Update, January 2015: Due to extensive renovations taking place on and around this place, most pictures on this page will show what the square looked like until 2014. The fairly complete renewal of public and street transit facilities should be completed in the first half of 2016.
Here's a youtube playlist showing the progression of the works.
Széll Kálmán tér is the busiest public transportation node in Buda. Basically this is where the trams and buses coming from the Buda hills meet the Grand Boulevard routes, and also the M2 metro line, which acts as a direct link into the city center. The triangle-shaped kettle, where the 1st, 2nd and 12th district meets, was not always a square. Although the first horse tram service (which later became tram route 58) of Buda already passed nearby in 1869, the place became a junction only in 1898, when the short side-line to Déli pályaudvar (Southern station) was connected to the "Inner Buda circle" (consisting of Krisztina körút and Attila út), resulting in the route that now is served by tram line 18.
Picture to the left: a weekend peek in the 1920's. To the left is Krisztina körút, to the right Szilágyi Erzsébet fasor.
To the right: the whole square became one big tram juction in 1942 (photographed here in the 1950's).
The importance of the place grew as the through tram traffic was regorganised in the late 1910's. Until that point, the routes coming from Hűvösvölgy (today's route 61) and Zugliget only passed through here, and continued their way into the inner city. From then on the majority of the inner city routes only came up to here, and the passengers had had to change for the outbound "mountain routes" starting from a reversing loop built at the junction of Krisztina körút and Szilágyi Erzsébet fasor. This is what you see on the image above to the left.
In the late 1930's the tennis court which occupied much of the area of today's Széll Kálmán tér was torn down, and a direct - but unelectrified - railway connection was built between Margit körút and Déli pályaudvar via Krisztina körút. This direct link - part of the "Right Riverside Circle Railroad", a freight train route incorporating tracks of the tram and suburban railway network - featured a tunnel, which is still used. In the following years the rest of the square was turned into a gigantic junction with a reversing loop inside a "roundabout reversing loop". The tracks in the railway tunnel were also electrified and used by the trams from then on. The result was pretty much what you can still see today. The place was named Széll Kálmán tér after former prime minister Kálmán Széll. It was later renamed to Moszkva tér in 1951, and renamed back in 2011.
Of course there have been a couple of changes since 1942. For example they've shrank the reversing loop of route 56 (and 58) when the metro station was built, and they've also changed the track layout a few times. Until 1989 every route - except route 61 since the mid-seventies - went around in the larger reversing loop around the square, now they all have stub termini or pass through direct tracks. The inner reversing loop was taken out of usage in 2007, and later also parts of route 56's former terminus were removed.
As for tram services, many of them have vanished during the decades. Route 58 (Moszkva tér - Zugliget) is just a memory now, just like route 63 (Szent János kórház - Nagyvárad tér via Szabadság híd and Üllői út) or route 44 (Moszkva tér - Rákospatak via Erzsébet híd, Rákóczi út and Thököly út).
Here's a hybrid
satellite/map view of the square at Google Maps:
View Larger Map
You can clearly make out the trams!
Tram routes 4 and 6 - generally known as
the "Nagykörút (Grand Boulevard) routes" - reverse at a two-track
stub terminus with a scissors crossover in the middle of it. Trams arrive
from the Grand Boulevard via Margit körút. First they let passengers
alight, then they go over to the stub tracks. Normally they must not take
passengers past the alighting stop, but sometimes they do, because this
way the next tram may also enter the terminus. The driver changes ends,
and then pulls into the "boarding stop", where passengers get on.
There's also a connecting track starting at the northern entrance, heading for Szilágyi Erzsébet fasor via the tracks of route 61. This track is also used for storing reserve/broken trams. The entrance/exit of the spare track is done via a single skip.
The panorama of Széll Kálmán tér is dominated by the ugly escalator hall of the metro station built in 1972 in a style that was typical for the communist era's soviet architecture and not really typical for Budapest. There's a chance that when the square gets restructured (there are plans, but no money), this palmetto-shaped thing will dissapear.
Route 59 and 61 have had their termini on the the eastern side of the square, now it's used by tram 18. It arrives from south via the tunnel, and although the track continues towards Margit körút, it reverses before it would reach the tracks of route 4 and 6.
Remark: As I stated at the top of this page, the photos show the previous usage of this terminus. By the way, tram 41 also ended here for a few months...
Hint: This can be nicely photographed from above the tunnel!
Tram routes 59 and 61 are passing through Széll Kálmán tér on the southern side since 2007/2008. This is a connection between Szilágyi Erzsébet fasor and the tunnel, with a connection to the Grand Boulevard routes, a crossover switch, plus a reserve track, so it can be exciting for tram photographers.
Remark: As I stated at the top of this page, the photos show the previous usage of this stretch.
Hint: The stop of these routes, located at the foot of a brae can be nicely photographed from the pedestrian flyover bridge over the tracks.
To the left: tram 18 passing through to north, photographed from the pedestrian floyover. The two other Tatras to the right were tram 56s on their terminus at the time. To the right: tram 61 approaching its southbound stop - note the pedestrian flyover bridge in the background!
To the left: a tram 18 leaving its stop here for Szilágyi Erzsébet fasor, just passing the crossover.
To the right: tram 56 arriving to the square from Szilágyi Erzsébet fasor. This bend can be photographed nicely early in the morning.
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