Gyermekvasút is a seven station railway line found in Buda, Hungary where all the roles including station master, signal controller and ticket seller are run entirely by children. The only adult at each station is in a supervisory role for emergencies. Yet, this entire system is no oddity for them as it has been running since 1947. Across the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe, over 50 children’s railway lines had been set up since 1932 in Moscow. It was thought that children would gain discipline and comradery in those days. Today, it is more about gaining skills for adult life after school.
Gaining one of these roles is no small feat. In fact, children have to maintain excellent grades at school to qualify. Then they must undergo an intensive 6 month training programme and sit the same exams sat by adults who work on the train lines. They take great pride in being part of this experience because it has multiple benefits: up to 2 days off school a week and the ability to learn practically from their studies in school. For example, ticket selling can help with maths and speaking with foreign tourists can be a lesson in English. Each morning, they dress in military uniforms and listen to the business of the day before being inspected. This level of commitment and professionalism ensures that the ability of the railway line to provide good customer service remains high whatever role they are given. As one supervisor, 20 year old Balázs Sáringer explains, “The only thing they don’t do is drive the train.”