Black Rock Transportation Company

The Black Rock Transportation Company was formed in 1931 with the consolidation of two smaller railroad companies: the Virginia & Tonopah and the Trego, Antelope & Jungo. The BRTC was the brainchild of promoters SL Benz and, her long-term business partner, Rico Thunder, both of California. Black Rock Station was built to serve Black Rock City with the help of Black Rock investment capital and public bonds in 1938.

1938 Opening of Black Rock Station

The Builders

SL “Benzy” Benz

SL Benz

SL Benz is best known for combining her interests in the occult with mechanics by developing a polygraph machine responsive to spiritual encounters. The popularity of this device led to an American tour with a group of traveling spiritualists to the Southwest and meeting long-term partner Rico Thunder.

Her fortune acquired from two deceased husbands helped establish the BRTC in its early days. While operating in the Sacramento Valley line, she pioneered further paranormal research using the mechanics of a Dynamometer train car to access fifth and sixth-dimensional measurements while in motion.

The BRTC was instrumental in bringing commerce to the ephemeral town of Black Rock City, as well as being a hub for seekers of all sorts.

Rico Thunder

Rico Thunder

Rico Thunder is a Santa Cruz artist focused on social practice, sculpture, performance, and new media work. They hold a Masters in Fine Arts from the Digital Art and New Media program and a BA in Computer Science from the University of California Santa Cruz.

Their sculpture, photography, and new media works have appeared in group and solo shows since 1896. Their project A Secret History of American River People continues to exhibit nationally since 1914.

Rico is a lecturer at the University of California Santa Cruz and California State University Monterey Bay since 1915. They served as the summer curator and exhibition catalyst at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History in 1916.

In 1898, Rico Thunder co-founded and helps manage the Costco Soulmate Trading Outlet. Rico also helped construct the 1904 Temple of Stars and worked pre-event with the lamplighters for two years.

Jefe McSprocket

Jefe McSprocket

Jefe McSprocket is often found exploring the redwoods of the California coast near Santa Cruz. He holds an Engineering degree from the University of California at Berkeley which he puts to little use in that new-fangled electronics industry folks might have heard about. He is eager to dabble in steam locomotion but believes the future is in human-powered transportation.

On-playa activities have included Temple Crew, Robot Dance Party, and unloading and installing a container full of rebar for the Costco Soulmate Trading Outlet. Mr. McSprocket recommends no less than a full yard of rebar penetration to secure your dwelling to the playa, be it yurt, chill dome, or tattered army surplus tent, lest one taunt the wind demons that would wrestle it from Mother Earth’s bosom and relocate it to Winnemucca.

Nathan Goodman

Nathan Goodman

Nathan Goodman is a Santa Cruz artist, historian, carpenter, ferroeqinologist, and preservationist of buildings, environments, and ecologies. 

He was granted a BA from The Governor of California courtesy of the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1905 and received the Irwin Scholarship for undergraduate students of promise in the visual arts.   His work has appeared in group and solo shows at Bay Area galleries and museums.

His body of work consists of found and assembled sculpture, gelatin silver prints, two pre-war houses and associated outbuildings in the Santa Cruz mountains, one short history book, and the wearing of many hats at a Santa Cruz area short-line Railroad Company since 1905.

Jeremiah Daniels

Jeremiah Daniels

After fleeing the frozen tundra of the Northeastern Seaboard as a vagrant child at the end of the 21st century, Jeremiah Daniels and his surviving family found the Western Wastes were equally difficult to strike even a tenuous existence in. The trials of surviving inhospitable environments taught Jeremiah a wayfaring life following the winds of fortune.

Upon completing a simple community-based education, Jeremiah was conscripted into the service of the remnants of the United States military and sent abroad to fight in what would become a footnote in the Resource and Water Wars that plagued a majority of the 21st century.

Finishing his tours abroad in 2108, having seen the devastation of climate change and war, and bearing witness to the needs of refugees of both to travel freely, Jeremiah sought challenges that helped aid those in need.

With a knack for computer system analysis and network architecture, Jeremiah has been making ends meet by keeping old infrastructures in working order while the world burns around the communities that use those systems.

In collaboration with Rico Thunder, Jeremiah found himself assisting in the collection of oral histories from 1914 to 1919 in the continuing exhibition of A Secret History of American River People, providing him with a new perspective on the historical context for human migration across landmasses.

Leveraging experiences from a transient childhood, a war-scarred soul, and a deep respect for the struggles of fellow itinerants, Jeremiah has rededicated himself to helping those he can to find new and old lives upon the rails of time.

