Great Hungary Track Bash
After our very successful 2015 tour of Hungary, we return in 2017 to sample more of the indigenous locomotive Classes of the country and to travel on rare or freight only lines. We plan to cross into both Slovakia and Ukraine. No visas are needed but your personal details will need to be supplied to Ukrainian border police a few weeks prior to the tour. There really is something for everybody on this trip, GM diesels rare freight only lines and great scenery. Highlights will be covering the broad-gauge network of the Záhony trans-shipping area and crossing over to Ukraine on freight-only broad-gauge lines, as well as visiting Komárno docks and enjoying great Hungarian cuisine and refreshments in the comfort of an air-conditioned restaurant car.
Tour Manager: Ferenc
There are still a handful of places available but any booking for the full tour or the 30th of April day you need to book by getting your booking form, payment AND all personal details necessary for entering Ukraine before 19 April so that we have time to send these to me on 19 April and we can report the full train to the police by 20 April.
We hope to have at least 21 locos on the tour so could this become the railtour with most locos of all time!
Wednesday 26 April Arrival in Budapest, Hungary’s capital city. This is a bustling metropolis at any time of the year and there are too many sights to list them all. The riverside on both the east and west banks of the Danube are listed by Unesco as a World Heritage, including the view of Buda castle district. A second World Heritage site is Andrássy avenue that runs above the first electric underground line of the World, opened in 1896. Budapest boasts several thermal baths, seven food market halls, four metro lines and an amazing system of trams. The city also has three big railway termini. If you book your hotel through PTG, you will be based close to Keleti station where the tour will depart from and return to on the days when we stay the night in this amazing city.
Tourists from all over the World enjoy the hundreds of restaurants and nightlife, and several craft beer bars are also located in the city. The Danube carries river freight from Rotterdam to the Black Sea and cruise line boats also dock in the city which has also many festivals and museums to choose from. You can ride along the Danube on tram lines 2 or 17, take the cog wheel railway to see the Children’s Railway or ride the underground line to Heroe’s Square (Hősök tere) where the Millenium monument is located. The Houses of Parliament now have a visitor’s centre. This neo-gothic style building was modelled in style on Westminster. Szent István basilica, named after the first king of Hungary (St. Stephen, crowned on Christmas Day in the year 1000), is the second largest in Hungary, only topped by that in Esztergom.
Buda Castle is well worth a stroll and can also be accessed also by the funicular, rising above the Danube, opposite Chain Bridge, the first permanent bridge over the river in Hungary, opened in 1849. Matthias Church was where Franz Joseph, the Austrian emperor, was crowned King of Hungary. It dates from 1015 but has changed appearance many times throughout Hungary’s history. Next to the church is Fisherman’s Bastion, which is a composition of seven small towers and connecting walls, from where the view over the Danube and the eastern side of the city can be enjoyed. The castle district also houses the National Gallery and Museum of History, as well as some other smaller museums.
Thursday 27 April (B) Today we set off to do a circular tour via Slovakia. We first traverse the single track line to Esztergom, which will be fully electrified by the end of 2015. As we set off from Keleti station shortly before 8 a.m. behind the locomotive of the NOHAB-GM Foundation (former MÁV “NOHAB” nr. M61 010), we will cross over the line from Budapest-Nyugati to Szob (which we will cover in the evening) by means of a very rarely used bridge. We then intend to cover a freight spur branching off Angyalföld station before crossing the Danube. Hungary has not many railway tunnels but we cross one on our way to Esztergom. Before reaching this town, we will first use the avoiding line between Dorog and Tokod and reverse there. From Esztergom we travel back to Dorog to cover all three sides of the Y. Repeating our move to Tokod, we then travel along the Danube on a unit-only line as far as Almásfüzitő, where we join the main line from Budapest to Hegyeshalom (and further on to Vienna). After a short run we arrive to Komárom, where we will request to pass through the freight yard. In fact, our locomotive change may even take place here.
From Komárom, we will cross into Slovakia over the Danube, a piece of line that had passenger traffic for decades but not in the past several years. Both Hungary and Slovakia are part to the Schengen Treaty, so we expect no border formalities upon crossing the Danube, which is the boundary between the two. At Komárno, we have requested to visit the docks along the Danube, used by freight trains only. We then have main line running to Nové Zámky (reversal) and onwards to Šturovó. Motive power should be an unsilenced locomotive of Classes 751 or 770. Once we reach Šturovó, we will be just across the Danube from Esztergom. After changing locomotives to the only existing Hungarian example of the more powerful version of Class M44, produced for export to the Soviet Union (only three were made for use by industrial railways in Hungary), we will follow the river through the Danube’s Bend, a short but scenic gap between two hill ranges. We will soon pass Vác, the terminus of the first railway line built in Hungary in 1846. We will follow this line almost to the terminus at Nyugati station but just 3 kms short we use the rare curve between Rákosrendező and Zugló, to be followed by another rare curve from Zugló into Kőbánya felső. We reverse here for the final few kms back into Keleti station, arriving in the dark at roughly 9 p.m.
Friday 28 April 2017 (B) Today we will have a somewhat shorter day and plan to cover many industrial spurs in Budapest, departing Keleti station after 8 a.m. We will use green heritage loco M40 114 from MÁV Nosztalgia to access Soroksári úti freight yard, from where a private railway locomotive will take over to hopefully bring us into the brand new container terminal of Metrans, now being built on Csepel island. As the terminal is not yet open, we can not guarantee that this run will take place but according to the latest information we have, the terminal should be operational by the time of our visit. Returning to the freight yard, we will continue along the main line between Budapest and Kelebia as far as the BILK container terminal. We have requested to cover one industrial spur in this area and hopefully the tracks of BILK itself.
