Nearly 5,000 miles of abandoned railways criss-cross the the landscape in Mexico and Ecuador, left dormant for decades after privatization of the national system suspended passenger service in 1995. Two Guadalajara-born artists wanted to travel the paths of these "modern ruins," so together they designed what just might be the coolest hybrid of all time.
Now, it's not the first of its kind. Cars and trucks that also act like trains are called road-rail vehicles, and are commonly used for maintenance (though some buses were attempted last century). Not so th e SEFT-1—aka Sonda de Exploración Ferroviaria Tripulada or Manned Railway Exploration Probe en Inglés—which looks like an automotive mash-up of Bucky's Dymaxion car, Marty McFly's Delorean and and a vintage airstream.
The aluminum chassis houses what they call "space time location technology that fuses both analog and digital"—which I'm guessing is GPS paired with paper maps?—along with a solar panel, hydrogen fuel cell, and the essential steel wheels that stick out in front and back; these raise and lower depending on whether they're rolling on tracks or rough ground.
For a whole year the brothers covered as many of the routes as they could, visiting communities that were left suddenly isolated when the transit lines stopped running. Along the way they took pics, recorded vids, got insight from folks whose lives were changed, and collected artifacts—documented here, and all of which will be on display at an upcoming exhibition in London. In the meantime, this clip gives a fascinating glimpse of what they experienced.
In a way, SEFT-1 exists in a unique nexus of past, present, and future, bound together by the promise of new technology to bridge geographic and cultural divides; the real-world, real-time effect of that potential-turned-dependence being unceremoniously yanked; and then the opportunity to reuse the forgotten infrastructure for this kind of creative research endeavor.
The pair compared their multi-media journey to something like a lunar mission. Granted, it's a relatively modest move towards understanding the needs of the countries and their people, but hey—even the most giant leaps sometimes start with a small step. Or a slow roll. [We Make Money Not Art]