The Children’s Railway in Budapest is one of the city’s most celebrated attractions. It’s known locally as Gyermekvasút, and the special thing about it is that it is entirely operated by little ones – aged 10 to 14 – under adult supervision.
This is not child labor, but an educational effort. All children are volunteering for the role, and they need to earn their places by passing a medical aptitude test, performing a train training course, and proving that they earn good grades in school. In addition, their parents must sign permission forms. Usually, children “work” here no more than 18 days, and the experience counts for their practical CV, with a potential to help them find employment positions in their adult lives.
Gyermekvasút is the world’s largest Children’s Railway and a fun place for little visitors. It connects Széchényi-hegy and Hűvösvölgy over 11.2 kilometers of railway tracks that take passengers up the Buda hills, crossing lookouts, playgrounds, shrines, and other interesting points. The trains run from Tuesday to Sunday throughout the year, and from May to August every day. Pupils with excellent professional performance get the chance to remain “employed” by the Children’s Railway till they turn 16.
The rides are fun, nostalgic, and charming at the same time. Be advised that weekends are very busy. And, besides train rides, visitors will also enjoy particular events, like model train shows, daytime programs, and performance tours. There’s even an environmental program organized by the local Forestry service showing the indigenous flora. This, however, is addressed to resident primary school and kindergarten groups.
The Children’s Railway has nine stations, as follows: Széchenyi-hegy, Normafa, Csillebérc, Virágvölgy, János-hegy, Vadaspark, Szépjuhászné, Hárs-hegy, and Hűvösvölgy. Rides are offered with traditional tourist trains, but also with nostalgic trains on Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. Locomotives running the nostalgic trains are four-axes, coal-fired vehicles manufactured in the 1950s (the last of their kind to run in Hungary?).