424 steam locomotive, Bison, Nurmi
The most overemployed railway figurant, the representative of the heyday of Hungarian railway is the 424 steam locomotive. It defined the Hungarian railway transport from 1924 to the 1960s. It was the gem of the Hungarian industry. MÁV ordered the first six engines in 1918, and it ran its test journey on 22 April in 1924 between Budapest and Vác.
The curiosity is that besides mechanical engineer Béla Kertész, who directed the construction of the Bison, István Horthy (later deputy-governor) also took part in the work and became the president of MÁV as of February 1940. The other nickname of the engine: Nurmi comes from the Finnish long-distance runner Paavo Nurmi, who was the best middle- and long-distance runner of the 1920s. The parallel is not a coincidence: the locomotive sniffled on the track at least as securely as the Finn did towards the finish. During the past two hundred years, trains went through a number of developments, but their constructions remained the same. Their power-machine is the steam engine that works by steam made in the furnace. The furnace is heated by stone-coal, wood, or mazut; in the case of the Bison, it was mazut. (Mazut is dense soggy material that remains after petroleum distillation.) The necessary water was carried by the locomotive in tanks.
A 424 locomotive was exposed in front of the Transport Museum of Budapest until last summer. Presently, it is shown in the exhibition of the Hungarian Railway Museum. In the countryside, you can see them at stations of Szolnok and Dombóvár.
Orient Express, the king of trains
The Gare de l’Est of Paris was not likely to think that they would launch the most famous train of the world to its first journey on 4 October 1883. Belgian banker Georges Nagelmackers founded the International Sleeping-Car Company (Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits) and he dreamt of a line that ran through Europe until Istanbul. The main shareholder of the company was the Belgian king Leopold II that was the reason why the royal lion symbol got into the blazon. The train became world-famous soon for its luxurious sleeping and dining cars that satisfied delicate taste, as well as for its prime crew and excellent cuisine. Why was it royal?
According to the legend, Ferdinand I of Bulgaria often drove the steam engine of Orient himself. In addition, Leopold II of Belgium always travelled by his own luxury wagon of the Express to his mistress. Do not forget: the Orient Express was not a railway wagon, but a travelling concept and a trademark still used today. It even inspired Agatha Christie, who wrote Murder on the Orient Express, when the luxury train became stuck in high snow in 1929, and they could rescue it after 11 days. The train crossed Hungary as well, since the beginning; it avoided the country only during the cold war. The most well known Hungarian anecdote is the story of the gypsy band at Érsekújvár station: a count was listening to pleasant gypsy music and so he missed the train that had an accident later. In gratitude, the count established a foundation to support the gypsy band.
NOHAB, the popular train
At the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s, the rate of steam-powered pulling was very high. Modernisation required the installation of high-capacity diesel locomotives. The Hungarian industry was not prepared for producing this kind of trains, thus tenders were invited. The German Krauss-Maffei and the Swedish Nydqvist & Holm AB entered the competition. MÁV selected the latter because of the technical advantage of the locomotive, the construction that demanded less maintenance and the fact that several thousand engines of this type already operated worldwide.
The Hungarian company bought 20 items from the Swedish maker, although NOHAB was ready to produce and deliver further ones, the order was suspended due to other circumstances. The Swedish trains were changed to the Russian M62 series ‘Sergei’ locomotives. Nohabs became very popular during their use, especially among engine drivers, due to their reliability. By the end of the 1990s, only a few of the 20 pieces served actively, this is the reason why it was so shocking to see when the renovated M61 004 locomotive had a fatal accident at Balatonlábdihegy. The engine crashed into a tree that had been brought down by a storm, rose into the air, its wheelset broke away and after taking a 120-degree turn, it landed on its side. Fortunately, there were no passengers in the first two carriages and the engine driver got off with a scratch or two, but the engine became unamendable. Nowadays, you can see Nohabs only at special occasions.
Fortunately, train lovers will have many programs this year again. The Hungarian Railway Museum expects visitors for a number of events. The traditional M2 Santa Express will leave the Nyugati (Western) Railway Terminal on the first weekend of December, where you will be able to travel from the terminal to the Railway Museum by a steam locomotive dressed in Christmas decorations.
Translated by Zita Aknai