The Black Rock Railroad

Which would be the best place to run the rail?

Along the Esplanade
14
27%
Along E from 2 to 10
22
42%
Gate to Walk-in-Camping
1
2%
Gate to the Man via Center Camp
6
12%
Within its own enclosure in deep playa
9
17%
 
Total votes : 52

The Black Rock Railroad

Postby Johnny Payphone » Thu Jan 20, 2011 10:25 am

Hello, I have come to introduce the proposal that I have been working on for the 2011 Burning Man event. This is an idea that has been tossed around burn barrels for six years. I propose to install a 3.2 mile pedal-powered railway in Black Rock City to serve as mass transit.

[url]http://non.primate.net/brrr[/url]

The proposal and budget has been completed and I would like your feedback and input. The idea calls for an open solicitation of train car designs, and 10 artists to be selected to make the train. The track itself will be laid by a participant "chain gang": It's important to understand that this will be an intensely immersive, participatory train ride that attempts to recreate all the sensory experiences of an old-timey train, from the smell of coal to the rotgut on the breath of the hoboes in the boxcar.

The train will be made from "grand-scale" equipment such as at kid-steam.com.

Sober participants will be given a chance to don prison stripes and lay rail. Service will start at the opening of the gate and extend to the end of the line [i]as far as the burners have laid the track![/i]

The clearest challenge to a project of this scale is the track's relationship to vehicles and pedestrians. There are several ways to address this. The track need not be above the playa- it can be sunk into two 1/4" wide slits cut by a bobcat. You can see a semi-flush layout pictured at the website. Crossings can be made flush like the ones you have in cities. Or, alternately, the train could run from the gate to walk-in camping via the airport within its own enclosure. Note that there will be a cargo car for luggage and trips to the ice station. Track layout must be the decision of the BM organization itself; suggestions are nice but only they could possibly place this art. The cool thing about it being within the city (say down the middle of a block) is that theme camps could host "stations" along the track.

Any other artist would be welcome to purchase a set of trucks from kid-steam and create a car that would run on this track.

Please take a look at my website and tell me what you think.
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Postby skibear » Thu Jan 20, 2011 11:02 am

Brilliant project. Hope to see it work.
The demand would be high so a lot of cars might be needed.
This is the kind of art project BMORG might help fund.
(don't know if their deadline has passed for this year)

Enabling BBCode displays your website:
http://non.primate.net/brrr

I'll be glad to help out with assembly on Monday.
(or earlier w/ early entry)

(too far away to help preplaya)
Kudo's :D
8)

OT. I know the dude that runs the Arlo Guthrie
home page http://www.arlo.net

.
.
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Postby Super Evil Brian » Thu Jan 20, 2011 11:11 am

Wow, that's awesome.
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Postby jerroc » Thu Jan 20, 2011 11:12 am

Sign me up for install early entry or not. This Is a great idea that would work well.
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Postby Johnny Payphone » Thu Jan 20, 2011 11:31 am

[quote="skibear"]
The demand would be high so a lot of cars might be needed.
(don't know if their deadline has passed for this year)

[/quote]

The deadline is in a week. The nice thing is that the cars represent a tiny portion of the total cost and so can be scaled to need, or, added-to by other participants.
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Postby AntiM » Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:35 pm

Go to your profile and enable your BBCOde, your quote function will work properly then.
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Postby psychoalpha » Thu Jan 20, 2011 4:04 pm

I'm also in to help - early entry or not. This is a totally fantastic idea. I have a couple of weeks pre-gate-opening, though, that are begging for a great project to volunteer with.
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Postby mudpuppy000 » Thu Jan 20, 2011 4:43 pm

That's a fantastic idea. Sinking the track might be difficult. Just brainstorming I could see a few problems:

1) BLM might get pissed
2) Dunes covering the tracks
3) Are you going to lay the rails directly on the playa, or on railroad ties? Ties would require complicated trenches to be dug, or one giant one but then you'd still have a big pit inbetween the two rails.

Anyhoo, it sounds amazing, I'd love to help out.
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Postby mdmf007 » Thu Jan 20, 2011 5:20 pm

I like the idea, but it is a huge project. 3 miles of rail? 30,000 feet of rail is a daunting task to lay.

I wish you luck.
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Postby jkisha » Thu Jan 20, 2011 5:45 pm

Great Idea

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Postby Johnny Payphone » Thu Jan 20, 2011 6:11 pm

Mudpuppy and Mdmf, you raise excellent points. This is clearly the largest impediment to doing this.

1) We're hoping that our flush, non-intrusive design will be acceptable for vehicle access. As for the trench, there is much more trenching done for the power grid. Alternately, fencing the whole thing in solves that issue.

2) Dunes happen. However, the entire track will be patrolled & inspected 24/7 by the train crew. This art installation will be tended more than most. The idea is for the flange to sink through the dust.

