Development of Debrecen into a city
In the second half of XIX. Century, (19 November 1857) the railway connecting Debrecen with Pest and through this with Vienna was built. Later, by means of its feeder lines - Vámospércs–Nagykároly–Szatmári in 1871, Hajdúböszörmény–Hajdúnánás in 1884, Balmazújváros–Füzesabony in 1891, with a branch towards Sáránd to Derecske and Nagyléta in 1894, and Hajdúsámson in 1906 – our town soon became the railway interconnection point of an area of 70-100 km. (1). (1.) Therefore, the Railway Management Board (1890), the Vehicle Service Station, which employed several hundred workers (1898), the subsequent Carriage and Wagon Works were settled here.
Steam driven railway and horse tramways
The management of the town sought to solve the town’s passenger transport and freight problems following the examples of other Hungarian towns, so it concluded a preliminary contract with Henry Berger (who was the member of the Supervisory Board, István Steam Mill Rt.) and his partners (Dr. János Kola and Ignác Altmann) for the establishment of horse tramway in June 1881. The preliminary contract stipulated the main line that started from the Railway Station of the Hungarian Royal State Railway as far as the Great Forest, with a feeder line to the István Steam Mill (located in the area of bordered by present-day Egyetem Avenue, Füredi Street and Nádor Street), then it turned into several back-streets and then on a different route to the Railway Station again. The local authorities of the town accepted this plan; nevertheless another one was submitted to the Ministry. The Ministry sent the new version back to the local authorities for approval. Finally, after long negotiations, instead of Henry Berger and his partners, the contractors in the preliminary contract, Knight József Lehmann, Prussian Royal Commissioner signed the contract for passenger and freight transport in the town by horse-driven or other traction force powered railway on 2 August 1883.
Following the approval of the Home Secretary on 23 September 1883, the Town Council informed the contractor that there was no impediment in starting public road railway constructions and called him to take the necessary steps.
The procurement of materials and preparations could be started. The administrative perambulation of the proposed railway was performed on 5 May 1884. On the grounds of this, the Ministry of Hungarian Royal Public Work and Transport issued the certificate of authorization on 18 July 1884 and the building permit on 30 July 1884. The contract was concluded between Lehmann and the town, but Lehmann handed over the construction for Károly Lindheim & Partners and Károly Neufeldt entrepreneurs in Vienna. The substructure and superstructure of the proposed public road railway were stipulated by strict regulations.
The entrepreneurs were obliged to construct the line with two ramifications from the railway station to the Great Forest (present-day Thermal Bath stopping point). The first ramification expanded from Nagy-Czegléd Street (present day Kossuth Street) to the Theatre, and the second from today’s Bem Square, along Füredi Street to István Steam Mill (today’s Malompark).
According to stipulations, in the interest of undisturbed traffic, a rail-siding was to be built for the sake of the trainset coming from the opposite direction from Miklós Street to the Great Church, in the full length of 600 m, with the clause that new rail-sidings were to be built, if necessary.
The construction of lines
Traction force was formulated along with the vehicle fleet. The track was built in slightly more than two months and perambulation was held in the early days of October. Passenger traffic was launched on 12.45. p.m. on 2 October 1884. Fares were determined by the town. It was 10 “krajcár” (~penny) for adults, 15 “krajcár” in the first class and 5 “krajcár” for children. The freight fare was 7 “krajcár” per quintal. After switching over to crown (1892), instead of each “krajcár” 2 fillers had to be paid.
Fourteen stopping points were constructed
Freight traffic was launched eleven days later, on 13 October 1884, as settlement was reached with the Hungarian Royal Railways and the North-Eastern Railway Company. With this, Debrecen far exceeded all the large towns of the Monarchy, since steam-driven PUBLIC TRANSPORT was created here, whereas in Vienna, Budapest and in all other towns in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, merely horse tramways operated on city public roads at that time. From 23 January 1885, the enterprise modified its name for Local Railway of Debreczen, with Károly Lindheim and Károly Neufeldt as acting partners equal in rank. On 1 January 1887 the contractors responsible for building and the leaders of the town established the Local Railway Company of Debreczen, hereinafter referred to as DHV, of which headquarters was located naturally in Debrecen. The joint-stock company was established with 3000 pieces 100 HUF shares and traffic was launched by three engines. According to contemporary customs, these received names: „Debreczen”, „Nagyerdő”, „István malom”. Passengers came to like the light railway, therefore new engines and vehicles had to be purchased. In 1885 the „Hortobágy” engine, and in 1889 the „Csokonai” engine was put into operation. The vehicle fleet of the subsequently (1906) established Debrecen-Hajdúsámson Local Railway Rt. was operated jointly with DHV, so later it was supplemented with some second-hand engines.
