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"Lost rails of Budapest": tram route 58

The section of the route at Zugliget it 1940Route 58 is definately the most sorrowly missed "lost" tram line in the history of Budapest, mostly because of the picturesque neighborhood it was running in. Zugliget (or Auwinkel as it was called in german), at its outer end, was a noble hillside covered with forests which became a popular pleasure resort in the mid-19th century. People were getting out here to have a nice day in the green, and this generated a call for some means of public transport. Horse tram service of BKVT from the center of Buda to Zugliget was launched in 1869. 27 years later it was electrified. The original terminus was located just above Szarvas Gábor utca in a nice wooden frame house, which still exists. A couple of years later (1903 to be precise) the line was extended upwards to a hollow under Tündér-szikla ("Fairy rock", a characteristic stack which does not longer resembles a fairy, but originally it did, so they say) where they built a stub-end instead of the turning loop around the old terminus building. From that point on the route of the tram line later known as number 58 was ready, even if it was called line 81 or 43 back then, or if the inner terminus was different.

The line had the steepest accent of all the Budapest lines, so after a terrible accident of a runaway car the vehicles were re-fitted with stronger brakes. The 1000-series cars - which were the most typical vehicles on this route, introduced in 1911 - went even further: they were equipped with cross-inducing electric brakes - the cars could not run lose on their own. The decay of the line started in the early seventies: the city council wanted to experiment with trolley buses here, so they did not spend money on track maintenance. This led to the worst conditions, so in the first says of 1977 the line was converted to one-track operation. A few days later (17. January, 1977.) traffic was "paused" with bus line 58/V supplementing the trams. In 1980 the closure became official: 58/V was renamed 158. A trolley bus line was never launched.

The "classic" route 58 started at Moszkva tér, but since that bit is still there, our virtual journey starts at Budagyöngye. On the first picture you can see two tracks going right: this is where route 58 parted way with route 56 (going to Hűvösvölgy). The reason why these tracks are still there is because remise Szépilona is located in this way.

After passing by the remise, one track still remains on the side of Zugligeti út (Zugliget street) for a few meters. This is used by the depot. After that, parking lots occupy the exact location where the tracks went. At same parts, the pavement of the parking lot was just layed over the tracks, so if you dig down a few inches, you can find the rails!

The stop at Virányos utca with streetcar 1067.

This is what the place looked like in the first half of the 20th century. Since that every square meters has been sold and built onto. By the way, the type of the streetcar on this picture is the same as on the previous, only that here you can see its original look with wooden-frame body.

At Szarvas Gábor utca. On the picture to the left you can see the old terminus in the distance.

The old terminus building, a lovely example of architectural beauty. The trams originally turned in a loop around the other end of the house.

The same building in the seventies. By then it had flats in it, and people were actually living between the two tracks. The downhill track went through the garden of the house, where the children of the inhabitants were playing - for someone who was crazy about those fake wooden  trams on playgrounds, I sure envy those kids: they had real trams in their garden!

The uphill end of the building with streetcar 1059 heading for the new terminus.

I hope some day they will find some proper usage for this building with all this fancy carving!

But let's continue our walk through time! You obviously don't need to constrain your imagination to guess where the tracks went here :-)

Two 1000-series cars in front of the valley station of the Jánoshegy chair-lift.

A holiday camp is operating where the tracks once ran their last few hundred meters until the terminus. The owner of the camp bought streetcars 1043 and 1061 from BKV and is using one of them as the reception booth. The other was used as a snack bar, but I haven't seen it being open for years.

The way of the "forest tram": quite a steep place for a non-cogwheel railway vehicle!

A picture taken from the bridge you saw just before.

The "new" terminus in the 1930's and 1970's: originally there were three tracks, but only two remained until the end.  Also, notice the frame-house kiosk...

... which is still there, only converted to a restaurant. You can also see some of the bars that once surrounded the tracks around the place!

This picture, taken by Mr. Heinz Heider gives a hint of the quiet feel that was once typical for the place! Unfortunately the bushes have grown so big that I was unable to find the same spot where he once shot his picture in the mid-seventies.

Tim Boric took a ride on this route in autumn 1976, when it was already cut back between Zugliget and Budagyöngye because of track construction works at Szilágyi Erzsébet fasor (so between Budagyöngye and Moszkva tér). It was a silent and rainy day, he told me, with hardly any passengers, and the tram driver lady singing during the ride. Like in a strange dream...

A few months later the line was closed, and the experience gone. We Budapest tram fans still hope that the city will resurrect the route (the location of the tracks is still owned by municipal authorities, which is a wonder in itself considering that they have sold almost everything else in the city), maybe with museum cars as a tourist attraction, but nobody got interested in this yet...

Archive photos and maps: the collections of Zoltán Ádám Németh, "Mr. Cyber" and the author
And: Tim Boric, Harald Schachenhofer, Heinz Heider
Current photos: Varga Ákos Endre, unless stated differently

© Ákos Endre VARGA, unless stated otherwise. All rights reserved.

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