It was hard for me to come up with a name for this website: I like public transportation in general, but my favorites are trams. Especially Budapest trams. On the other hand you'll find other transportation means here, just like trams of other places, too, so the title "Trams of Budapest" might be deceiving...
The first horse tram service in Budapest was launched in 1866: the trains were doing the Kálvin tér-Újpest route, which is still one of the most heavily used traffic routes, only that we now have a subway ("metro" as we call it) instead of trams on the surface. After the success of the first line new routes were launched in great numbers, but there was one great problem: Buda and Pest were two seperate cities back then, so they've had two companies operating two separate networks: BKVT in Buda and PKVT in Pest. There was no connection between the networks. The twin cities have united in 1873 and so did the companies too, although only a few years later. The new company name was the old one: BKVT. (If you're wondering why I'm tiring you with this: the name of the old companies will occur on these pages several times!)
In 1887 a new star was born: in November, a narrow-gauge electric tram service was launched on the Grand Boulevard between the Nyugati railway station and Király utca. It was a pilot project designed and financed by Siemens et Halske, who have just invented the tram a few years ago. The trains used an under-surface current collector that was specifically designed for Budapest. The line was a big success so Siemens have founded a new public transport company called BVV, which begot BVVV a few years later when Siemens sold its interests. In 1889, the continent's first normal-gauge tram service was launched, and the old horse tram company BKVT soon begun to electrificate it's own routes to keep up. This decision marked the start of a race between BKVT and BVVV: the companies were soon struggling to top each other at all costs. On the map to the right you can see all streets and places in the inner city of Budapest where trams ran between 1914 and 1981 - quite a dense network, I would say (of course not by US scale) - and most of this was built by these two companies until 1923, when they were united!
After World War 1 things looked pretty bad: only a fragment of the public transport system was usable, and after two political revolutions, the shareholders of BKVT and BVVV refused to take their companies back. Thus a new company called BSZKRT (spell "bhaz-cart") was formed in 1923. In the first few years rolling stock, rail and eletric systems were unified and/or rebuilt, but right after that they also began to experiment. "Experimenting" meant evaluating new techniques (twin-set coupling, auxiliary-power multiple units, articulated cars) and restructuring the whole public transport system of Budapest. Beside other things this also meant that most of the tram routes in the narrow streets of the inner city were closed.
After the second World War, things looked even more catastrophic: massive loss on human life and other resources, all bridges over the river Danube (which seperates the city in two halves: Buda and Pest) were destroyed, there was no eletricity, etc... yet the first tram route in Pest was re-started while there were still bitter fights going on on the other side of theDanube! In 1950 a new company was formed in full state ownership and control: FVV (for "Capital Tramway Company"). This company was only responsible for the trams and trolleybuses, but not for buses, suburban railways and ferryboats. They did a good job: old vehicles (many of which were made well before World War I) were renovated, and new types were introduced (for example the "UV class", which is a kind of a symbol for Budapest trams). Much of what is still in use (including infrastructure and rolling stock) was bought or built in this era. Of course there were also unpleasant changes: the tram network was simplified - some of the "classic" routes have dissappeared.
In 1968 all public transportation means (trams, trolleybuses, buses, light rail commuter trains, the Széchenyi hegy rack railway, ferryboats, and after 1972 the subway, too) were united into one company: BKV. Financially this might have been a good decision, but on the other hand the city council in that time was into just two things: new underground lines and buses, and the new company haven't done anything against this. Because of this, trams were neglected, while buses or trolleybuses became the official way to go. By this time most of the rolling stock was terrifyingly old (manufactured between 1896 and 1939), and the construction works for the underground overloaded both the city and BKV financially, so there was no possibility for other big developements like buying large series of new trams or launching new routes. In connection with the replacement of tram routes with the subway we call this the "demise" of the Budapest tram network. Since the opening of the last section of the M3 (the third metro line) in 1990, there are only minor developments - but big cutbacks. Routes were and are shortened or rarified year for year, and some of the plans suggest that the future of the tram is not very bright...