3) The ties will be buried by the "Rail Gang". This is an enormous, distributed construction task similar to many BM art pieces such as The Machine. MDMF is right, my budget calls for 2000 sections of 20' track. However if the participants do not participate to lay the track, they won't enjoy the service. We'll provide striped prison duds, ball'n'chains, picks and sledgehammers, we'll sing workin' songs and spirituals, and we'll be "Workin' On The Rail Road All The Live Long Day".
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Postby mudpuppy000 » Thu Jan 20, 2011 7:06 pm

I hope it works out, but seems like a huge undertaking. What about converting the train cars/engine to wheeled vehicles, then you can drive it anywhere you want? I know that kind of sidesteps the community construction aspect of it but you'd still get to haul people around on a train. Maybe the construction aspect would be to build stations.
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Postby Johnny Payphone » Thu Jan 20, 2011 8:49 pm

mudpuppy000 wrote:I hope it works out, but seems like a huge undertaking. What about converting the train cars/engine to wheeled vehicles, then you can drive it anywhere you want? I know that kind of sidesteps the community construction aspect of it but you'd still get to haul people around on a train. Maybe the construction aspect would be to build stations.


Ha ha the idea for me came out of a wheeled train I've operated on the playa since 2009 called Jethro West. We ran service to the Man, Temple, 9, and 3 twice daily. It was great in a dust storm because we could take a bearing and navigate by compass, allowing the whole group to travel during the storm. We even had other people hitch on to our train.

The physical demands of large-scale human-powered vehicles have been attacked many times on the playa. You can see the results in the many odd multi-user vehicles out there. This project uses rails because

-BRC will be the first city in the world to install human-powered mass transit. This may be commonplace someday
-rails provide massive efficiency compared to soft dust. This lets us go further, faster, and with more people than on land.
-the entire setup could be either installed at other festivals or permanently installed somewhere.
-there is a certain mystique involved in waiting by the tracks until the train comes, or hopping on the train and wondering where the tracks go
-with no track this project becomes less interactive and more like every other art car
-service could be expanded each year

And here's the biggie...

This project would be used to gather email addresses from participants who answer yes to the following question:

"Would you buy a ticket if there was a train that ran from San Francisco to Gerlach?"

Significant positive response will result in a business plan to provide chartered rail service from SF to Gerlach in 2012, resulting in massive monetary and fuel savings for the participants. The carbon reduction of transporting bay-area attendees by rail would be mind-boggling. Note that this plan would a) have to include transportation from Gerlach to BRC and b) could pick up anyone in Sacramento, Reno, etc, and c) would include container and less-than-container shipments of camp supplies. I imagine the train ride itself would be much like the cross-canada rock'n'roll railroad trip from the 70s... "heyyy mannnn which way to the ping-pong car?"
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Postby Nothing » Fri Jan 21, 2011 2:28 am

This project sounds phenomenal, kudos for the big dreamers!
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Postby Stickygreen » Fri Jan 21, 2011 3:35 am

I'm willing to help with laying track, early entry or not.

Shoot me a PM
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Postby BAS » Fri Jan 21, 2011 1:34 pm

Maybe some sort of snowplow blade on the front car for the dunes? I don't know how well that'd work with a human powered vehicle. For railroads in states with snowfall there were a number of different plowing technologies-- regular blades up to various snowblower-type systems.
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Postby VeganChoirGirl » Fri Jan 21, 2011 1:53 pm

You should be aware that you will probably not be allowed to run anything from the gate into the event. You should consider keeping it inside
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Postby Johnny Payphone » Fri Jan 21, 2011 1:57 pm

The placement of the track is totally up to the organizers. There's no way anyone could do it without their approval, anywhere. By "Gate" maybe I'm thinking "Greeters". But, again, it's not up to me, it's up to Burning Man.
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Postby C.f.M. » Fri Jan 21, 2011 2:07 pm

My vote is definitely for none of the above.

E and deep playa have plenty of shit going on.

Get transportation to the outer rim of camps, the back streets that people don't get too all that often. (If they're like me, they head out towards thre but get too distracted by all the usual stuff in the closer-to-E camps).
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Postby unjonharley » Fri Jan 21, 2011 2:38 pm

Johnny Payphone wrote:The placement of the track is totally up to the organizers. There's no way anyone could do it without their approval, anywhere. By "Gate" maybe I'm thinking "Greeters". But, again, it's not up to me, it's up to Burning Man.



Who woould want to go out to the greeter station during the week??

Maybe from 10:00 to the apex over to 2:00..
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Postby C187 » Fri Jan 21, 2011 4:26 pm

unjonharley wrote:
Johnny Payphone wrote:The placement of the track is totally up to the organizers. There's no way anyone could do it without their approval, anywhere. By "Gate" maybe I'm thinking "Greeters". But, again, it's not up to me, it's up to Burning Man.



Who woould want to go out to the greeter station during the week??

Maybe from 10:00 to the apex over to 2:00..


