Railway tracks are a great alternative to congested roads – and not just to get you from A to B. smart magazine selects seven not entirely serious projects that highlight the best, and occasionally craziest, things that go on between platforms.

.WAV Bahnrad

Tram tracks are the natural enemy of any cyclist. One wrong move – and the tire gets stuck, catapulting the rider onto the tarmac. Eager to reverse this law of the land, Hamburg’s We are visual came up with their “Bahnrad” (track bike, 2012), a fixie that rides right on the tram track, supported by stabilizing wheels. Please note, though, that this particular artistic duo is notorious for turning everyday objects into street art, i.e. their Bahnrad prototype is probably more objet d’art than serious, everyday in(ter)vention.

Bahnfahrrad von Felix Jung
Two extra wheels on the rear wheel allow the bicycle to drive in a rail.
Photo: Felix Jung

Tomáš Moravec’s Pallet Skater

Anyone can turn wooden pallets into beds or furniture. But Czech artist Tomáš Moravec dared to add mobility to the mix: He stuck four skateboard rollers to the corners of a standard pallet, placed it on Bratislava’s tram tracks, and used the result to maneuver the Slovakian capital – on rails that are still in active use! Based on the well-known skateboard propulsion principle, his Pallet Skater relies on foot action to accelerate the improv vehicle. Looks like plenty of fun … but please don’t try this at home, peeps!

smart forrail

The smart’s maneuverability in traffic is already the stuff of legends. In 2015, some clever souls wanted to take the mini marvel beyond traffic – on regular train tracks. Since the smart has the same gauge as most standard rails, the pros at SNC-Lavalin Rail & Transit came up with a smart forrail concept car for the British Goodwood Festival of Speed. Reaching up to 120 km/h on the tracks, this particular smart is not quite your average, road-worthy production model: Among others, the steering was deactivated for safety reasons and the regular horn was replaced with an impressively powerful truck horn.

smart forrail infront of a train
The gauge of the smart forfour is identical to the gauge of railways. This coincidence had to be put to use. The result: the smart forrail.
Photo: smart

Booooooom & Flexfit mobile skate ramp

Skateboarding is all about conquering the city and turning it into a creative playground. In this spirit, Canadian jack-of-all-trades Jeff Hamada aka Booooooom, known for transforming ships into mobile ramps, turns his personal passion for skating into art. For more on Hamada’s latest project – a half-pipe on tracks in collaboration with Flexfit – check out the gravity-defying “Skate Heads“ video.

Hehe Tapis Volant

Tapis Volant translates as “flying carpet” – and what the eponymous Parisian artist and architecture collective Hehe has come up with certainly seems to elevate its driver to a lotus-seated floating position. The mundane reality underneath it all – a board with integrated electric engine, covered in red fabric, and rolling down the train tracks on two wheels – does not dispel the overall magic. Akin to a Segway, the driver accelerates by leaning forward and brakes by shifting the weight backwards. With this enchanting project, Hehe pays homage to the early days of rail traffic when tracks were not the sole domain of large corporations, but also gave private vehicles plenty of room to roam. Once again, we strongly advise against trying this at home resp. on the streets – this also applies to the two following examples.

Hehe Radeau de Sauvetage

And there’s more from the Hehe stable: Since 2005, and underneath their “train project” umbrella, these mavericks have been coming up with a plethora of ideas to make the most of our rail infrastructure. Take their Radeau de Sauvetage, for example: a raft-style contraption, sail included, that swapped the waves for regular tracks. Naturally, intrepid riders can only go with the (air) flow – otherwise, it’s time to push.

Radeau de Sauvage von Hehe
Hoist the sails and go for a ride with the Radeau de Sauvage.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist and AEROPLASTICS Contemporary, Brussels

Hehe M-Blem

Back in 1830, one of the first major train lines opened between Manchester and Liverpool. To celebrate this local innovation, Hehe installed a kind of autonomous train cabin for Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry – the result is a kind of antithesis to modern high-speed rail travel. In 2012, this light micro vehicle transported up to two visitors at a time from the historic train station along the old track through the history of rail travel.

Mblem von Hehe
The tiny, autonomous train cabin M-Blem operated between Liverpool and Manchester.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist and AEROPLASTICS Contemporary, Brussels