We will return to Ferencváros yard, where we will travel into the freight yard and out on the other side, allowing a brief visit to the depot. After a change of locomotives, we will now travel behind an M32 type shunter to Kőbánya-Kispest and over the branch line that accesses Liszt Ferenc international airport for a very quick visit. Security issues may not allow us to access the end of the tracks or even get off the train at this site, so please bear with us! Once back to Ferencváros, we will travel via a section of freight-only tracks to Kőbánya-felső, then onwards to Rákosszentmihály and Rákos stations to try and cover three more (fairly long) industrial spurs, pending permission being granted by the affected companies. We then return to Keleti station before 8 p.m.
Saturday 29 April (B,D) After checking out of our hotels, this morning we again need to leave shortly before 8 a.m. to fit in between trains of the Budapest–Miskolc line! After a nice stretch of main line running behind a type M62 locomotive, which will include traversing the Gödöllő hills and then lots of flatlands, we intend to visit the stone quarry of Nyékládháza, which has its own industrial locomotives. We have high hopes that one of these will feature on front of our train! We will then use one of the few remaining Class 438 (formerly M43) diesel shunters to haul us on unused lines to Mezőcsát. This branch closed to passengers in 2007. Returning to the junction of Hejőkeresztúr, we change locomotives to an electric shunter of Class 460, formerly V46. This will take us to the end of the other branch, to Tiszapalkonya. We will travel past the end of current passenger operations to Tiszapalkonya-Erőmű station and have requested to be admitted into the power plant tracks as well. Once again, security issued may not make this possible. Updates on approved visits will be made available on the PTG website and Facebook page.
We return to the main line with our electric shunter and continue past Miskolc as far as Tokaj, where a 1-hour stop is scheduled to allow a quick visit to one of the wine cellars next to the station for those who wish to taste the famous Tokaj wines. These are not only sweet, in fact local people tend to drink the dry types. Our journey ends in Nyíregyháza 40 minutes after a 40-minute run but before leaving the train, we will visit the only industrial spur left active in the city with a Class 448 (formerly M44) diesel locomotive, and also visit the depot. A coach will transfer those booking the hotel via PTG Tours Limited, to the venue in downtown Nyíregyháza by 7 p.m., where we stay two nights. A group meal will be organised for hotel guests wishing partake as the selection of local restaurants is less extensive than in Budapest.
Sunday 30 April 2017 (B) A slightly earlier than usual start to the day will see us depart from our hotel by coach to the station shortly after 7 a.m. We will travel over the main line to Záhony by the second class 408 (formerly M40) locomotive of our trip. A semi-open arrangement couchette carriage will be provided by UZ (Ukrainian Railways) to enable us to ride on the broad-gauge network of Hungary as the only carriage available in Hungary has not enough seats in it. These couchette cars are used for trips of up to two days long and can be used for daytime travel as well. We will be hauled by a broad-gauge type M62 locomotive along the complete MÁV broad-gauge network including the oil plant at Záhony, the spur to Tornyospálca, the freight yard at Eperjeske and the main line between Záhony, Eperjeske and Komoró.
After covering the Hungarian 1524-mm-gauge network, we endeavour to cross into Ukraine and travel to Chop and back via broad-gauge tracks, not used by passenger trains. Planning for this could not be finalised by September 2016 due to restructuring of UZ and a lack of pricing information. Furthermore, the exact execution of border formalities will need to be confirmed further to the date of travel. We kindly ask passengers’ understanding in this regard. Returning to Hungary, we transfer back to our regular train and you will have 50 minutes to utilise the services of the restaurant car, should you require dinner before arriving to Nyíregyháza. Arrival time will be as late as 8 p.m. if the visit to Chop is feasible. The restaurant car staff will be happy to take orders in the morning so that dinner may be served when rejoining the train at Záhony. Again, a coach transfer will be available to those booking it via PTG Tours Limited and you will may use the hotel’s restaurant, or any other in the city, if you have not had a meal on the train.
Monday 1 May (B) Our final day sees us making our way back to Budapest via more interesting branch lines. We will need to check out of the hotel by roughly 7 a.m. and make sure the coach arrives to the railway station by 7.30. We first set off towards Mátészalka on slow-running unit-only track as far as Nyírbátor. An MÁV Class 418 or 448 locomotive will have to be used here due to axle-loading retrictions. At Nyírbátor the train will reverse and from here on a type M62 locomotive will haul our train to Debrecen where a NOHAB locomotive of MÁV Nosztalgia should take over for the rest of the trip. We will first travel via the Great Plains known as Hortobágy to Tiszafüred, then continue along more unit-only track (with only two pairs of trains a day) to Karcag. Following reversal, we continue west and instead of passing through Szajol, we will use the avoiding to Tiszatenyő. Another reversal sees us pass through Szajol and enter Szolnok freight yards. We will return to the main line over more freight track and perform a quick run to Budapest, where we will call at the airport stop (Ferihegy) around 5 p.m. to allow anyone wanting to catch a late flight home to do so. Our final minutes will see us arrive at Keleti station before 6 p.m.
Tuesday 2 May 2017 (B) Flights back to UK and maybe another chance to explore more in this wonderful capital city if time allows. Or why not stay on and join our Undiscovered Hungary tour.