zine, [zeen] noun. 1. abbr. of fanzine; 2. any amateurly-published periodical. Oxford Reference


Friday, August 24, 2018

Railroad Semantics #1

Railroad Semantics #1: Eugene, Portland, Pocatello, and Back! 
By Aaron Dactyl / Microcosm Publishing

14cm x 18cm, 64 pages

Cost: offered as part of Microcosm Publishing sliding scale pricing $5.95-$9.95

Semantics is a branch of linguistics concerned with changes in meaning. Railroad Semantics - apart from being just a great sounding and looking zine name - is concerned ultimately with American railroads, and their place and meaning, both within a subculture and the wider cultural expanse. 

As Aaron explains in the introduction the zine is:
"a compliment to the off the grid lifestyle train hopping represents". 
Railroad Semantics is mostly comprised of first hand accounts documenting Aaron's journeys across the vast landscapes of America riding cars of huge freight trains - complete with near misses, and close calls - accompanied by his black and white photographs of landscapes, graffiti, and fellow riders. Interspersed are newspaper clippings of related interest - train disasters, train fanatics, and a fascinating piece about a town called Bill. And of more cryptic origin, handwritten letters from a fellow rail traveller. 

The content overlaps and shifts the ground, almost like sifting the mythology of the great American railroad through a fine grid. Earlier this year I reviewed Adam Void's zine about riding the American railroad, this zine has obvious parallels, and if you like that zine, you'll love this one too.

The production and design quality of Railroad Semantics is fantastic too, right down to a soft matt finish to the cover. 

Even if the closest you'll get to jumping the rails is being crushed while standing on a late running daily commute, Railroad Semantics will help pull focus on the cultural landscape of the train. I can't wait to read other issues. 

Buy Railroad Semantics #1 here: microcosmpublishing.com/catalog/books/3620

The first four issues are even available as a box set (there is something I find deeply satisfying about that): microcosmpublishing.com/catalog/books/6478

Review by Nathan Penlington

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