Public road railway
Steam-traction was realized in Debrecen for the first time; however, tramway traffic was launched much later than in other towns. It started in 1887 in Budapest, in Miskolc and Szombathely in 1897, in Sopron in 1900 and in Szeged in 1908.
Concertation meetings with Debrecen town began already in 1901, and by 1904 agreement was reached in certain questions. However, the key issue, the establishment of a factory producing electricity, was constantly delayed.
Naturally, the modernization of the track started during the meetings, and as it was mentioned above, by 1904 the potential of a double-track mode was practically constructed between the Great Church and Railway Station, new rail-sidings were built along Great Forest tramline, accelerating the passing of vehicles coming from opposite directions.
Downtown traffic was not hindered by freight traffic after 1906, since István Steam Mill had its service routes along the tramway of the Debrecen-Hajdusámson Local Railway Company in the western part of the town. The question of electrification was also raised, but there was no factory for the production of direct current to satisfy the demand. The concerned factory, the Lighting Company, colloquially referred to as Electricity Factory started its operation on 2 October 1908 and played an increasing part in the power supply of industrial enterprises and the population as well. Against this background, on-going negotiations were successfully closed by early 1910 by the two parties. The inauguration of tramway traffic took place on 16 March 1911.
During the electrification period, DHV placed an order for altogether 30 railcars, of which mechanical parts were produced by the Hungarian Wagon and Engine Factory Rt., Győr (the factory of vehicles with Rába trademark) and the electric components by the Siemens – Schuckert company. In the starting year 18 railcars were commissioned, followed by further six ones a year later. The remaining 6 railcars were transported by the company in 1913.
The logo of DHV, the escutcheon of the town and the track number appeared on the three upper fields on the quarter panel of the vehicles. Track numbers also appeared on the front panels. In 1915 a small-scale network development was carried out, as the Baromvásártér (Cattle Market) line was extended (partly by the construction of upper catenary above the DNyBV track, and partly , turning aside from this track, by the construction of the tramline going to the entrance of Salvator Barracks Hospital). In 1923, overhead catenary network was constructed for the tramway from the Great Forest terminal, above the tracks used jointly by DNyBV and DHV to Pallag and traffic started on this tramline on 19 February 1924. As sick-wards in the clinics was gradually launched and demands for tramway traffic grew simultaneously. First, a tramcar provided shuttle service from Great Forest terminal along the Pallag track.
However, the actual solution was the construction of the Great Forest boulevard tramline, with stopping points at the central University building and at the entrance of the Clinics, which was handed over on 15 December 1927.
The next construction phase was also connected to an event in the development of the town. One of the most beautiful Public Cemetery of Central-Europe was opened on 15 July 1932. Passenger demands emerged almost immediately, and first DHV launched a bus service in the Cemetery Avenue (present day Endre Ady Avenue), from the corner of Great Forest Boulevard and Simony Street. From the Artillery Barracks as far as the end of Hadházy Street, the 1. gate of the Public Cemetery the Csapó Street tramline was further extended in 1934. The required track-siding was built at Sándor Baksay Street. When the tramline was extended to the Main Gate of the Cemetery in 1933, a track-siding was prepared at gate 1. and the track ended in a double tail-track, which was handed over on 2 June 1934.
Mixed type trams in the possession of DHV
The German occupation of Hungary projected her becoming a front in the near future. The first bombardment of Debrecen took place as a key objective to paralyze the main transport routes of the nearby hinterland on 2 June 1944. The misdirected saturation bombing of the town caused enormous damages for DHV and DNyBV as well.
