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.
We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to send us correspondence.
SL Benz was 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.
Ms. Benz 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.
SL Benz was born Sarah Lockwood on October 14, 1849 in upstate New York. She was the daughter of a wealthy landowner and had a privileged upbringing. However, she was always interested in the strange and unexplained. When she was just eighteen, she married her first husband, a man twenty years her senior. After his death a few years later, she married her second husband, a wealthy inventor. When he died, she inherited his fortune and decided to use it to establish her own research center and invested in the BRTC.
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 was a Santa Cruz artist focused on social practice, sculpture, performance, and new media work. They earned a Masters degree in the Fine Arts from the Machine Art and Innovative Media program and a Bachelor of the Arts in Computation Machine Manipulation from the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Their sculpture, photography, and machine media works appeared in group and solo shows starting in 1896. Their project A Secret History of American River People exhibited nationally starting in 1914.
Mx. Thunder was a university educator at the University of California at Santa Cruz starting in 1915.
In 1898, Rico Thunder co-founded and helped manage the Costco Soulmate Trading Outlet. Mx. Thunder also helped construct the 1904 Temple of Stars and worked with the Black Rock City lamplighters for two years.
Jefe McSprocket often found himself exploring the redwoods of the California coast near Santa Cruz. He held an Engineering degree from the University of California at Berkeley which he put to little use in that new-fangled electronics industry folks might have heard about. He was eager to dabble in steam locomotion but believed the future was in human-powered transportation.
On-playa activities included Temple Crew, Robot Dance Party, and unloading and installing a container full of rebar for the Costco Soulmate Trading Outlet. Mr. McSprocket recommended 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 was 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 appeared in group and solo shows at Bay Area galleries and museums.
His body of work consisted 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.
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 Mr. Daniels a wayfaring life following the winds of fortune.
Upon completing a simple community-based education, Mr. Daniels 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, Mr. Daniels sought challenges that helped aid those in need.
With a knack for computer system analysis and network architecture, Mr. Daniels 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, Mr. Daniels 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, Mr. Daniels has rededicated himself to helping those he can to find new and old lives upon the rails of time.
Lanier Sammons was an engineer, composer, and teacher based in Monterey, CA. As an engineer, he produced, recorded, mixed, and mastered music, film, and podcast projects. He composed concert hall works, installation pieces, film scores, and podcast music. Recent projects included 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.
Mr. Sammons 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. Mr. Sammons held 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 taught as Assistant Professor of Recording & Technology in the Music and Performing Arts Department at California State University, Monterey Bay.
Adrian ‘Age’ Nankivell was domiciled in the real Deep South – Queenstown, New Zealand – and was an international adventurer and explorer with an interest in both film photography and the moving image. He held a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Oxford.
Mr. Nankivell was 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
Ms. Stevens was the president of the Black Rock Station Preservation Society and 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 lead 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 looked forward to plying her skills in gathering a variety of support for the Black Rock Train Station
Reinko Hallengawas 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 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.
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. It is said that Mr. Auju never forgot his promise to Marcus Garvey, and that he eventually settled in the Pacific Northwest to be closer to the African diaspora. He has been quoted as saying, “I want to be where the action is, and the action is in the Pacific Northwest.”
Mr. Auju enjoyed cooking in his seasoned, cast-iron skillet and communicating through unnatural ways to friends and family from his isolated cabin in Pacific City, Oregon.
Son of German engineer Rickard, Steffen Zugingenieur became a mechanical engineer, continuing the legacy of precision design and build for which the family Zugingenieur was known. Mr. Zugingenieur settled in Tennessee, and in his work, focused on trains and other conveyances. Upon retirement, he traveled in his portable workshop to help bring to fruition the flights of fancy the artists around him imagined. He was known to indulge in another great German tradition, that of Biertrinken.
A mythos around his seemingly prescient abilities arose, with some writers claiming he privately told friends he had visited the future. The reported temporal anomaly at the train depot at Black Rock City and his time there, give further credence to these stories.
Hank Buzz, hailing from the distant frontier of the Great Pacific Northwest territories, took to the mysterious capturing of images as soon as the methods were discovered in 1856. He traveled the world in his red rusty carriage serving the needs of the populace in the recording of their endeavors for posterity, and the enlightenment of future generations.
Residing among dense misty forests, he traveled to the unforgiving desert with his photography equipment to make record of the construction of a remote train depot.
He hoped that if a stranger should encounter him in the desert, they might allow him to water his oxen, and graze on their pastures for a few hours until he was on his way again. He wrote in his diary, “Surely even if I do not make it out alive, someone will gather my earthly possessions and will benefit from my final efforts. May dog have mercy on my soul.”
Cam (not-Derek) “Xray” Bremner could often be found wherever people, art, and fire had come together. He grew up in the countryside, where he learned to use matches and other pyrotechnic devices. A multi-year veteran of the Black Rock Desert, Cam was involved in various ways with the annual incarnations of Black Rock City starting in 1904.
Feeling generally dissatisfied if he was not either doing something, or on his way to doing something, Cam was curious to see how the station would respond to this (some say foolhardy) attempt to affix it to the intended particular spacetime nexus for the anticipated duration of this event, and was excited about the Schrodinger-style observational possibilities of non-Euclidian frame-tearing related slippage and any associated trans-rift hyperchrono-articulation. Mr. Bremner liked to remind people that things were already on fire when he got there.
Anders Byrnes Esq.
Anders Byrnes was a Oregon State Bar certified attorney. Unwilling to submit to woes of a corporate office he found a like minded business partner and began his own firm. Mr. Byrnes held a B.A. in political science and received his Juris Doctorate from Lewis and Clark Law School.
While he was unversed in the cutting edge and competitive field of avian law, Mr. Byrnes forged a path for himself in family law as well estate planning.
A regular little dandy, Mr. Byrnes could be found scurrying around the Playa seeking to expand his knowledge of the oral history of the region and it’s people as well as contributing to the caretaking of his company compatriots.
Kelly Yorke was born in North Vancouver, British Columbia, and received a Bachelor’s degree in fine arts, from Kwantlen Polytechnic University, majoring in Ceramics and Sculpture. Ms. Yorke taught Fine Arts to seniors suffering from dementia. During her leisure time, this mother of two was actively involved within her local community and avidly participated in the Burner cult popular during the era. She retained the role of “Queen of Cash” for the Burner sub-cult referred to as the Costco Soulmate Trading Outlet starting in 1918. Ms. Yorke was both a British Columbian and Black Rock Ranger, in good standings.
James Burgess was an engineer, inventor, and early financier of the Black Rock Transportation Company. He made his early fortune in the brand new industry of mechanical computation devices. Burgess was one of the few people in the world who could truly understand the inner workings of the new machines, and as a result, he was able to design and build his own devices, which were much faster and more reliable than the competition. In 1935, Mr. Burgess was approached by a group of investors who were interested in starting a new transportation company. The company would use steam engines to bring railroad transportation to the rural interior of Northern Nevada. Burgess was intrigued, and after some negotiations, he agreed to become the company’s chief engineer.
The Black Rock Transportation Company was off to a rocky start. The original investors had underestimated the cost of building a railroad, and the company quickly ran out of money. Mr. Burgess was forced to take out a loan from a rival company in order to keep the project going. The loan was secured by Mr. Burgess’s patents and other personal possessions, and if the Black Rock Transportation Company failed, he would lose everything.
Fortunately, the company was eventually able to raise the money it needed, and the railroad was completed in 1938. The Black Rock Transportation Company was a success, and Mr. Burgess made a fortune. He retired from the company in 1949 and moved to San Francisco.