Filming in Hungary

The Railway and the Film Industry

From a Filmmaker’s Viewpoint

Hungary is one of Europe’s most favoured shooting locations, particularly when it comes to filming complex scenes in connection to the railway. The reason being that the country has sufficient infrastructure, as well as experience and openness from the central railway company.


All around the world, it is a challenge to find sufficient locations for railway scenes, which is why Hungary counts as a real rarity. Many countries do have a satisfactory infrastructure, but these are often overburdened, making the closures of platforms for shoots insolvable. However, Hungary possesses a railway infrastructure that can easily offer platform closures, since the country’s track system is currently underused.


Hungary is one of Europe’s most favoured shooting locations, particularly when it comes to filming complex scenes in connection to the railway. The reason being that the country has sufficient infrastructure, as well as experience and openness from the central railway company.


All around the world, it is a challenge to find sufficient locations for railway scenes, which is why Hungary counts as a real rarity. Many countries do have a satisfactory infrastructure, but these are often overburdened, making the closures of platforms for shoots insolvable. However, Hungary possesses a railway infrastructure that can easily offer platform closures, since the country’s track system is currently underused.


Hungary’s railway network is exceptionally flexible and production friendly

For shooting at train stations next to experience, precise planning and extensive preparation are elemental, since it is not a simple task to coordinate the movement of wagons with constant railway traffic. All of this requires a specially high level of attention and concentration from the crew. Furthermore, Hungary has been lucky to have been already chosen countless times for shooting international productions at its train stations, resulting in the film industry and the railway system going hand in hand here.

Budapest’s Train Stations as Shooting Locations

Hungary has countless locations to offer for shooting railway scenes, both in its capital city and the countryside, for anything such as a drama set in the 1950s or for a contemporary action film.


Budapest’s two main iconic train stations are the Keleti and the Nyugati Stations, which are also welcome to productions that choose Hungary as their location.


Budapest’s two iconic train stations are the Keleti and the Nyugati Train Station

The Keleti Train Station is one of the most bustling stations located in the heart of Budapest. Its construction finished in 1884, according to Gyula Rochlitz’s plans, for which he sought inspiration during multiple international research journeys to the most important train stations of Western European capitals. This is why this building has an eclectic style, similar to railway stations like Berlin’s Lehrter Station. The Keleti’s visitors are often astonished not only by its beauty but also by the main hall’s sheer scale. The entire area of the station is approximately 16800 square meters, the glass hall’s length is 180 meters, while its width is 42 meters and its height is 31,4 meters. All together the railway station has 13 platforms, of which 4 are located within the central hall.

Over the years the station’s building has been used by countless smaller and larger productions, during which the likes of Madonna, Scarlett Johansson and Josh Holloway have taken part in shoots here.


The Keleti Station has provided its unique beauty for many film productions and photo campaigns

Without listing all the films that were shot in the Keleti’s compelling building, we have collected a few key ones. Let’s start the list with the big classic; Evita, the 1996 movie featuring Madonna, which uses this station for shooting, next to many of its other locations around Budapest. The dramatic story of the Argentinian first lady is set in Buenos Aires, but many of its scenes were filmed in the Hungarian capital because its architecture was worked perfectly for creating such a historic atmosphere.

In the 2001 film An American Rhapsody, among many other Hungarian locations, one can spot the Keleti Station. The movie tells the story of Zsuzsa, performed by Scarlett Johansson, who is the smallest daughter of a family that emigrated from Hungary to America.


A huge amount of action films have been shot in Hungary, such as Mission Impossible 4, directed by Brad Bird. At the very beginning of the movie one can admire the stunning view of the Keleti Station from a bird’s eye view. In the scene Agent Hanaway, played by Josh Holloway runs away from his pursuers on the rooftop of the train station, then manages to shake them off with a brilliant jump.


Nighttime shoots are not uncommon at the railway station

Naturally, we can spot the Keleti Station not only in feature films but also in television series as well. For example in the series Covert Affairs the station doubles as one in Moscow. It is also worth mentioning the Korean series Memories of Alhambra starring Hyun Bin and Park Shin-Hye. In this production the Keleti plays the role of Barcelona’s station at night.


Next to the Keleti Station, we need to highlight the Nyugati Train Station, which is also located in the heart of Budapest and with its fantastic construction is one of the gems of the capital’s architecture. The railway station opened in 1877 when its iron structure counted as a technical miracle. The plans were designed by the company of Gustave Eiffel, the architect of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.


The train station has 17 platforms, its hall’s length is 146 meters, the width of the central hall is 42 meters and its tallest point is 25 meters. The building has an awe-inspiring sight to offer with its enormous glass hall facade, framed by side buildings with countless windows and in according to the taste of that period, are decorated with two high corner turrets and domes on top of each French style roofs.

To this day the enormous glass facade and iron structure of the Nyugati Station is an unique sight
Next to the train station, the Royal waiting room is also a favoured shooting location

The station is a much loved filming location, hosting productions like Gwen Stefani’s music video from 2007 called Early Winter. Next to the scenes shot in the central hall among trains, one can get an exclusive view of the station’s magnificent Royal waiting room.

Youtube Gwen Stefani - Early Winter

Brad Pitt has also been to the Nyugati when shooting a scene set in Berlin for the movie Spy Game, other scenes of which were also shot in various locations throughout Hungary.


Let’s continue the long list of movies shot in Budapest with The Man with the Iron Heart, a movie from 2017, which takes us back to Prague during the Second World War. In this movie, the Nyugati Train Station is featured multiple times as a location in Prague and even can be seen in the movie’s trailer for a moment.

