Hungary celebrates 125 years of underground rail service

By admin
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In the European “Belle Époque” which ended with World War I, the Kingdom of Hungary initiated the largest urban developments in its history. One of the most ambitious projects of the time was the underground rail line under the Hungarian capital’s majestic Andrássy boulevard, which was completed in record time for the 1,000-year celebrations of Hungarian statehood.

Not only was it the first underground line in continental Europe, it was also a state-of-the art one. The model it was built on, the London Underground, ran on steam locomotives, while the Budapest line was electric, with metro cabins and locomotives built by Siemens and Halske.

The 3.7-kilometer long line with nine underground and two above-ground stations was opened on May 2, 1896, by Austrian Emperor and King of Hungary Franz Joseph. With service every four minutes and separate smoking compartments for ladies and gentlemen, the trains ran pretty much unchanged until the first major renovation in 1924.


To commemorate the anniversary, the Mint of the National Bank of Hungary issued on Monday a special, rectangular commemorative coin with a face value of 2,000 forints. The coin is made of a copper-nickel alloy, is patinated and both sides feature artwork based on contemporary drawings based on part of the construction documentation for the original rail line.

With a limited issue of only 8,000 pieces, these will end up in collections or as gifts, but as all other special edition coins of the Hungarian Mint, these are also legal tender, so in theory one could use them for grocery shopping. 

Title image: The Hungarian National Bank’s commemorative coin of the 1896 underground line. (source:

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