July 21

21 July, Hungary – ‘All Over The Place – Europe, Part 2’

As history testifies, Stalin had some funny ideas (to put it mildly). When he took control of Hungary after World War 2 he had a particularly unique one – to build a railway near Budapest operated exclusively by children. What’s astounding is that it’s still going strong today.

I think the idea must have been to instil a work ethic and army style discipline in the kids, and from what we saw today I’d say it probably works. We arrived as a group of 30 or so children marched up the road in uniform and then saluted the Hungarian flag. In no time at all they were aiding passengers onto small gauge railway carriages, checking tickets, offering advice and waving the first train of the day out of the station. Inside the office there were kids operating the signals and selling tickets. The only job that adults do is driving the trains themselves and maintaining them in the sheds. It’s all quite bonkers, but it works. Even when it’s term time the place is operational as the kids get days off school to work there!

We met a young teenager called Victor (sporting his special issue red officer’s hat) who talked us through the ins and outs of the place and let us make some announcements on the tannoy (Johny took it as an opportunity to launch into an impressive rap complete with beatboxing). Then it was all aboard the train where we shot a sequence about the children throwing us off because we didn’t have a ticket.

In the afternoon we sat in a particularly humid train carriage by the sheds and shot a sketch about two politicians coming up with the idea of the railway. It ended with me slamming a custard pie into Johny’s face, which made a nice change as it usually seems to be me who cops it on the gunge front. Now we’re off out for a night in “District 7”. It’s where all the bars and restaurants that the cool people hang out in apparently, so we should fit right in (ahem).

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