The abandoned Istvántelek Train Yard (Istvántelki főműhely), otherwise known as the “Red Star Train Graveyard,” occupies a vast area of land outside Budapest. More than 100 locomotives and train cars rot away, some in deteriorating depots, others out in the field. Among these are some very rare train engines, and a few cars that are said to have transported prisoners to Auschwitz during the Holocaust.
Built at the beginning of the 20th century as a repair yard for the national railway, only a few southern parts of the train yard are still in use, while most of it is abandoned.
Two large depots, a few smaller sheds and open-air areas are scattered with locomotives and railcars, some of them very ancient, others more recent, from Hungary’s time as part of the Soviet Regime. Some of the trains were brought here to be repaired and exhibited in the Budapest Railway Museum but never made it to the display and were instead left behind in the train yard.
There are a few gems rusting away in the graveyard that are sure to make any train enthusiast’s heart beat faster. A few Hungarian MAV 424 steam engines weigh in at 137 tons and bear a red star on their fronts, which earned the train yard its nickname. There is also an engine of the MAV 301 series, used from 1911 to 1914, which is one of only a few still in existence.
Linked to this engine are several German freight cars, which may be the very ones that transported hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews to their death in Auschwitz during Nazi occupation in World War II. Standing in front of the freight cars, one can only imagine the horror, tragedy, and despair that went on inside of them.
Among the more recent items in the train graveyard are some engines and cars from the Soviet era, inside of which rail tickets from the 1960s can still be found. Altogether the train graveyard offers a great alternative to the usual Budapest tourism sites, not only for train lovers, but for anyone with an eye for history. The engines and cars are slowly losing their battle against nature, and before long the trains may be entirely obscured by overgrown plant life.
Know Before You Go
On Facebook you can find the site "budapestscenes" which will provide you with a local guide. It can also be reached by telephone from the U.S. at 011-36-205240547, from Europe at 0036-20524057 and from Hungary at 0205240547. It is definitely useful to have somebody around who speaks the language and knows the place, as it is really a very large area and you might not find the engine you are looking for very easily.