A mysterious rural train station appearing in the Black Rock Desert has become unstuck in time, haunted by ghost trains heard but not seen.

Black Rock Station at Sunset, photo by Preben Hermans

Built in the mid-1930s to serve Black Rock City and the communities scattered throughout the vast Black Rock Desert, the station is unstable and oscillating through various moments over the last 150 years and beyond, with an ever-shifting interior life, and a subtle narrative that subverts conventional histories.

Help us bring Black Rock Station back to the playa. We were offered a Burning Man Art Honorarium for 2023 but must cover the other half of the costs. Find out how you can help (including the Kickstarter).

We have Black Rock Station bandanas, patches, postcards, and our famous Playa Pilots available.

Photo by Craig Joujon-Roche
Station Interior, photo by EspressoBuzz

The work is a mystery for people to unravel. Adding to the authenticity of its visual elements, Black Rock Station is also a sound piece. Visitors hear freight and passenger trains approach and depart at real-life volumes with announcements and floating bits of audio and musical clues. As the station cycles through time, pausing briefly in one of 8 moments over a 250 year period from 1858 to 2110, visitors catch snippets of mysterious audio or video, or explore ephemera in the station.

Station Interior, photo by EspressoBuzz

Black Rock Station is an interactive site-specific installation that uses northern Nevada’s railroad history and the playa’s harsh and beautiful environment to create a memorable and mysterious experience for participants. It follows in the contemporary art tradition of installation art that is uncommodifiable, interactive, and participatory. While seeming to be a traditional structure at first, it subverts expectations, encourages and rewards curiosity and is tactile and experiential.

Station Community Board, photo by EspressoBuzz
Waiting for a Train, photo by Rico Thunder
Black Rock Station at Sunrise, photo by Molly McButter
Dispatcher’s Office, photo by Rico Thunder
Whiteout at Black Rock Station

Black Rock Station is a fully-immersive piece embracing all the senses to craft a subtle and open-ended narrative in which visitors are encouraged to explore and discover. Our hope is that visitors leave with a profound sense of wonder and disorientation about time and events. We hope visitors ask, “Where exactly am I? When am I?”

Black Rock Station shortly after opening, 1938

The piece playfully suggests critical questions including:

  • What do we really know about our shared history?
  • What alternate futures and pasts are possible?
  • How do we reexamine what we think we know about history?
  • Whose history gets recorded and told?
  • How can we use travel (though time or place) as a metaphor for our own journeys?
Station at Sunrise, photo by EspressoBuzz
Westbound Train Arriving at Dusk, photo by Rico Thunder

Black Rock Station Service

  • Serves: Passengers, Sportsmen, Manufacturers, Industrialists, Merchants, Agricultural Concerns, Investors
  • Passenger service via the California Zephyr
    • Westbound: Gerlach, Oroville, Marysville, Sacramento, and Points Beyond to San Francisco
    • Eastbound: Trona, Winnemucca, Elko, Wells, Salt Lake City, and Points Beyond to Chicago.
  • Construction: 1938 by the Black Rock Transportation Company (BRTC)
  • Dimensions: 120′ long x 40′ wide at 18′ high at its tallest
  • Plans by BRTC, August 1938