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Seeing as how much fun the Great Handcar Regatta was last summer, I decided to don my railroad engineer's outfit and give the Steampunk Expo a try this past weekend. I was only there on Saturday, but what a fun time.

As [ profile] acanthusleaf already mentioned, there were quite a lot of things going on. She kindly allowed me to leave some stuff of mine in her booth, so that became a home base of sorts.

I went to a number of presentations and panels. One was on a history of steam power in general, another was on Victorian World's Fairs (many very amusing images from that one), and a panel on bringing the maker culture to the masses. That brought out some interesting points, and one of the big takehome thoughts for me was the gradual intrusion of zoning laws and activity/business permits that various communities and counties put up. These are of course meant to preserve a certain quality of life, but they have the unintended consequence of driving out most hands-on activities.

The outside steam pen was small but well stocked. The flame-shooting snail car was there (complete with small child enthusiastically yanking the fireball ropes), a calliope, various vehicles, running sterling and steam engines, and one steam-powered three-wheeled vehicle, somewhat in the manner of Cugnot's carriage. I never did find the person who created it, and didn't see it running, though it clearly moved around during the day.

The highlight was the visit to the Neverwas Haul creators, Shipyard Labs. Their hospitality was grand, their ideas were expansive, their shop mind-blowing. The place was enormous, and [ profile] acanthusleaf and I were there for at least two hours, digging through the heaps and mounds of sheer awesomeness that awaited us at every turn. There were dozens of past projects, many still in working order, monstrously huge tools (for example, a 4-ton drill press from the Alameda shipyards with over 40,000 hours on the meter!), scrap parts and ingredients haphazardly organized, and an overwhelming air of idealistic innovation. Scrappy ambition built the place and creative exuberance keeps it going. It just made me want to grab a torch and start building things. I could easily see losing myself in a group of people like that and having the time of my life doing it. I consider myself to be thoroughly boggled by our visit.

They were happy to tell all and everything about their projects and plans. One of my big questions was simply, "Is there a group of people even half as wonderfully loony as you guys near Santa Cruz"? The answer was, "not really". There are a few artists and small groups working the same territory of the industrious visionary, but nothing remotely of the scale of Shipyard Labs.

All in all, a truly fun weekend. I'm laying plans for possibly giving a presentation myself next year. Probably something along the lines of railroads, steam engines, and trains and their influence on the Victorian aesthetic.

I'm going back!

(Edit: Fix typos. There are probably more.)


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May 2010

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