The Csömödér State Forest Railway stretches some 109 kilometers through the scenic forests of Zala County: the Göcsej pine region, the Kerka valley and the Göcsej beech region.
The first steam-powered forest railway was built in 1917 between Csömödér and Budnya and received its final permit in 1918. It is unique, as it handles both passenger and freight trains, the latter especially for timber that goes to wood processing plants and then on to farther destinations.
The cars were initially horse-drawn, then switched to steam in 1922. Multiple extensions were built throughout the 1920s, and there were continuously other goods to transport as well. Crude oil was found around Bazakerettye, and a sawmill came under state control in 1945.
Scheduled passenger transport began in 1954 on the 18-kilometer section between Csömödér and Kistolmács. The first diesel locomotive, one of the C-50s still in service, was acquired in 1962. And in 1965, steam locomotives were permanently withdrawn from daily use. The railway slowly deteriorated during the 1970s, as there was little maintenance. But since this was still the cheapest mode of transport, renovations finally began on the tracks in the 1980s – and continue to this day.
In September 2000, the section between Lenti-Csömödér was inaugurated, extending the length of usable track to the present-day 109 kilometers.
Tourists can visit various attractions in the region via the railway: the Marok Chapel, the Budafai Arboretum, the centenary church of Paka, the birthplace of Professor Öveges, the Andrássy-Szapáry Castle of Szécsisziget and a water mill. At the end of the Forest Railroad, in Lenti, there is even a thermal spa next to the station, as well as an exhibition on the history of the area’s forestry, sawmill and railway, called “The Treasures of Göcsej, Forest and Timber.”
The railway runs from May to September on a scheduled basis, but special trains are also available at different times. During the colder months, heated trains are available for passengers, and bicycles can be transported on the trains as well.