In the millennium year of 1896, a grand exhibition was organised in Budapest, in Városliget (City Park). In the pavilions erected in the park, Hungary had the chance to introduce itself to the world: in 240 pavilions objects, inventions, and products were presented that were exclusively of Hungarian origin. It was intended to give a full picture of the past and present by gathering together the traditions of Hungary, and all the results achieved in the field of culture and science. The field of transport also belonged here. The items - collected with meticulous deliberation – certainly aroused the curiosity of the public at the end of the 19th century. Thus, the organisers decided to keep the valuable collection together, and to establish a permanent museum in order to keep and develop the selection further.
The millennium Transport Hall was designed by Ferenc Pfaff, main architect of the Hungarian Royal State Railways, and similarly to other pavilions, it was designed to be temporary; however, after the museum was built, it was continuously developed into a permanent building. The pavilion – which was one of the most compelling ones at the 1896 exhibition – was built in a romantic-eclectic style. Its 3,100 square metre exhibition space hosted the most important objects of railway, shipping and water construction, as well as post, and telegraph offices. Beside vehicles, parts, décor objects, and several models, photographs, maps, drawings, and tickets presented the development of Hungarian transportation – completed by international items.
The main spokesman for the establishment of the Museum of Transport was Kajetán Banovits, the first director of the institution. Due to his persistent work, the Minister for Commerce gave permission to set up the museum, which opened on 1 May 1899. The collection was developed continuously, while – in the meantime – the Hungarian and international machines and models of aviation were also given a place in the building. However, the lack of space soon became apparent, and as a result several plans were formed to extend the museum. However, these concepts were impeded by limited financial resources and the two world wars.
In 1944, towards the end of World War II, the museum was hit by two bombs, which caused severe damage to the building and the collection. It was only at the end of the 50s that a decision was made to renovate the building. The museum was re-built in a more modest way, according to the taste of the age. The Museum of Transport re-opened its gates on 2 April 1966.
The preparation of the new permanent exhibition also demonstrated that the museum aspired to be more than just a preserver of objects and artefacts but to become a centre for transport history research. In 1971 the Museum of Transport received the status of national museum. The institute expanded with more and more exhibition places from the 70s on, and finally, the central building of the museum was extended with a new exhibition building in 1987.
In accordance with a 2009 decision regarding the integration of the Hungarian Museum of Transport and the Hungarian Technical Museum, the most significant exhibition venues of Hungarian industrial and technical heritage had been united under the roof of one institution, the Hungarian Museum of Science, Technology and Transport.
The Hungarian Museum of Transport stayed open for visitors up until 2016, when the demolition of the museum building commenced parallel with the reconstruction of Városliget. According to the original plans, the collections would have been reinstalled in a new museum building modeled after the original construction of 1896, and supplemented with underground exhibition halls. This plan proved to be inadequate for housing the largest items of the collections, therefore, after considering various possible locations, the new museum complex will be built on the site of the former Northern Maintenance Depot – an outstandingindustrial heritage site located in Kőbánya, a neighbourhood of the 10th district of Budapest.
The great majority of the museum’s valuable collection is currently stored in leased storage facilities. The main aim of the creation of this complex is to provide appropriate housing for the entire collection, and to allow for the museum to evolve into a true intellectual hub.