Apart from driving and conducting the train, children carry out all the duties along the 11.7km line that begins on the edge of Budapest and terminates in the Buda hills. This includes ticket sales, switch operation, and meeting and greeting passengers.
Child-operated trains were common in the USSR, so it’s not a novel concept, rather it’s a heritage that the Hungarian city has chosen to preserve.
More than just tradition
Would-be employees between 10 and 16-years old attend Gyermekvasútas Otthon to learn about and work on the train. While it may seem like the ideal way to skip school, it’s really an unconventional opportunity for extra-curricular education.
Once they have passed their railway workers exams, successful applicants are excused from school every two weeks to go on duty, but only if their grades don’t slip.
To the railway children, the train represents more than just tradition: selling tickets is an exercise in maths, operating switches is a lesson in physics, and welcoming foreign visitors is an English class.