February 4th – The Festival of the Great Rail Conglomeration

Today, in 1907, the Great Rail Conglomeration was finalised, an event widely considered to be the influential first step of the Communal Reconstruction. In celebration of this momentous day that is touted to have shaped the modern political landscape of Buentoille, The Union of Transport, Construction and Allied Workers (UTCAW) will hold a number of ‘train parties’ on the internal lines, and all normal rail services will be suspended for the day. Extra bus services and trams will be scheduled to make up for the inconvenience.

These ‘parties’ take the form of three extremely large passenger trains that will rove around the City, heading for random landmarks at the request of the passengers. The trains are formed of the majority of the City’s rolling stock, and will host an estimated three thousand passengers. There are no scheduled stops on their routes, so passengers will have to opportunistically hop on and off whenever someone persuades the driver to stop. To avoid the possibility of collision, each train is constrained to its own third of the City.

The bars on the trains are well stocked today, with a few carriages set aside to carry replacement barrels of alcohol. Special ‘toilet carriages’ are also put into use to deal with the inevitable results of the revelrous drinking that occurs. Train guards are also on hand to deal with any potentially dangerous behaviour, but also to govern access to the roving parties, ensuring that the carriages do not become overcrowded, but also ensuring that revellers swear the Rail Unionist’s Oath (‘I do solemnly swear that I am in no way affiliated with the former owners of this rail service, that I support the workers in this righteous requisition, and that I do not intend to take any action to stall, hinder or counteract the aims of the Rail Unionists’).

The celebrations are intended to mirror the actions carried out by the Rail Unionists (who later became part of UTCAW) that preceded the finalisation of the Conglomeration. Prior to the Conglomeration there were 35 different rail companies that each ran their own, uncoordinated, services. Each owned one or two overground or underground lines, and traversing across them all depended on buying a number of separate tickets, all priced differently. The services themselves also favoured the richer districts immensely, making regular stops at the houses of rich and famous personages, even if they only used them one or twice a month. Those who had influence with the rail’s owner would often treat trains like a taxi service, much to the annoyance of other passengers. To this day, ‘unscheduled stop’ is slang for undue privilege.

In the aftermath of the 1905 revolution there was much talk about how to truly transform and reconstruct Buentoilliçan society. Many looked back to the social democratic settlement of the 17th century as a model, but others saw that it had failed before so would do so again. The Rail Unionists and their allies proposed, through their actions, an alternative model; full worker control of all Buentoilliçan services and industries. Starting on the fifteenth of January, the Rail Unionists (who had spent the last year ensuring that almost all rail workers had joined them) simply stopped sending any of the money they made to the owners of the railways, tore up the ridiculously inefficient timetables, joining all the disparate lines into one conglomerated service with a single, low ticket charge.

In addition to making all passengers swear the Unionist’s Oath, they also held extensive consultations with the public about where and when they wanted rail stops. This process initially began as an egalitarian parody of the ‘unscheduled stops,’ allowing poor folks to choose a stop, not just those who were outrageously wealthy, but it eventually took a more organised form, ensuring that the stops benefited the greatest number of people. As there were no gangs of thugs available for hire so soon after the revolution, the rail owners had no way of stopping the Rail Unionists by force. Eventually, on the third of February, the officially rescinded their claims to ownership.

As the festival ends today at 11pm, the trains will pull into the Eastern Rail Yard alongside each other, where the passengers will lean out the windows and vigorously shake hands whilst singing The Morning is Nigh (a popular Buentoilliçan revolutionary song). It is an emulation of the well-known photograph taken on the first day of the Great Rail Conglomeration, when workers and passengers from three adjacent competing lines (now merged into one) symbolised their unity in the same manner.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Alternative Toe Science Efficacy

  • The Festival of The Lost Balloon