-The headquarters in Salétrom Street was practically destroyed and became unrecoverable,
- the office building in Petőfi Square was destroyed together with the steam engine depot,
- innumerable shell-holes occurred in the tracks Petőfi Sqare, Hunyadi Street and Késes Street, buildings collapsed on to the tracks,
- the track was directly hit on the eastern side of the main line, at the County Hall Office, – the three electric railcars were destroyed (of track number 5, 16 and 17),
- the three rail-sidings were destroyed,
- of the 4 BSzKRt. trailers the one planned to be No.123, with the track number of 4148, was completely destroyed,
- trailers of track numbers 102, 105, 107, 110 and 114 were destroyed,
- three electric railcars were severely damaged (2, 21, 22,
- smaller damages occurred on several vehicles,
- overhead catenary in the above mentioned places was destroyed as well,
- cables for power supply were injured.
On 1 September the town was hit by another huge American bombardment. The DHV network was hit by six bombs, of these five bombs destroyed the main line.
On 19 October 1944 when the Soviet troops swarmed Debrecen, the theoretical vehicle fleet was the following:
27 pc of railcars produced in 1911
3 pc of railcars received from Nagyvárad
6 pc of trailers produced in 1911
1 pc of converted steam-driven trailers
2 pc of trailers from Nagyvárad
3 pc of BSzKRt. trailers
1 pc of service railcars
1 pc of electric engine
As DHV was mostly in foreign ownership, it was nationalized only on 1 January 1950, jointly with the Debrecen–Nyírbátor Local Railway Rt.
From 15 July 1950 the company was named Debrecen Local Tramway Company (DVKV), but merely for a short time. As it was subject to state company law, and the word “local” had to be deleted of its name, which changed into Debrecen Tramway Company (DVV) on 31 December.
1951 saw large-scale restructuring, when tracks in front of the Railway Station were rearranged. At that time it was clear that Petőfi Square would not be built in, so tracks were replaced in the middle of old Hunyadi Street. 1954 proved to be a significant milestone in the history of the company. The office building in 2 Blaháné Street was handed over in this year, and the transformer equipment was also completed. From this time on the company could receive alternating current and it could transform the current into the required type for trams in its own mercury-vapour operated rectifier.
The full length of the track reached the maximum, i.e. 36.2 km at the beginning of 1956. Tramway no.2. was launched on the previous DNyBV tracks between the Great Railway Station and the Small Railway Station (Kisállomás) with a headway of 20 minutes. However, passenger traffic was so insignificant that this service was soon terminated. This move was a strong response to ideas concerning the construction of a tramline connecting the two edges of the town through the Great Forest, bypassing the inner city area. The name of the company was modified for Debrecen Transport Company (DKV) on 1 July 1957.
FVV articulated tram
By the end of the 1950s all the four towns which operated trams badly needed new tramcars to replace the old, 50-60 year old vehicles. In this period electric railcars were exclusively produced by Ganz-MÁVAG, but the company, due to its export obligation, could only supply 25 pieces of UV vehicles for the Budapest Railway Company on a yearly basis.
With a view to find a solution, the Budapest Railway Company planned articulated tramcars and started the production of its own constructions in Árpád Füzesi Main Workshop, in cooperation with MÁV Service Station Debrecen, which prepared undercarriages and vehicle body shells.
The new, articulated vehicle had three parts and four axles, it was unidirectional and it had one driver’s cabin and doors only on the right side. In harmony with general taste at that time, its passenger area was carefully designed and featured rounded lines. The colourful side covers matched the two-coloured upholstered seats.
The cover of the ceiling was a combination of yellow perforated plastic plane and thin thermosetting white board (Dekorit).
The new vehicle type soon appeared in other country towns. The yellow-cream coloured articulated tram of track number 281. with blue ornamenting stripe created public sensation when it was put into service on 29 October 1962. In 1963 DKV commissioned further nine and in 1964 four vehicles of the same construction. Their operational characteristics soon revealed that unidirectional vehicles could not meet domestic demands.
Therefore, a 10-door vehicle type was developed for FVV in 1963 and then the re-designed articulated VCS (rural, articulated) for the subordinate lines of three country towns in 1966, with two driver’s cabins, two conductor’s counters at both ends, and five doors only on one side. 1969 was also a significant year in the history of DKV: with the track number of 481. a two-directional tramcar with six doors was put into service in Csapó Street on 20 June, which was totally prepared on the company’s site and which was re-designed to meet the characteristics of the route.