The sad tendencies I mentioned in connection with the dusk of the Budapest tram can be seen in other cities of Hungary, too. Debrecen, Miskolc, Nyíregyháza, Pécs, Szeged and Szombathely also used to have trams. Sadly only Debrecen, Miskolc and Szeged were able to save their tram system (the first two only have one distinct route!). In Debrecen there are plans for building another line, but that's still not much in contrast to the original six lines...
At the end of the 19th century hungarian trams looked very much like all the trams around the world, but then a disctinct "hungarian" look started to appear, which was most dominant on the front of the cars. One of the most typical examples, a vintage BVVV streetcar can be seen to the left. This design features a front windshield divided into three parts with sharp corners and with the middle one beeing small and openable, narrow steps up to the open platform, where the tram driver stands, and sinkable side windows.
The transport companies designed the cars, and then different companies manufactured them. The most important names of the heydays were Schlick-Nicholson and Ganz. Earlier the electric parts were bought from Siemens or General Electric Union and the transport companies installed them into the chassis' themselves, but then even that duty was taken over by Ganz. By the 30's the company has became the ultimate tram manufacturer in Hungary, and it kept that position until the late 70's.
One of their most ambitious designs was the 3600-series (see picture to the right), also called "Stukas" after the german dive bomber aircraft (the sound of the vehicle was similar). This was a simple, but fast, comfortable and relatively low-floor streetcar, designed in 1939 midst pre-war conditions, when the governement has commited itself for supporting other transportation means than cars. Later they expanded the idea of this streetcar to build long multiple sets: the new train set was introduced in 1948 but due to technical difficulties the idea of producing it in great quantities was dismissed. A few years later the need for new trams with a greater capacity was even greater, so Ganz designed the UV-class, which was the most dominant vehicle type in the Budapest tram system until the mid-90's. Optically these new cars were very much like the old Stukas, but the electrical system and the 2-axle boogies were totally different. 375 cars were built until 1965, when Ganz introduced its 8-axle articulated tram. Although this latter design was less reliable, they still play an important role in the city's life, especially on route 4 and 6 (Great Boulevard). Thirty cars from the series were modernised in the late 90's with Ansaldo choppers, but now there are plans to replace the italian control system with a hungarian design using a more modern IGBT techology.
Between 1980 and 84 BKV bought 322 4-axle Tatra T5C5 cars. These were the first non-hungarian trams in Budapest in almost hundred years! They were purposed as a temporary replacement for ancient 2-axle cars (some of which was manufactured in 1896 - this gives you a hint how old they were), but the financial situation of the country was so bad at the time that the idea of purchasing more modern trams was dismissed - of course this led to the demise of some really interesting tram routes!
The next streetcar type to be bought by BKV was the DÜWAG TW6000 from Hannover, Germany. The purchase of these used trams (76 pieces) was almost hindered by political struggles in the city council, but they're now here and are having a great impact on the public transport system because they give a chance for the tram to survive in a quite anti-tram situation.
As for vehicles of the other tram network systems of Hungary: between the seconn World War and the nineties they mostly used used vehicles (that were dumped in Budapest, like the "home-made" articulated car, which can still be seen in these cities), but now they're on their own: Miskolc has bought used 8-axle Tatra KT8D5's from Slovakia and 6-axle E1's from Vienna, while Szeged purchased brand new 4-axle T6A2's. Debrecen chose a hungarian design and bought ten new 6-axle Ganz trams. All these new or almost new acquisitions are still not enough: the cities are looking for a replacement for the old "home-made" articulated. There were even rumours of Debrecen buying a few TW6000's from Hannover but this was never confirmed.
I don't work for transport companies, nor do I have the qualifications to pretend I know as much about these things as a transportation engineer. Trams are just one of my hobbies - I take photos of them and read much about them, but I'm not a professional. Please tell me when you know something in a different way!