 

A significant part of the third season of the series Berlin Station was shot in Hungary. The creators of the TV Channel EPIX’s popular spy series also happily used the Nyugati Station for filming a chase scene. Here the Hungarian station doubled as the Estonian capital’s main station, the Balti Jaam Station in Tallinn. Leland Orser himself, one of the main actors of the series actually gave a personal introduction of the location to his fans.

 

In the last years, the Nyugati train station has also been chosen as a location for countless photo shoots and commercials, such as one of Lacoste’s commercials. The story starts at the train station, where a man and a woman bump into each other on a platform, then the man follows the woman onto the train where they go on mind-blowing time travel journey. Apart from this, many other brands, like Boden and Brax have used the Nyugati for their advertisements.

Youtube LACOSTE – TIMELESS TVC

Countryside Train Stations

Naturally, not only the capital city has perfect locations when it comes to shooting railway scenes. Hungary is rich in exciting countryside locations, let that be for trains speeding through picturesque fields or hilly woodlands. The country can be easily separated to East and West, both culturally and geographically, thanks to which Hungary has a vast range of railway locations of varying styles open to film and photography productions.


Next to the capital, countless exciting countryside locations can be found in Hungary

For example, take a look at the train station of the town called Pásztó, which was built in 1898 and is located in Hungary’s scenic hilly region. The small station has a truly romantic countryside feel thanks to the atmospheric yellow colour it was painted. Some of the train tracks have got overgrown by grass, a typical rural trait ideal for say, a scene featuring a steam engine. Also, even though this is a small town station, it has 15 platforms because Pásztó used to be a highly functioning mining town.

Surprisingly there used to be large traffic on the 15 platforms of Pásztó’s station

The train station of Hatvan, on the other hand, has very different architectural traits than that of Pásztó. The building was built in 1956 and with its arcades and yellow colours, it has strong Spanish characteristics. At the passenger transport part of the station, one can find covered risen platforms, which can be accessed by underpasses, but a pedestrian overpass can also be found from which the whole station can be viewed.

The station’s waiting room with its arcades and yellow paint has a real mediterranean feel to it
The Memories of the Alhambra was shot for three days at the Mezőtúr Station, which is located only 2,5 hours away from Budapest

Mezőtúr’s train station was built in 1858 during the heyday of the Habsburg Empire. To this day, the building features romantic architectural elements on its facade, like the decorations under its rooftop eave, that are so typical of its period. The station was renovated in 2009, thanks to which they completed it with a platform roof, reinforcing its heritage site quality. Some of the scenes of the previously mentioned Memories of the Alhambra were shot at this station.

Railway Carriages in Hungary

In Hungary there is a variety of the types and ages of the engines and carriages that can be used for shoots. Among the passenger cars, blue coloured ones are the type that are featured the most on the film screen. They are unique because they have both coaches organised by cabins and by aisles. Ranging from 1970s models to completely new ones made in 2012, there is a true diversity of trains in use. There are even more modern Desiro electric trains are available as well, the characteristics of which are their fire red colours and that they do not have separate engines connected to their front. This type features a huge interior passenger area and has models that range from being made from 1977 to 2006, all of which are still in use.


Naturally, there is also the opportunity to use nostalgia trains going back right to the 1800s. Currently steam, electric and diesel engines, multiple-unit trains and passenger cars, as well as sleeping, saloon, dining and community cars can be found among the hirable nostalgia trains.

Youtube STEAM LOCOMOTIVE COMPETITION

Countless nostalgia trains are available for film and photo shoots

One does not only have the possibility to rent nostalgia trains from the central railway company. The Hungarian Railway History Park also provides productions with the service of using its countless historic vehicles inside and outside of the park’s area. Within the park’s 70.000 square meter area, one can find more than a hundred railway vehicles, as well as the equipment needed for operating the railway. For example, it is home to the country’s oldest still functioning steam engine from the 1870s. Next to the trains, the Park also has its own hangar, which can also available for productions. Another advantage of this location is that it grants a calm environment, without having any notable train traffic passing through it.

The Importance of Safety

Shoots at train stations are of heightened danger, which is why working on location requires special caution, foresight, alertness and the strict respect of the rules. Many rules may seem obvious and straightforward, like that it is strictly forbidden to cross or walk on train tracks unclosed for shoots, but sufficient on-location coordination is key to ensure the safety of a busy day of shooting. One especially has to pay attention to passing trains, since their wind may whisk away equipment and even people with them as well. The most dangerous factor of shooting in these types of locations is the overhead line because it is forbidden to get within two meters of it, restricting shooting possibilities.

Another pro of shooting in Hungary is the opportunity to provide locations without overhead lines, that count as a real rarity. This is how for example the Székesfehérvár - Tapolca railway line has a lot less confined and exciting conditions for shooting. This train line travels through the country’s hilly region, along with the shore of the Lake Balaton, one of Europe’s largest sweetwater lakes.

The stations without overhead lines provide larger freedom for shoots due to the smaller risks

And finally, a few statistics. Hungary’s railway system is longer than 8000 kilometres, its passenger traffic moves through 16 larger train stations and nearly 600 small and medium-sized stations. Many stations have been renovated over the years, but there are also countless stations where time has stopped, creating quite rustic, rundown conditions. The oldest station was built in 1860 and can be found in a countryside city called Székesfehérvár. Let the genre be a romantic, a drama, an action film or the story requires a train station set in Moscow, Paris or even the Wild West, whatever kind of railway locations productions arrive here in search for,  Hungary has countless possibilities to offer.

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