Not a chance in hell the track would be allowed to go out to greeters station. We don't want people heading out that way where they could be hit by traffic or be picked up by perimeter / BLM /LEOs with out proof that they are allowed in the event space. - Headaches all around - Also you have to consider the slight transformation that area goes under for exodus.

With that said, I <3 this idea. Although I can see some issues if you don't have enough people in the train carts to get it moving or organizing stops along the way so people can get on or off. Also personal carts sound like a great idea to get people on-board. But I can see how someone would leave it in the middle of the tack blocking the main carts.

My vote is for a train that goes to each side of the city, placed in the open playa.
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Postby jkisha » Fri Jan 21, 2011 5:34 pm

C187 wrote:
unjonharley wrote:
Johnny Payphone wrote:The placement of the track is totally up to the organizers. There's no way anyone could do it without their approval, anywhere. By "Gate" maybe I'm thinking "Greeters". But, again, it's not up to me, it's up to Burning Man.



Who woould want to go out to the greeter station during the week??

Maybe from 10:00 to the apex over to 2:00..


Not a chance in hell the track would be allowed to go out to greeters station. We don't want people heading out that way where they could be hit by traffic or be picked up by perimeter / BLM /LEOs with out proof that they are allowed in the event space. - Headaches all around - Also you have to consider the slight transformation that area goes under for exodus.

With that said, I <3 this idea. Although I can see some issues if you don't have enough people in the train carts to get it moving or organizing stops along the way so people can get on or off. Also personal carts sound like a great idea to get people on-board. But I can see how someone would leave it in the middle of the tack blocking the main carts.

My vote is for a train that goes to each side of the city, placed in the open playa.


That's a good idea.

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Postby Johnny Payphone » Fri Jan 21, 2011 5:47 pm

The original idea was to provide some transportation to Walk-in-camping for those attendees who had hitch-hiked to the gate. However, this isn't my favorite plan either because it doesn't really service the city as mass transit.

If there aren't enough people to move the train, it won't move. That's an inherent benefit of this project. A community must form to move the train.

This is a conducted train. That means that riders, if they have a specific destination at all, can request any stop from the conductor. Having the train attended by a crew means that any issue- dunes, blockage, etc- can be addressed immediately.

If/when we publish the open call for cars, we'll include hitch design. Any car anyone brings would be hitched to the train, not operated independently. Even if somebody did leave something on the tracks, we'd just get off and move it. People come out and set up tents in the middle of roads all the time.
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Postby BAS » Fri Jan 21, 2011 11:19 pm

Connecting a few parts of the city plus the open playa would be nice. I also like the idea of a stop at or near Center Camp.

Hmm. How about having the stops near the toilets...? (Or would that create too many problems? When I went in 2006 I used the johns as landmarks, because they were among the few things which DIDN'T change or move about!)
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Postby Johnny Payphone » Fri Jan 21, 2011 11:41 pm

Say, that's a great idea! The "Poo Poo Train". I'm sure there's been a Burning Man camp with that theme already.

I'm sure no matter where it goes the bathrooms will be a popular stop. That'll help with turnover. I'm sure some people are going to want to sit on that thing all day but I think if folks wait at either end of the line then everybody gets off and shares.
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Postby Major Krash » Sat Jan 22, 2011 10:53 am

the rails can sit in a 1/4" slit, but how will you deal with the cross braces that are ~2" below grade every half of a track section (looking at the photos on track assembly)? That would be thousands of small trenches to dig and then re-fill afterwards (when no one is around to help)

neat idea, hope you can pull it off...
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Postby Johnny Payphone » Sat Jan 22, 2011 10:12 pm

The cross brace ("sleeper") issue has been discussed. The 1 3/8" deep divots they sit in will be filled with a rake. The artists involved each have a half-decade on DPW Playa Restoration crew. Smoothing over a few bumps in the playa is nothing compared to cleaning up a burnt-couch-stuffed abandoned rave camp trailer full of rotten chicken, broken glass, pistachio shells, feather boa feathers, blinky batteries, carpeting, cigarette butts, dried leaves, & all the other spoor of the hippie-crit e-tards who don't moop their camps.

Ever kneeled for eight hours picking up a spilled vial of glitter? Howsabout a garbage fire with tin foil slivers and soot-covered broken glass slivers? I can smooth some dirt into a few divots.
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Postby unjonharley » Sun Jan 23, 2011 11:55 am

Raking and breaking up a mile or two of hard pan would not be a real good plan.

The wind would sweep it out..

Maybe rake and water would work.. Or water then dunn dust for back fill...
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Postby motskyroonmatick » Sun Jan 23, 2011 3:08 pm

It may be a wise decision to go smaller your first year as a trial run. I see running a loop track in the inner open playa where it does not cross a street and in such a way that it passes several art installations and perhaps the man portapotty bank. Then reevaluate and go big with experience the next year.
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Postby Johnny Payphone » Mon Jan 24, 2011 10:21 am

I suspect this is what BM may do if they bite on this at all. The track is the major expense and I've set up the budget so they can scale it as big or as small as they like.
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