Tramcar 484. was produced in 1972 and it was designed to operate on the main line, with conductor’s seats at both ends. It became clear soon that due to slow passenger movement vehicles with six doors were unsuitable for traffic on the main line, therefore tramcar 485. was produced with 10 doors. Tramcar 486. started its operation with the same construction, but after the introduction of services without conductors, several tramcars were prepared without conductor’s counters and with modified seat arrangement. In this period, as conductor’s counters were dismounted, the seat arrangement of many tramcars was changed. The Budapest Transport Company started to scrap the 10-door FVV tramcars in the early 1980s. DKV purchased the no. 1221, 1222 and 1233 tramcars and put them into operation with the numbers of 490, 491, 492.
Termination of secondary tramways
Despite the spectacular development of the previous years, on the grounds of the conception of traffic policy involving Dr. György Csanády, Minister of Traffic, Post and Telecommunications, the City Council decided on the termination of secondary tramways. However, DKV continued its policy of development. The company put into operation two articulated tramcars in 1969, one in 1970 especially for carrying passengers in Csapó Street. The termination of the first line took place on 31 March 1970, when tramway traffic ceased on the Pallag and the TB sanatorium lines.
Despite the completed modernizations, tramway traffic was terminated on tramline no.6. on the Golden Bull (Bika) Hotel – Public Cemetery route, although the population and the workers of the Hungarian Roller Bearing Works demonstrated against this move and supported the conversion of tracks into double-track ones.
Merely two years passed and new lines were terminated: the vehicles of tramline no.5. between Hatvan Street-Nyulas operated on 29 September 1973 for the very last time. Finally, on 23 June 1975 tramline no.4. was terminated between the City Council building and the Slaughterhouse. Passengers were carried by bus service no.30. from the following day.
Road maintenance division
Pursuant to the regulation of the Executive Committee, City Council of Debrecen Town of County Rank, the road maintenance division, which had been so far operated by the Debrecen Public Sanitation Company, was taken over by the tramway company from 1 April 1957. Its task was to maintain and to renovate roads and pavements in the ownership of the city council and to invest in the construction of new roads and pavements.
The road maintenance division achieved significant development results during the period of 20 years when it operated jointly with DKV. Its vehicle fleet for road construction was continuously expanded and modernized. Manually operated asphalt pots with hubs were replaced by high performance motor-driven machines, the so-called reiser-masti-cators.
As a result of its continuous development, the division could undertake increasingly big tasks. Initially, it mostly received orders for patching roads full of potholes and cracked pavements and then it started to construct new asphalt pavements with concrete bases. These were followed by more significant responsibilities, including pavement building in József Dóczi Street and the construction of complete cladding in Weszprémi, Géresi, Lajos Zoltay Streets.
In the spirit of the before-mentioned conception of traffic policy in 1968, the termination of secondary tramways, deemed uneconomical by MÁV (Hungarian State Railways Company), was carried out forcedly in the 1970s, mostly affecting the operation of light rails of narrow gauge and their traffic was directed to public roads. Despite strong opposition, 1977 saw the termination of the light railway between Debrecen-Fatelep stopping point and Nyírbéltek and tracks between the county boundary and Hármashatárhegy stopping point were quickly broken up. The light train known as Zsuzsi train came into the possession of Debrecen town again in 1977. The owner decided on the intermittent use of the remaining track section between Debrecen-Hármashatárhegy by the operation of the Pioneer Railway and commissioned the Debrecen Transport Company with these activities.
Operation of pay parking lots
Due to gradual and significant developments it was difficult to find parking lots in bottle-necked Debrecen streets. Therefore, the City Council brought a decision to introduce the payment of parking fees in most frequented places – then Vörös hadsereg útja (Read Army Street, today Piac (Market) Street), Tótfalusi Square (Dósa Nádor Square) , Füvészkert Street). In the designated parking lots the co-workers of the Debrecen Transport Company collected fees and checked if drivers fulfilled their payment obligations. During this period DKV performed operation tasks for 1400 lots out of the total 1900 ones in the city centre.
This kind of supplementary activity was continued by DKV until 1984. From this time, for the request of the Municipality, several companies operated pay parking lots as long as 2001. After this time the owner, the City Municipality was not satisfied with the performance of the companies responsible for parking activities and issued a new tender for the operation of pay parking lots in 2001.
