Mexico is crisscrossed by a vast network of abandoned railroads, no longer connecting many communities that had once relied on their freight and passenger service. In 2006, Ivan Puig and Andrés Padilla Domene, brothers and artists in Mexico City, cooked up the idea to explore the lost routes and places.
“We designed a spacecraft, a research tool that would take us on an expedition to the inner space of our country,” says Puig. Domene adds, “Its design revisits the idea of the future as seen from the past.” Built atop the chassis of a convertible railway pickup truck — able to run on rails or land — the aluminum fuselage houses a handsome combination of analog and digital technology, plus a cozy living space for the two “ferronautas,” or railnauts.
When their team finished the construction of the SEFT-1 (Sonda de Exploración Ferroviaria Tripulada) in 2010, the brothers embarked on a trip through Mexico, guided by modern and 19th century maps. Between eating and sleeping in the SEFT-1, they recorded remnants of the old railroad — from brightly repurposed stations and routes to dark ghosts of former prosperity, sometimes mere memories with no physical trace at all. As they rolled along, they collected and shared their tales, images, route information and more. A stunning collection from this and other journeys is now available on their interactive website.