In the suburbs of the old Budapest, the Istvántelki Főműhely (Main Railway Workshop / Istvántelek Train Yard) also known as the “Red Star Train Graveyard“, was one of the largest and most important railway vehicle repair shops in Hungary. More than 100 locomotives and train cars rots here, some in deteriorating depots, but more of then in the fields. Unfortunately, much of the glory was before and during the communist era, although the area continues to operate in some form to this day, by various companies and MÁV (Hungarian National Railways) also owns one of the large halls and the work is going on in it. Of course, it should be known that by the end of using the steam engines in Hungary by 1984, the key role of Istvántelek’s main workshop had ceased.
Today the workshop (“Gőzösműhely“) of MÁV Nosztalgia Kft.’s engineers still preparing the vintage locomotives for the Közlekedési Múzeum (National Transport Museum). Some of the steam engines were brought here to be repaired and exhibited in the Museum, but it seems that they were instead left just here. Half of the main hall is already repaired, but the rest of the workshop is under really bad conditions, the roof is almost ready to explode, most of the colored glass tables are already broken, the outstanding iron structure is also in bad shape, see image.
Trains to and from the Nyugati Pályaudvar (Western Railway Station) to Vác, Szob and Veresegyház all pass there, but not many passengers are likely to know that they are rolling alongside World War I or former Soviet railway vehicles, which are slowly becoming extinct. There are even wagons there that took Jews to the Auschwitz death camp.
In the second half of the 19th century, with the rapid expansion of the railway, another high-capacity workshop was needed in addition to the maintenance station built at the Nyugati Pályaudvar (Western Railway Station). The proximity of the Nyugati Pályaudvar was an important aspect in the design of the site of the new steam locomotive workshop, which is why the Istvántelep in Rákospalota was chosen. After a long expropriation procedure in the sandy, loose subsoil, the construction works of “Palota-Újfalu” started in 1901. also known as a railway station to make it easier for workers to travel.
Compared to the conditions of the time, the workers of the settlement may have had a golden life, for example, a workers’ dining room (casino) and even a spa were built here. At the beginning of the last century, the car repair shop operating here was the largest building in Budapest with its 24,000 m2. There was enough space of 82 locomotives. In addition to these, a locomotive assembly workshop and several warehouses were established here, which were opened in 1903. The lathe, blacksmith, wheel forge, spring and foundry workshop were built between the wagon and locomotive workshops. On the east side of the area, a huge butler workshop was established, as well as two water towers. In order to hand over the plant as soon as possible, there was a day when 500 workers worked here at one time. The opening ceremony took place in 1905, when the first decorated train carrying 1,150 workers rolled through the main gate.
After the construction of the workshop began, in 1907 the 120-apartment railway housing estate, now known as the MÁV site, was built in the south-eastern part of Rákospalota, which was expanded in 1914 with 252 new apartments.
From 13 January 1918, they worked 10 to 12 hours a day. 45 locomotives, 280 wagons, 30 cars and vans were repaired, and they also took part in the restoration of the Budapest-Vác railway line. Meanwhile, 70,000 horseshoes were produced. The successful work of MÁV’s employees was perfectly documented by the small news published in the daily newspapers on March 9 about the publication of the new railway timetable. This meant – albeit to a very limited extent, of course – that in March Budapest had regular rail connections with the liberated parts of the country.
During World War II, severe damage was done to the area, with the car class and several smaller workshops burned down. After World War II, it was renamed Jenő Landler Vehicle Repair Plant, in keeping with good socialist custom, the name can be strongly linked to the history of the party at the time. Jenő was the leader of MÁV during the communism in Hungary.
We can only imagine the glorious past today: most of the halls were demolished, leaving only the color of the motor car and the steam workshop from the railway era. Nowadays the area is guarded, companies are still renting buildings, and MÁV is still using one of the halls. The buildings are under protection, but it’s totally not visible, unfortunately. The aim of the declaration of protection is to preserve the architectural, technical history and applied arts values and equipment of the MÁV Istvántelki Main Workshop, built between 1901 and 1903.
- Vintage Steam Engine without the fire in the engine, used the factory’s hot steam as fuel /// Óbudai Szeszgyár (Alcohol Factory of Óbuda, 1867), used in factories of high fire risk.
Two of these rare locomotives are still there, one on display as a statue, the other waiting for its fate. The one called “Józsi” was made by the Jung factory in 1912, initially, it worked at the First Hungarian Stock Brewery (here they could have feared the ignition of barley malt), then he ended his career at the Óbuda Distillery. It is currently on Istvántelk among the other “preserved” wrecks.
- MÁV 424 series no005 locomotive with the big red start on the front
Among the old vehicles stands one of MÁV’s legendary 424 steamers with a huge red star at the beginning. It was once considered the pride of the Hungarian industry. It is thanks to him that the facility’s nickname today is: Red Star Train Cemetery. Weights 137 tons
- MÁV 301 series no006 locomotive from 1913 (worked until 1964)
The 301s, who ran at MÁV before the First World War, was considered to be the most beautiful and modern steam locomotives not only of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy but also of Europe. 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. This steam engine is known by many as the most beautiful Hungarian steam locomotive and is considered a part of the history of railways as a fast train locomotive in blood: this has drawn the Orient Express, among others, from the beginning of the twentieth century.