There has always been something singularly romantic about train travel, what with its steady speed and constant sound. Mexican artists Ivan Puig and Andrés Padilla Domene felt the pull of the rails, but since Mexico privatized its railways in 1995, passenger travel has essentially disappeared. They didn't let that discourage them, though. Instead, they pushed ahead to create their own way to explore the country's roughly 6,000 miles of abandoned tracks.

Part art project, part oral history and part adventure, they created the SEFT-1 (pictured above), which stands for Sonda de Exploración Ferroviaria Tripulada or Manned Railway Exploration Probe. Granted, they probably could have used just about any vehicle sturdy enough to take the offroad terrain, but the two of them took the idea much further. Starting with a pickup truck, they fabricated a retrofuturist body out of aluminum and a custom interior. The retractable wheels kept it on the tracks when they were still there. The complete design looks like Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion car as rendered by Budget Flash Gordon.

Along the way, they captured their adventure in pictures, video and audio recordings to post on their website (in Spanish) and visited schools to show of the SEFT-1 and share what they had learned. Scroll down to watch a video describing their adventures.

SEFT-1 Abandoned Railways Exploration Probe from The Arts Catalyst on Vimeo.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Months Ago
      Okay, so the highfalutin talk about retro-futurism and the societal implications of transportation technology is a little erudite, but I actually think this is a very interesting project. It does make folks think about the impact of infrastructure, especially something that is in place and then is taken away. It's easy to reduce the argument to "it's not a profitable railway so of course it has to go" but that represents a pretty ignorant understanding of the importance of infrastructure, even as it exists in the US. Our roadways aren't "profitable" but they play a tremendous role in the economic development of this country - just as the first transcontinental railroad opened up the West. Our roads are a vital lifeline that impact every level of our economy from the cost of shipping goods to the job mobility and how long it takes to get to the annual family Thanksgiving dinner. In the end a railroad might not be worth maintaining, but at least before something as significant as a national railroad is privatized, those impacts should be examined.
      • 7 Months Ago
      I hope something good comes from all this.
      • 7 Months Ago
      I have been to at least one of those locations they showed. Looks like it didn't take long for people to go in and steal all the steel from some of those locations.
      • 7 Months Ago
      Is Mexico's rail gauge the same as US/Canadian rails? I ask because this makes for an interesting study of North America's railway infrastructure. If they could be allowed to travel some of our abandoned rail lines, I would love to go along for the ride.
        • 2 Months Ago

        Yes, it is the same Kansas City Southern runs all the way across Mexico.

      • 7 Months Ago
      So Mexico privatized its railway system in 1995, and it fell apart. Interesting.
        • 7 Months Ago
        The 1960's was when the Interstate system was mostly completed. People moved full speed ahead into automobiles. It's also coincides with the spike in air travel. Ridership consequently collapsed, which is when the formation of Amtrak occurred, this being an attempt to keep the railway service alive.
          Rick C.
          • 7 Months Ago
          Cars and air travel killed it. Old news. Too bad.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Freight rail service will always be with us.Passenger rail service will always be on life support(subsidy)...unless/until technology (SPEED) can make it competitive with air travel.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Nope. It did not "fall apart". There was simply no demand for such service. In Mexico (and not only there) people move to larger cities so the demand for railways to these "outback" areas is steadily declining. At some point there's simply not enough passengers willing to pay enough to cover the costs + wages. Maybe that's clear to you and I only misinterpret your phrasing, sorry if that's the case... But what the guy says in the video somehow makes me think he believes abandoning the railways was a bad thing.
      • 7 Months Ago
      All the spaceship and space exploration talk makes them sound... less than sane. The idea itself is interesting enough, there is no need for the crazy talk to try to make it sound like more than it is.
      • 7 Months Ago
      This is the same old BS we hear from those who would have us riding in their trains other than our cars.
      • 7 Months Ago
      If there's few tens of people living in a village 1000 km from another city a railway becomes an overkill... 1) you convince customers to pay more and more 2) you close the business 3) you nationalize the business and force whole country to pay for the service, even though they will never use it
      King of Eldorado
      • 7 Months Ago
      Budget Flash Gordon? I thought Flash Gordon WAS Budget Flash Gordon!
      • 7 Months Ago
      I hope they dont run into a drug cartel hideout.
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