Research into the Underground

Hello Lovelies,

This past week I haven’t done much writing as I have been focused more on researching the small details in order to move forward with József’s story. There are so many things to consider when writing historical fiction and all I can say is thank goodness I am writing in the age of Google! (You can read more on my love of Google in the post, “Google” as a Verb, by clicking  here)

Things that we might even take for granted, need to be taken into consideration when writing historical fiction. In the case of József’s story in An Anguished Heart,  I need to discover what life was like in Budapest in the time leading up to the outbreak of WWI. One things in particular I have been researching is transport in the 1910s. There is some difficulty finding information on the subject in English at time, but with a husband fluent in Hungarian and Google Translate as a backup, it’s easy to overcome this hurdle.

M1 line Miklós flick CC
M1 Metro Station. Photo courtesy of Flickr CC user Miklós

In considering the type of transport applicable to this story, I not only needed to know the transport used at the time, but also the social standing of the characters and their families. You see, whilst cars were in use during this time period, not all families would have owned a car and whilst I have become quite familiar with the public transport system in Budapest over the last few months (check out a previous post Chilly Travelling), I had no idea what types of public transport was available in the 1910s.

So let the research begin!

This is what I’ve discovered so far through a variety of sources such as Wikipedia, The Budapest Transport Corporation (BKV) and UrbanRail as well as by visiting the Millenium Underground Museum in Budapest.

  • Public transportation in Budapest began in the 1860s with horse drawn tram services beginning in Pest in 1866.
  • At the end of the 19th century, modern electric railways and tramways were being implemented in Budapest and in 1896 the first electric underground railway in mainland Europe was opened in Budapest.
  • The underground railway (now known as the M1 metro line or “yellow line” was built as a way to transport the public to the Millennium Exhibition celebrations to be held in City Park that year and was built in only 20 months! The city government did not want additional tramlines covering the city so  Mór Balázs, the leader of the tramway authority suggested to build a tramway underground. As it was built to transport the pubic for the Milennium Exhibition celebreation, the underground tramway was called the “Millennium Underground Railway” and has been in constant operation since its opening in 1896. The stations are amazingly beautiful, after being fully restored to their original glory after the end of Soviet rule in the 1990s. On an interesting note (totally unrelated to the development of the story), the beautiful stations of the M1 line were made “plain” during Soviet rule, this was the way they did things in communism, fair, standard, equal…plain. However after the Soviet rule over Hungary ended, the Soviets paid back a debt to the Hungarian government accumulated during Soviet rule. This money was then used by the Hungarian government to restore the M1 stations to their former glory, so take that Soviet communists!
  • With the increase in population and travel throughout the capital leading up to WWI there were plans to build additional underground railway services. However due to the constraints caused by the outbreak of WWI and WWII, the Millennium Underground Railway remained the only underground railway service in Budapest until 1970.
  • A bus service did not come into effect until 1915, so this is after the time period of my story.

So this is what I have to work with for József’s story.

  • I know the “yellow line” M1 metro line was in use during the story timeline, from my research and actual use of this metro line I know what stations were in use, which areas they served and also the appearance of the stations. During the timeline of the story though it was known as the Millennium Underground Railway.
  • Given the slightly higher social and financial standing of József’s family, I know that his father own a car, possibly a MÁG Phönix Landauer.
  • Buses were not is service until 1915, so this is not an option however the tramways were in service, first horse-drawn and later replaced by the electric trams.
  •  And if it wasn’t too far they walked!


As you can see, there are many aspects to consider when writing historical fiction and this post has only given a very brief insight into one of these considerations.

Now as promised in last week’s post, I have a short excerpt from the first draft of An Anguished Heart for you all. This particular excerpt is where we are introduced to different members of József’s family, particular his cousin, who is like a brother to him.



Dániel was a couple of years younger than I and also a few inches shorter, but we were so often mistaken for each other when not together, that we sometimes took advantage of it, especially when we were at school. We had the same floppy ink black hair; that had the tendency to flip-flop wherever it wanted, the same slightly-slanted dark-brown eyes and the same tall slightly muscular build. When we were together though, the resemblance for so uncanny that people actually thought he was my younger brother and in many ways that was the case. We both only had sisters and we were as much brothers as we were cousins.

I had three sisters, my younger sister Éva was the same age as Anna and my two older sisters, Rebeka and Sára, were already married. My oldest sister Rebeka lived outside of the city with her husband Sándor and my first niece or nephew would be arriving in just a few months. My other sister Sára was married last spring and her and her husband Benjámin both worked in my father’s store as well as Éva and myself. I have always been fairly close to my sisters, especially Éva and Sára, but the bond that Dani and I share is one that can only exist between brothers, even if we are only cousins. When Dani started school I was the one that took care of the boy that was taking his lunch, when I got into a bit of trouble with some older boys in an alley one afternoon, Dani was the one running down the alley like a crazed bear and jumping on the bigger boy’s back, knocking him to the ground and giving me a chance to fight back. We were constantly getting into mischief but we always had each other’s back and would do anything for each other.



© Katherine A. Kovács and The Writer Within, (2013-2016). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Katherine A. Kovács and The Writer Within with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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