architect known for his postmodern designs, and the car park at Villa Borghese was constructed between 1966 and 1972.

Architectuul describes it as.

The car park is in the city center of Rome and has been built at the end of the 1960s in order to solve the problem of the increasing number of cars in the tourist area of the Italian capital. The parking is completely underground and hasn’t changed the original topography. The 13.5m square structural grid of concrete umbrella pillars supports the prefabricated domes and a coffered roof. Circular’s eyes give rhythm light and air.

ArchiDiAP writes.

The car park, designed to accommodate up to two thousand cars, is spread over two underground floors for a total of 3.6 hectares. The structural system foresees a square grid of 3.30 m, which organizes the position of the reinforced concrete pillars, while some parts of the floors are made using prefabricated components. In addition to the car park, the structure includes a 6000 square meter shopping center. After construction, the greenery was completely restored, ensuring the continuity of the park in Villa Borghese even above the imposing structure.

While Dianne Bennett and William Graebner went exploring the complex in 2013.

It was a lovely afternoon on via Veneto, and so we naturally decided to explore–hope you’re ready for this–an underground parking garage!

The garage is by Luigi Moretti. It houses 1800 spaces for automobiles, 210 for scooters and motorcycles. It was completed between 1965 and 1972, which accounts for the hybrid look of late modernism and early brutalism (the concrete noted earlier).

Whatever its appeal, it was sufficient to lure a major international modern art exhibit–known as Contemporanea–which inhabited the structure in 1973, a moment when such an idea could not only be imagined, but brought to fruition.

The garage’s architectural reputation would seem to rest (like the garage itself) on its graceful, space-age columns, and on its concave roof treatments, with a nod to the occasional provision for natural light.

And YouTuber Alessandro Califano went on a drive through the car park in 2010.

And the future – the private operator is planning to expand it.

The project involves the extension of the existing underground car park which, with the 200 new car park places included in this reform, will reach a total of 2,000 places distributed over three floors. Saba will also develop a new tourist bus parking area, connected to Rome’s public transport system, comprising 81 places, as well as the expansion of retail space and storage complex up to the 19,540 meters square (it currently measures 11,030 square meters).

This also includes the construction of an operations and maintenance terminal for electric buses with capacity for 125 vehicles, which will be used by the municipal public transport agency. Management of the existing parking area for motorcycles with capacity for 206 spaces is included as well.

Finally, a residents car park with 360 spaces will be constructed, located on the third floor of the complex. This action will go along with the construction of a mechanised walkway that will connect the car park to the Piazza del Popolo via a pedestrian subway. The construction is subject to the premarketing of 80% of the spaces for residents, a presales period that will last six months.

Further reading

The 1972 journal article ‘The Villa Borghese car park in Rome‘ describes the newly opened strucutre – but unfortunately it seems to be unavailable online.

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Crossing international borders by train

When I travelled across Europe by train, I crossed a few international borders. Some were simple, but others were more involved.

Arrival into Budapest by rail

The uneventful

My first border crossing by train was on my journey from Germany and Austria, and it was completely uneventful.

ICE 3 train arrives into Würzburg Hbf

As was that on my train from Austria to Hungary.

Arrival at Budapest Keleti station

All three countries form part of the Schengen Area, so no border checks occurred.

Papers please!

My first passport check was on my journey from Hungary to Romania.

CFR supplied locomotive ready to lead our train east from Budapest to Romania

Our train stopped at Lőkösháza on the Hungarian side of the border.

Border crossing for our train at Lőkösháza, Hungary

Where border officers checked our passports.

Hungarian police check our train at Lőkösháza station, on the Romanian border

We then stopped at Curtici on the Romanian side, so that their border staff could complete the same checks, and giving my passport a nifty little stamp with a train on it.

Changing gauge at the bogie exchange

On my journey from Romanian to Ukraine, we didn’t just need to stop for border formalities – our train also had to change gauges.

Spare wheelsets beside the bogie exchange facility at Vadul Siret

Europe predominantly uses 1,435mm standard gauge, while the railways of the former Soviet Union use 1,524 mm broad gauge. As a result at Vadul Siret our train was split up into individual carriages, lifted up by jacks, and the bogies swapped over.

And a crossing that no longer exists

I also caught a train from Ukraine to Russia to Rostov-on-Don.

'1118km' post on the Ukrainian Railways

Our passports were checked during our stop at Успенская station in the village of Авило-Успенка (Avilo-Uspenka).

But all that has changed since the 2014 Russo-Ukrainian War – today the only trains between the two counties head directly to Moscow.

Footnote: crossing from Poland and Germany

One rail crossing between Poland and Germany is the bridge over the Oder River.

Marked by a post in national colours at each end.

The bridge is the busiest rail crossing between the two counties, with around half of all border crossings using it.

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Another tram bent like a banana

A few years ago I found an articulated tram bent like a banana following a collision with a road vehicle, and now I’ve found another – this time in the Dutch city of Utrecht.


Donald Ikkersheim photo via ad.nl


Koen Laureij photo via ad.nl

The crash was covered in AD.nl.

Uithoflijn tram derailed at FC Utrecht stadium: ‘A terribly loud thunder’

Jeroen van Barneveld

February 16 2021

A tram on the Uithoflijn derailed near the FC Utrecht stadium on Tuesday morning after a collision with a delivery van from supermarket chain Jumbo. There were no injuries, reports the Utrecht Safety Region.

The tram ran almost completely out of its rails around 11 a.m. and ended up transversely on the Laan van Maarschalkerweerd. The emergency services came out en masse. A trauma helicopter was also called in to provide medical assistance.

Safety region Utrecht expects that the tram recovery will take hours. U-OV reports that the overhead wires are badly damaged and that there are probably no more trams running on the Uithoflijn today.

You can see the site of the crash on Google Street View – the light rail tracks crosses from one side of the road to the other at a set of traffic lights.

The Uithoflijn is an express tram line in the city of Utrecht, and uses CAF Urbos 100 trams.

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