After nearly 5,000 miles of railway tracks were abandoned in Mexico and Ecuador 20 years ago, communities were left isolated without easy access to the world outside. Two artists want to re-open the pathways and travel into these “modern ruins” – so they created an amazing aluminum hybrid vehicle that can cruise the abandoned railways (and roadways) with ease. It’s like a time-traveling vehicle that allows riders to visit communities left in the past.
Called the SEFT-1 (Sonda de Exploración Ferroviaria Tripulada), the funky road-rail vehicle is part future, part past, with its sort-of geometric, vintage Airstream exterior that was put together using an old truck as a base. Inside, the vehicle is guided by digital and analog technology, just like you’d expect from a time traveler, and it runs on solar power and hydrogen fuel. The vehicle has standard wheels for roads and steel wheels that extend out of the front and back, which can be lowered while traveling on track and raised when on road.
The railroads were ditched after the entire system was privatized in the 1990s, which cut off entire communities who once relied on the railways. For one year, the Guadalajara-born artists visited a wide range of communities throughout Ecuador and Mexico, documenting their journey with pictures and videos and taking away artifacts and tales from the people they visited. Everything they took will be on display at an exhibition in London for the next month so that people can share in the journey to these suddenly-abandoned towns. For the brothers, the journey was an exercise in understanding the movement of progress and how it impacts those who don’t fit into that vision.