As for my photos: what started out as "by-product" has became one of my main hobbies. Originally I only wanted to make a webpage about my childhood transportation memories, with a few old pictures borrowed from fellow tram maniacs. Then I thought about taking a couple of photos of what was then to be seen on the Budapest rails. The next thing I remember was that I was spending a considerable part of my salary on the developing of film negatives. Then I bought a digital camera and things became easier. My photos appeared in magazines, such as LRTA's Tramways&Urban Transit (where a three-page essay about the past and future of Budapest trams, written by me, was also published), VDVA's Blickpunkt Strassenbahn (among others cover photo of 2/2004), the hungarian magazine Indóház, the austrian periodical tramway&modell and Transit Australia. Also, one of my favorite "hobby in a hobby"-type shots, namely a night shot was selected as the European Railway Picture Gallery's picture of the Month in March, 2004. I'm glad that so many people like my photos - it's a nice thing!
This website is made in my free time - I do it for fun. I would probably update it more often if I had more time, but I have to earn my living, too :) If you liked my pages and you feel like it, I would be most honoured if you bought me something off my amazon.co.uk Wish List! Or if you live in the US, from my amazon.com Wish List!
One of my most ambitious projects is a series about the "lost" tram routes of Budapest. It started out as a free-time occupation but turned into a kind of historic dissertation. Originally I just looked up a few old photos and took photographs of the same place in the present, but then then the material (facts, dates and figures) got bigger and bigger.
Unfortunately you won't find this material here because of one simple reason: it's in hungarian and it would take too much time to translate it to english. So, what will you find here, then?
Pictures. Pictures of the past and pictures of the present. Still-lifes taken in tramsheds (we call them remises), and scenes of current events. Detail photographs of the vehicles, and pictures of unusual situations. I hope that you'll have a great time browsing my pages!
I'm always on the lookout for tram pictures of Budapest. If you happen to have some and you're into sharing, please e-mail me! I know there are tram fans out there who have been to Budapest earlier and took pictures. These pictures are valuable for me (not in the financial way - unfortunately I don't have the money to pay for old pictures) because they show our trams in a different way than we - hungarian tram maniacs - see them, and because they are usually of better quality than those taken by hungarian enthusiasts. This has got a simple explanation: before 1990 Hungary was locked behind the "Iron Curtain", so the film material (slide or negative) and the photo labs available to the average tram-maniac were not really up to high standards. Of course there are exceptions, but the average photographer was unable to acquire the same equipment as any "western" tram fan was able to! It's always a feast for me to look at some old pictures taken by people coming from the other side of the "Iron Curtain"!
Please, share your old Budapest tram pictures with me! Thanks in advance!
The unofficial guide to Budapest trams!
Latest update: March 20, 2016
the tram life of Budapest
The introduction of the TW6000 to Budapest in 2001
Tram-fans from Germany visiting Budapest, 13.08.2001
The way to the tram driver contest, 04.04.2002
Flooding of the Danube, August, 2002
Budapest tram snapshots - October, November, December 2003
Budapest tram snapshots - Summer and Autumn of 2004
Budapest tram snapshots - from December 2004 to April 2005
Budapest tram snapshots - Summer of 2005
Budapest tram snapshots - August/September 2005
Budapest tram snapshots - September/October 2005
Budapest tram snapshots - October/November 2005
Going snowblind in December 2005
The arrival of the longest tramcar in the world
The first test run of the Combino Supra in the city
Flood of the Danube I-II.
A visit to the new home of the world's longest tramcars
Anniversary of a true classic - the UV is 50 years old!
Some more Combino Budapest
Budapest tram snapshots - March/April/May 2005
Combino-Initiatation in Budapest, 1.7.2006.
