Metro escalator tested in Hűvösvölgy terminus of the Children's Railway
Hungarian version of the article: A metró mozgólépcsőjét a Gyermekvasút hűvösvölgyi végállomásánál tesztelték
May 27, 2021 at 10:00 AM
Escalators appeared in Budapest in 1931, within the Corvin department store. However, this was an in-building machine. In the 1950s, Hungarian professionals did not yet have experience with long escalators, although such structures were needed by the planned metro, which was already under construction.
Ganz began developing the prototype in the early 1950s based on Soviet plans, but there was nowhere to try it in the absence of an underground.
The height difference between the tram stop and the Hűvösvölgy terminus is not hard to climb even on stairs. Photo taken in 1957 (Photo: Fortepan / No.: 176377)
To this end, the idea was born in 1952 that the machinery should be installed at the Hűvösvölgy terminus of the Pioneer Railway, of which the 7 July 1952 issue of the Szabad Nép wrote:
"One of the underground high-speed railway escalators will be experimentally installed at the Hűvösvölgy terminus of the Pioneer Railway. The aim of the experiment is, on the one hand, to test the quality of domestically made escalators designed based on Soviet experience and, on the other hand, to accustom travellers in Budapest to the escalator. The operating personnel of the escalator shall also be trained on this experimental escalator."
Hűvösvölgy station was not the only option as a test site. A shop and Buda Castle were also considered, but in the end, the choice was made for the pioneer railway terminal because 100% occupancy seemed guaranteed on weekends, and all ages would use the device. It was also important that there would be little traffic on weekdays, i.e. there was a way to correct any errors.
At the time, it was planned to move the structure to its final location, a metro station later, and, if necessary, to build a separate escalator for Hűvösvölgy.
The Hűvösvölgy terminus of the Pioneer Railway (now Children's Railway) in 1950 (Photo: Fortepan / No.: 12799)
The construction of the escalator for the Pioneer Railway was not hindered by the fact that the metro constructions in Budapest were stopped in February 1954 for economic reasons. The escalator was installed in the autumn of 1955, and trials and other work lasted until May 1956. The structure consisted of a single stairway that travelled either down or up and did not actually lead up from the tram stop to the station because it ended just below it.
It was installed on 24 May 1956, and the staircase was operational from the following day. One hundred forty people could travel on it at one time, and the journey took 14 seconds. Its length was given in contemporary reports at 20 metres, and it was written that it carried passengers 10 metres vertically. The trip was not free. A children's ticket cost 30 fillér, which was almost the price of a tram ticket at the time.
Today, several sources claim the device was 80 metres long, but the accurate datum is likely closer to the original 20 metres. This is confirmed by the fact that the frame of the upper end of the escalator has survived. The modelling class of the Children's railway operates here today, and from it, the actual length of the escalator can be estimated.
Metro escalator in real size, in 1969, at the Eastern Railway Station (Photo: Fortepan / No.: 3959)
Budapest's first escalator outside a building only operated for a short time. In 1959 newspapers mentioned it was still in operation. The 2 April 1970 issue of Népszava, on the other hand, already described as non-functional. The structure was dismantled in 1973, by which time it had served its educational function. The Budapest metro entered service in 1970, with many escalators, i.e., both the travelling public and professionals could get used to travelling on the escalators and operating them.
The escalator in Hűvösvölgy was, therefore, an experiment, not intended to really serve the passengers of the railway. In this respect, it was unique, the first of its kind in Hungary.
Cover photo: The escalator in Hűvösvölgy at its inauguration, 25 May 1956 (Photo: Hungarian National Museum Photo Gallery)