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Dead medium: the Railway Panorama
From: (Patrick Lichty)
Source(s): "Digital Illusion: Entertaining the Future with High Technology" Clark Dodsworth, Jr., editor.
ISBN 0201847809 Addison Wesley/ACM Press, 1997 545 pp.

Article: "The Past Was No Illusion," by Walt Bransford

"This 45-minute experience was an essay in detail. It offered a chance to experience the 14-day journey by rail from Moscow to Peking, a 6300-mile journey over tracks not yet completed at the time of the Paris Fair of 1900.

"There were three realistic railway cars, each 70 feet long, with saloons, dining rooms, bars, bedrooms, and other elements of a luxury train. Totally detailed and lavishly equipped, the cars were elevated a little above a place for spectators in conventional rows of seats. The gallery faced a stage-like arena where the simulated views along the train trip were presented by an inventive contraption.

"The immediate reality of a vehicular trip is that nearby objects seem to pass by more rapidly than distant ones. So, nearest to the participants was a horizontal belt covered with sand, rocks, and boulders, driven at a speed of 1000 feet per minute! Behind that was a low vertical screen painted with shrubs and brush, travelling at 400 feet per minute. A second, slightly higher screen, painted to show more distant scenery, scrolled along at 130 feet per minute. The most distant one, 25 feet tall and 350 feet long painted with mountains, forests, clouds and cities, moved at 16 feet per minute.

"Real geographical features along the way were depicted on this screen: Moscow, Omsk, Irkutsk, the shores of great lakes and rivers, the Great Wall of China, and Peking. The screens, moving in one direction only, were implemented as a belt system. Due to the inexact speeds of the scenery,the 'journey' never repeated itself exactly, providing an ever-changing combination of scenes and a reason to pay to see the attraction again."

(((bruces remarks: this is the best physical description I've yet seen of the railway panorama. The eerie mix of mechanical stage effects, panorama, thrill ride and immersive virtuality gives this contraption a very high Cahill Rating.)))

Patrick Lichty (