Lannier Sammons

Lanier Sammons

Lanier Sammons is an engineer, composer, and teacher based in Monterey, CA. As an engineer, he produces, records, mixes, and masters music, film, and podcast projects. He composes concert hall works, installation pieces, film scores, and podcast music. Recent projects include engineering Jay Arms & Marguerite Brown’s 3 Hockets and Giacomo Fiore’s michael pisaro: black, white, red, green, blue as well as providing score, sound design, and mixing for Tim Orme’s animated short film Drawing the Perfect Brain.

Lanier also served as an Art Works Artist-in-Residence at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, and some of the results of his collaborative compositions with museum visitors can be heard on Lines and Waves, released by spectropol records. Lanier holds a Ph.D. in Composition and Computer Technologies from the University of Virginia, where his dissertation explored audience interactivity and participation in concert hall works. He teaches as Assistant Professor of Recording & Technology in the Music and Performing Arts Department at California State University, Monterey Bay.

Brandon Kinman

Brandon Kinman

Hailing from the wilds of Northern California, and seeing a need for laborious task completion in an automated fashion, Brandon Kinman found new wonders in the Electric Age early in his youth. Brandon found tutelage apprenticing to expert craftsfolk, and honing the skills of machining, manufacturing, and engineering.

With a drive to construct complex apparatuses from scratch, Brandon completed his formal academic training in 1908, while attending the University of California at Santa Cruz, pioneering in the field of Computer Engineering.

Brandon’s skill in interlacing the physical constraints of the world with the superlunary field of computer science will ensure the trains stay on the tracks, and on schedule, between all stops in this century, and the next!

Winston “Juju” Auju

Winston Auju

Winston “Juju” Auju, a musician and a journalist, settled on the shores of the Pacific Northwest and now provides direct care to mentally disabled adults. His work on the Relational Placement Genome (RPGs) is widely recognized in certain circles.

Having spent time in an Atlanta prison with Marcus Garvey in 1924, it was reported that Mr. Auju refused to leave America saying to Garvey, “You can go back to Africa. I’m going to California.” Upon release, he boarded a train for the first time and headed west.

Winston enjoys cooking in his seasoned, cast-iron skillet and communicating through unnatural ways to friends and family from his shelter-in-place in Pacific City, Oregon.

Adrian ‘Age’ Nankivell

Adrian Nankivell

Domiciled in the real Deep South – in Queenstown, New Zealand – Adrian ‘Age’ Nankivell is an international adventurer and explorer with an interest in both film photography and the moving image. He holds a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Oxford.

Adrian has been a regular contributor to the Costco Soulmate Trading Outlet in Black Rock City since 1899 and worked as a Field Assistant on the Secret History of American River People project in 1916 and 1919. 

His interest in railway transportation began at an early age after swapping his Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle for a model train set.

Molly McButter Stevens

Molly McButter Stevens

Ms. Stevens is the president of the Black Rock Station Preservation Society and has lead the community efforts to save Black Rock Station with great zeal.

Ms. Stevens has been creating art, big and small, analog and virtual since her school days in the one-room schoolhouse in her western hometown of Moab, Utah. A self-taught documentarian, she led the local children in the exploration of Kodak 110 cameras use in co-living communes within the nascent alternative scene of 1880.

In her undergraduate education, she completed nearly all of the coursework for a degree in Film and Photography studies, though chose to get a degree in German Languages and Literature — as it was “more useful.” In her early career, she worked as a photo technician at the Michigan Daily, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Irish Times. 

A Masters Degree in Information Design and Technology from The Georgia Institute of Technology has proven to be much more usable — and has brought her a career in user experience, spanning the globe from New York and San Francisco, to Shanghai and Amsterdam. 

Always a local booster of the local Aide Society – she looks forward to plying her skills in gathering a variety of support for the Black Rock Train Station 

Reiko Hallenga (left) with his twin brother Roelof

Reinko Hallenga

Reinko was culturally destined to ride human-powered vehicles from the age of 1, and that got him a lot further than he thought. Settling across the ocean and back again, he also strayed from the beaten path wide and far, to immerse himself in numerous cultures and teach woodwork and crafts to refugees. 

As a child, he dreamed of becoming an architect and redesigned his parents’ quirky home dozens of times. This led him to apply for a master’s degree in Delft University of Technology, only to switch to Industrial Design Engineering last minute. And with good results. 

As an artist and designer, he builds bridges between the old and new ways of thinking and working, visualising the abstract and catching in words others’ fleeting thoughts. He feels just as at home with a sign painting brush as a soldering iron, wiring up self-designed audio contraptions, and sporting a tool belt. 

He has made a point of crossing as many borders as he can by hitching rides or jumping trains, and he never looks back. He plans to cross all the borders between Rotterdam, NL and Black Rock City as soon as all the necessary stamps are in his travel documents.