The most distinguishable "feature" I found is a vast, unmissable, standoffish and perhaps unique storage depot. Although it is eerily silent, having been closed down, what defines it is architecturally. This bleak, bombastic block is clearly a left-over monstrosity from former times and must be the ugliest building in the entire metropolis. But it's intriguing and worth a mention, if only because there was nothing else of note that I could find. Should irregular, offbeat socialist/Sovietesque structures be of interest, a visit to this tucked-away hub, 10 kilometres from the city centre, is indeed worthwhile.

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It was the reason for my visit, to find the illusive "Jenő Landler Vehicle Repair Plant", which I had only heard about. This one-off site is a must-see – only if permitted – for train enthusiasts.

From 1950 to 1990, this was the main train and railway general repairs workshop in Hungary. Since then, the enclosure has become a dilapidated "rusting place", along with its abandoned trains and carriages. Although a sense of splendour still prevails for some items, they would be better off on show elsewhere. Until then, they await their next move, whenever granted.

Mentions of this landmark are few and far between, if it is not going too far to call it a landmark. I may have given an impression that it is totally abandoned, but in fact it's not. The good news is that the place is not entirely closed to any curious visitors. To visit the premises at 5-7 Elem utca, go down the quiet, nondescript alleyway that runs parallel with Istvántelek's distinctly long and graffiti-obliterated train station. Once there, the porter at reception will advise what to do next.

In my case I was given a phone number for the MÁV (Hungarian Railways) "communications department". It then became clear that if I wished to pursue this "tour", which understandably is a rare occurrence, I would have to return again and on their terms. It's frustrating to realise this but one has to respect that there are safety concerns, and thus on-the-spot access without assistance is not permitted. But I have enrolled for next time. It will be an honour to complete what must be one of the city's oddest tours.

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Fortunately, my visit was not a complete waste of time as I was given a chance to quickly step inside and observe – in safety – one of the main attractions, the "Red Star Train", with its emblem still reasonably intact on front. During its prime this majestic relic, trailing long processions of trucks and carriages, could easily have been a prop for the classic 1965 film "Doctor Zhivago". The "Red Star" must have travelled across the continent many times over before "retiring" here.

I respectfully took my leave from this train wilderness, which is rather a sorry sight. But it's good to know that the valuable "Red Star" and some other rare period pieces are still there. For instance, there is the four-cylinder MAV 301 train that was in service between 1911 and 1914. It's one of only two models ever made, and definitely something to see next time.

Hopefully someone will restore these vintage conveyances then deliver the lot to the highly commendable and nearby Magyar Vasúttörténeti Park/Hungarian Railway Museum with its fine fleet of vintage trains on parade. See http://www.vasuttortenetipark.hu

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It's a strange outing to this twilight suburb. There are no tourist trails or imposing shops. Depending on one’s priorities this modest hush-hush neighbourhood with its touch of sleaze would be considered grim for some but an accolade and "promised land" for others.

The best way to get to Istvántelek is by train. This locale is 10 minutes from Nyugati station and connects with the Budapest to Vác commuter line service.

When called up by MÁV I will return, but something tells me it's going to be a long wait on the "ghost train platform" until then.


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