Good-bye-party for the UVs in South-Pest
Budapest tram snapshots May-August 2006 I-II
Budapest tram snapshots September-October 2006 I-II-III
Leave-taking of the UVs of route 19 I-II
Short movies and photos of UVs on route 41's outer end
Midnight run - on more than 2 kilometers of Combino trams!
Leave-taking of the UVs of route 41
Good-bye to UVs on route 47 - and in the whole of Budapest!
Budapest tram snapshots - early 2008
Trams and winter 2009-10
Budapest - public transit events in the first half of 2010
Budapest public transit life - Spring to Winter 2012 I-II. (02-MAR-2013)
Budapest public transit life - Spring to Winter 2012 III-IV. (12-MAR-2013)
cities with trams
Ex-Viennese E1 tramcars in Miskolc, 12.15.2002
Lost routes of Miskolc, and a few "tram by night" pictures
Chartered ride in snowy Szeged
"Open Day" in Szeged
A visit to Debrecen
"New" Tatras and heritage streetcars in Szeged I-II.
Autumn visit to Szeged I-II.
A city with a lost tramway: Pécs
"Open gates day" in Szeged I-II.
Miskolc: about trams and closed factories
Szeged in winter's sleep, December 2009
Cold hours in Miskolc, January 2011
Szeged: new tram here, new line starting soon (20-FEB-2012)
Miskolc: before the tram extension went into use (27-FEB-2012)
Szeged: knee-deep in snow (25-APR-2012)
New line, new trams - plus visits to the tram and the trolley bus depot (04-JUN-2012)
UV motorcars - current rolling stock, with pictures
The Urban Public Transport Museum at Szentendre
The Urban Public Transport Museum, continued
Budapest Urban Public Transport Museum at Szentendre, again - but this time with proper pictures
The central tram/metro workshop of the BKV, Budapest
The Milleneum Subway Line: heritage still in use
Aesthetic anatomy of the UV streetcar I.
Aesthetic anatomy of the UV streetcar II.
A visit to the depot of the Budapest cogwheel railway
Hungarian steel-frame trams and the "Füzesi Árpád" tram workshop
An introduction to the Transport Museum in Budapest
An introduction to the "Kisföldalatti"
The Urban Public Transit Museum in Szentendre, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2012 (22-NOV-2012)
Lost rails: closed
tram routes in Budapest
Route 8, closed on 31. December, 1980
Route 58, closed on 17. January, 1977
Trams on Erzsébet híd (Elisabeth bridge)
Route 43, closed on 1. December, 1983
Route 15, closed on 15. November, 1977
Route 65, closed on 13. January, 1980
115 years of electric tramways - Nyugati pályaudvar
Route 25, supplemented by bus from 1. November, 1972, closed in 1973
Route 64, supplemented by trolley bus since 3.1.1980.
More to life
Trams of Vienna, Austria
Vienna trams by night
Trams of Prague, the Czech Republic I-III.
Trams of Sarajevo, Bosnia
Trams of Graz, Austria
Trams of Milan, Italy
Trams of Blackpool, England I-II.
Croydon Tramlink, England
Docklands Right Railway - London, England
Trams of Cologne, Germany I-III.
Trams of Antwerp, Belgium
Trams of Munich, Germany
Vienna trams in the rain I-III.
A visit to the central tram/subway/bus workshop of Wiener Linien, Vienna I-II.
Tramwaytag 2003, Vienna I-II.
Linz, Gmunden, Innsbruck - trams, trains and cable cars I-IV.
Tour de Trams: Munich, Augsburg, Ulm
Tour de Trams: Stuttgart I-II.
Tour de Trams: Heilbronn, Heidelberg
Tour de Trams: Mannheim, Ludwigshafen I-II.
Tour de Trams: Kassel
Tour de Trams: Essen, Oberhausen, Mülheim I-II.
Tour de Trams: Düsseldorf and Cologne
100 years of Wiener Linien - tram parade in Vienna I-II.
Trams of Amsterdam, The Netherlands I-III.
