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The History of the Maintenance Depot

Hearing of the Northern Maintenance Depot might not suggest all that much to a Budapester today as during the past 140 years, up until 2009, the area was home to locomotive and railway engine service facilities. Apart from the repair workers and administration staff, visitors have not frequented these premises. Having been one the most significant railway plants in the country, it is precisely the palpably industrial atmosphere and the incomparably spacious halls that bring about the special spirit of this complex.

Founded through the contributions of Ödön Széchenyi and György Klapka in 1867, the Hungarian-Swiss Machine Works utilized the site for the production of railway vehicles. However, as early as 1870, control over the factory had been handed over to MÁV (Hungarian State Railways), and the premises had been connected to Józsefváros Railway Station. Soon after this change, locomotives and carriages were produced at the depot; some of which had been exhibited at the 1873 world exposition in Vienna. Taking up most man-hours of those years was the production of vehicles for the developing rail connection between Pest and Losonc, while locomotives from the Northern parts of the country were brought here to undergo a thorough repair. It was mainly due to these developments that the factory assumed the Northern Maintenance Depo designation.

On the same site – finished in 1880 according to the plans of MÁV chief engineer János Feketeházy, architect of Liberty Bridge – stands the so-called Eiffel Hall, which will soon become home to the workshops and rehearsal rooms of the Hungarian State Opera. By the beginning of the 20th century, the area developed to be not only the most modern plant of the Hungarian railway production but to be the largest industrial site of Budapest. During that time, the depo was able to facilitate repairs for 90 locomotives and 455 carriages, while additional maintenance locations outdoors were equipped to welcome 48 locomotives and 280 carriages. Between the two wars, the factory became able to provide maintenance for Kandó locomotives. After World War II, mass-production and reparations of diesel locomotives had begun. At this time, during the year of 1958, the depot saw the development of its Diesel Hall – an immense repair room finished in 1962 and designed by István Gundel, Tibor Rochlitz and György Kőváry, architect of the main passenger hall of the Southern Railway Station in Budapest. As a last big development, during the 70s, the Northern Maintenance Depot had expanded with the addition of a vast bogie frame workshop. These three giant halls – Eiffel, Diesel and the Bogie halls – and further facilities of the Northern Railway Depot had served the Hungarian railways up until their closure in 2009.