DKV Rt. also submitted its tender for the General Assembly of Debrecen Municipality, which declared DKV Rt. the successful tenderer out of four applicants at its meeting on 20 December 2001 and accepted its proposals. Therefore, since 1 January 2002 the company has been operating pay parking lots again.
Trolleybus traffic and its development
The construction of the first trolleybus line with the deadline of 31 December 1978 was planned to adjust to enterprise-level conceptions and the development plan of Debrecen for the subsequent 15 years on the route of the terminated tramline no. 6. between Tótfalusi Square and the Main Gate of the Public Cemetery. However, when the development plans of the town were coordinated, the implementation of the above plan was delayed, and almost rejected.
The inauguration ceremony took place in the mouth of Névtelen Street from the direction of Erzsébet Street on 2 July 1985 where Lajos Urbán Transport Minister symbolically handed over the operation right of PUBLIC TRANSPORT VEHICLES to Géza Nagy Director and by this, to DKV. The route received the service number of 2. It was extended on 1 September 1986 as far as the Main Gate of the Public Cemetery and the supplementary trolleybus service to the MGM (Hungarian Roller Bearing Company) received the service number of 2A. DKV commissioned the route of trolleybus service no. 3. on 3 October 1988.
The starting point of the new route coincided with that of service no.2., but it crossed the city centre and in Árpád Square it joined the route of service no. 2 again, travelling to the Main Gate of the Public Cemetery. The supplementary service of no. 3A carried passengers to the MGM building.
1994 saw numerous efforts for the procurement of various vehicle types in the subsequent years.
The management of the Debrecen Asset Management Rt., which exercises ownership rights over the public limited-liability company, decided on the trial runs of potentially available trolleybus vehicles by its resolutions of 2002 and 2003, paving the way for later vehicle reconstruction.
The tender invitation included the delivery of 21 pieces of double-axle trolleybuses with partly or fully low floors, of which several ones are capable for diesel-aggregated self-propelled mode of operation.
Following the evaluation of tender applications, the producer entered into a contract with the successful tenderer, the Ganz Transelektro Transport Public Limited-Liability Company and assumed the delivery of 10 pc Ganz Solaris Trollino 12 in the first phase by 31 March 2005.
Development of tramway traffic
In the 1980s – early ‘90s it became clear that FVV-type trams, which were not up-to-date even during the period of planning and manufacture, could not be operated economically and could not be repaired.
In Hungary tramway vehicle production with a great past by GANZ MÁVAG ceased in 1978. However, after 14 years it revived again when Ganz-Hunslet Rt. and the Municipality of Debrecen Town of County Rank signed the agreement on 9 September 1992, by virtue of the capital of the Great Plain Region undertook to support the development of a new, six-axle, state of the art, prototype articulated tramcar. The onset of the actual planning activities of the vehicle was in autumn 1992.
After testing in the Fehér Street site of BKV, the vehicle started from Budapest on 15 August and arrived in Debrecen on a trailer to the Salétrom Street headquarters of the Debrecen Transport Company on 16 August 1993.
On 19 August the General Transport Inspectorate authorized the trial-run of the vehicle. On 20 August it was presented as the first car in the traditional Flower Carnival in Debrecen to Debrecen citizens.
By the autumn of 1994 it became evident that the prototype tramcar was suitable to meet the demands of PUBLIC TRANSPORT in Debrecen, technically and in terms of passenger comfort as well. Following the implementation of modifications requested by DKV, the town was ready to purchase several more vehicles of this type.
In the wake of passengers’ positive reactions and experience from daily operation, the Municipality of Debrecen decided to purchase 11 new tramcars at its meeting on 12 September 1994.
By virtue of the contract concluded with the manufacturer, the experts of the company participated in the assembly of vehicles and the arrangement of their trial-runs. The first modified, KCSV6-1S-type tramcar for public road service was taken over by the quality inspectors of DKV on 7 January 1997 in the Budapest site of the manufacturer, and it was transported to Debrecen by a trailer on 8 January. On 9 January the technical examination took place and following this, after successful trial-runs, it was put into service with the track number of 501.
The ceremonial inauguration of the vehicles in Debrecen was held on 25 May 1997 in Bem Square, where Károly Lotz Minister of Transport, Communications and Water Management and Ferenc Baja Minister of Environmental Protection handed over the vehicles to our town and company leaders.