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Trams are yellow, buses are blue and trolleys are red. But why?

Trams are yellow, buses are blue and trolleys are red. But why? decided to try and find out why Budapest’s public transportation system is so colourful, and why trams are yellow, buses are blue and the trolley buses are red. In order to get answers to these questions, they asked Dávid Vitézy, General Director of the Hungarian Museum of Science, Technology and Transport and former CEO of Budapesti Közlekedési Központ (BKK).

Yellow Trams

Before the Second World War, the trams in Budapest were all brown. A few of these brown trams, so-called nostalgia trams, are still operating sometimes, on special occasions.

However, the trams were repainted after the war and became yellow. According to Dávid Vitézy, the colour yellow was most probably chosen due to its cheap price. Nonetheless, people seemed to like the new yellow carriages.

Károly Lyka, Hungarian art historian wrote about the new yellow trams in 1911, emphasizing how fresh and bright the boulevard looked after the yellow trams were introduced. He also called the old brown carriages “dull” and “inexpressive.”

There were both brown and yellow trams at that time, since two separate companies were responsible for the operation of trams. Later, the two companies merged, and the carriages had both yellow and brown parts. Now, all the trams are yellow. The brown colour disappeared at the turn of the century.

Blue Buses

In 1928, Hungary’s first Székesfővárosi Autóbuszüzem (Székesfőváros Bus Factory) provided a lot of buses for the capital. This bus factory wanted to paint the buses red. However, the capital’s administration did not allow the buses to be red due to political reasons. During this time, Hungary was a kingdom (on paper) lead by Miklós Horthy as governor. A few years earlier in 1919, there was a brief period during which there was a communist rule, but the Tanácsköztársaság (Hungarian Soviet Republic) failed, and the communist party was eliminated. Since red is the communists’ colour, it makes sense that people did not want red buses all over the capital. As to why the buses became blue, Dávid Vitézy could not give an answer.

Red Trolleys

In Hungary, the very first trolley bus was put into service on 21 December, 1949. At that time, buses were already blue and trams were yellow, so red was really the only primary colour left. Politics was probably an influencing factor in the colour choosing process. If you know a little bit of Hungarian history, you might know that at that time, the communists were ruling the country. It was not a coincidence that the first trolley was put into service on Stalin’s 70th birthday (even though he was technically 71 at that time). Maybe the trolleys were not originally painted red to glorify communism, but it sure came in handy for the party.

photos:, featured image:ényvillamos


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