City guide

A new exhibition shows 50 years of Budapest transit company BKV

Photo : Bálint Hirling / We Love Budapest
BKV 50

The past half century of Budapest transport is in the spotlight, albeit suitably hidden from plain view. Found beneath focal Deák tér, the Underground Railway Museum highlights retro relics from the history of the city’s BKV transit agency, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary. Artifacts on view include old-school punching machines, a collection of staff uniforms, miniature bus models and plenty of historic photographs, all organized according to vehicle types found in the company fleet. The museum’s permanent display, featuring antiquated subway cars, is also accessible.

Budapest’s public-transportation services date back to the 19th century, but by the late 1960s the city’s trams, buses, boats and urban railways were managed by four separate entities, causing bureaucratic conflict. To integrate the whole transit system, the BKV company was established in January 1968, overseeing and coordinating all of the city’s passenger vehicles so that Budapest residents could transfer between them easily and efficiently.

Photo: Bálint Hirling / We Love Budapest

With its collection of vintage and modern-day vehicles currently under the operation of BKV, the transport firm celebrated its 50th birthday on January 1st, 2018. To mark the occasion, the company has announced special events citywide, starting with a recently opened exhibition at the Underground Railway Museum of the Deák tér transport hub.

Photo: Bálint Hirling / We Love Budapest

Tucked away right next to the station’s main information counter, the entry hall of the museum is now reorganized to feature a whole range of heritage attractions from company history. Mounted on the wall, a brief introduction in English and Hungarian presents the story of BKV, highlighting facts from before and following the foundation of the firm. While this is the only English-language information available for the new exhibition, many of the other displays can be identified without detailed explanation.

Grouped by transportation type, items on show span retro bells, small-scale models of vintage and modern-day streetcars, old paper tickets, outdated timetables and several monochrome and color photos showing antiquated conveyances around major city routes. You can also follow how the company uniform has changed throughout the decades with somewhat eccentric mannequins wearing BKV-branded outfits.

Photo: Bálint Hirling / We Love Budapest

This new showcase marks the first of a series of events planned by BKV for 2018. While the major appeal of this subterranean museum is still its old-school tramcars set up within one of the original Metro 1 platforms, it’s worth making a little detour to view this new attraction open until the end of the year.