Trams of Bern, Switzerland
Trams of Basel, Switzerland I-II.
Trams of Zürich, Switzerland I-II.
Trams of Transylvania: Arad, Cluj-Napoca, Oradea I-II.
Trams of Innsbruck, Austria
Trams of Graz, Austria
Tour de Trams: Mannheim, Heidelberg, Ludwigshafen
Tour de Trams: Frankfurt/Main, Erfurt
Tour de Trams: Nordhausen, Magdeburg, Berlin, Woltersdorf
Tour de Trams: Potsdam, Dortmund, Krefeld
Tour de Trams: Düsseldorf
Tour de Trams: Köln and Bonn
Tour de Trams: Linz
A short visit to Kosice (SK)
Through Slovakia with an old railcoach (May 2003)
Potsdam: 125 years of trams I-II.
Berlin: a tale of two cities I-II.
Vienna: nice trams in bad weather
Tramwaytag 2005 + miscellaneous from Vienna
Tour de Trams light: Trams of Bremen I-II.
Tour de Trams light: the Hannover Tram Museum in Wehmingen I-III.
Tour de Trams light: Hannover - from tram to Stadtbahn
Tour de Trams light: a few minutes in Munich
Trams of Zagreb, Croatia I-III.
Wandering around in Vienna again
To Switzerland via Linz and Innsbruck
Basel, tramspotter paradise
Trams of Geneva
Lausanne, Montreux, Bern
Innsbruck in snow
Vienna, February 2006.
Tram-parade in Amsterdam I-II.
A sweep through The Hague
Farewell-party for the DÜWAGs of Cologne
Trams of Brno, Czech Republic
Vienna Tram Day 2006
Innsbruck, August 2007
Trams of Upper Silesia
Brno trams in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the night I-II.
Upper-Silesian trams in September 2008, I-V.
Amsterdam's tram museums back in 2003
Good-bye to Dresden's Tatra trams
December 8, 2007 - the last day of Stuttgart's last classic tram line
Dresden's trams in May 2010
Stuttgart's tram museum in Zuffenhausen, December 2007
The trams of Warsaw in April 2008
Warsaw celebrating 100 years of electric trams (April 2008)
Trams of Ghent/Gent (Belgium)
Trams of Brussels, September 2010
A bit of the Berlin U-Bahn
A bit of the Berlin U-Bahn, part 2
Trams and trains of Berlin, November 2010
Cottbus, a city of "extended Tatras" (21-JAN-2012)
Potsdam: old trams, new trams (01-FEB-2012)
Trams of Berlin, September 2011 (06-FEB-2012)
Vienna in Autumn 2011 (26-APR-2012)
Trams of Prague in March 2012 (18-MAY-2012)
Trams of Ostrava in September 2012 (11-APR-2013)
Halle (Saale): Meandering in the Rain (13-APR-2013)
I started to translate my original (hungarian) site to english quite lately, and I don't think I'll ever have the time to translate every single page, so the material available here is limited. But at least I tried to pick out the best parts of it for you :-)
Second, some of the pictures shown here are not mine. They are displayed upon kind permission of their photographer, owner, copyright holder or representative. However, you might find some photos of unknown origin and/or unauthorized usage - if you see something like this or suspect any kind of copyright violation, please notify me!
As for my own photos: you can use them if you ask for permssion via e-mail :-)
I would also like to express my thankfulness to the following people: Tim Boric, Stephen Dee, Leroy W. Demery Jr., Balázs Dénes, Heinz Heider, Jakob Kindby Holm, Matyi Kónya, Nagy Zsolt Levente, Németh Zoltán Ádám ("NZA"), Németh Zoltán Gábor ("division by zero"), Lars F. Richter, Michael Russell, Harald Schachenhofer, Sujbert László, Szántó Ferenc, Szigeti Dániel, Mike Taplin, "Mr. Cyber", and others.
Another hobby of mine:
General aviation in Hungary (in english)