OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

A community built transport infrastructure.

It is a small railway using scaffold tubes to bring tools of 500 kgs into rural areas where people can make items to suit their needs.

Photo of John Venning
8 3

Written by

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

This is a cheap and strong railway system that can be installed by people all over the world without much training. England became the workshop of the world because it had canals and railways which carried materials into factories and finished products out. Industrial scale production led to the growth of the British navy and world-wide trade. The industrial revolution did not penetrate far into the world and megalomaniacs made better guns and bombs. The developing world was deprived the industrial revolution. Every country could have industrialised. The railway will enable machine tools like lathes, mills, 3D printers, laser cutters/engravers and materials to be carried into remote areas so people can set up workshops where they can build machines such as wind and water turbines, solar cells and also make and repair farming tools using instructions from the internet. Land ownership is complicated so putting in roads is expensive. The railway is made up of a pair of tracks totaling five feet wide. The tracks are made of galvanised steel scaffold tubing which is found world-wide. Steel arms open up underground and stop the support posts from sinking into soft ground. Using this approach river banks can be used for the railway lines which will mitigate the issue of land ownership. The rolling stock will be individual trolleys equipped with electric motors which will be recharged using solar cell or wind/water turbine equipped charging stations. The trolleys may be converted into living accomodation so visitors may explore the countryside without the need for roads. The rail track will support a fibre optic line to enable access to the internet so that communications and technical data will be available as required. It will also be used to monitor the positions of all the trolleys. The challenge is to give rural poor a chance to earn more without moving into cities. An advantage of local production is to remove the reliance on nuclear power stations.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The beneficiaries are everyone who would like to learn or make something. It will also help the people in the first world who would like to do something concrete to help the planet by giving them a chance to teach their speciality in a practical way. I am a welder and a machinist. I would love to teach my skills.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

My idea is unique because it uses basic engineering ideas to achieve a large social benefit. The railway materials are cheap and plentiful and the tracks can be made by local people using low-tech tools like a 2" tube bender. The trolleys can be built using the same motors as are used in electric bikes. By using one motor for each wheel there is no need for a transmission. This is the concept behind the Tesla cars. The system uses a wheel above and a wheel below the track like in a roller-coaster so the trolleys cannot leave the track when going round a corner. The idea is also unique because it can be completely demonstrated using a 1/8th scale model based on 6mm diameter copper tube. The actual scaffold tube is 48.6mm diameter. All the working parts can be made at this scale. There are many parts of the system to be developed, electrical, mechanical, electronics, structural and control so a lot of hands will be needed. To manage costs and teach skills local employment will be done.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

I am an inventor.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

My beautiful ex-girlfriend was raped by members of another religious community. The rapists were misled and were vulnerable to being misled because they were poor. I want to stop this from happening.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

I am dismayed by the misguided leaders running the world. I would like to side-step all the politics and give the rural poor a decent chance to improve their lot. Simple applied engineering can really help humanity.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

I have expounded this idea to friends. Some tell me to get a grip. Some tell me it is a good and obvious idea. I am willing to work with anyone to bring this to fruition. Previously I have helped two blind artists make and repair their artworks using my sightedness and engineering skills. I am currently developing a commode seat which uses three conveyor belts to move a disabled person sideways without the helper needing to support the person's weight. I go to the pain point and see if I can do something to help the situation.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

We all share the same spirit. It is just by a trick of fate that there are such huge differences between those who have and those who have not. We all have the drive to improve our situation. I would like to give all who are willing the chance to learn and serve their community and themselves.

Geographic Focus

Everywhere where there is rural poverty and/or conflict arising from this.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

Part 1. Making the working 1/8 scale model. 12 months. Part 2. Making the full-size version over a 30 x 25 meters oval including a 1 meter section of 1 in 10 gradient. 8 months. Part 3. Taking the plans and tools, obtaining all the parts required and constructing a 1 km x 25 meter oval including a 10 meter section of 1 in 10 gradient using local labour. 8 months. Total: 28 months.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of David / Thomas Svarrer / Høyer

Dear John Venning,

We love your idea. We understand that you are in the beginning phase of it, and therefore, there are many things which need to be invented / created.

We are right now having our hands full, but we would be happy to be sparring for your project if you think it can be of use for you.

We saw on your CV, that you are almost 70 years old? We have throughout our own lives (Thomas and David) worked with many senior engineers and innovators, and it is our take, that those who are a bit older, are very focused on getting things done, and to add scale to it.

So we would indeed love to be part of your team, but, we do not know ourselves how we sign up to be part of your team.

Thomas / David
Rational Intuitive IVS
Nexus 7 Solar Concentrator 

Photo of John Venning

Hi Thomas/David.
Thanks for your interest in my idea. I think it could be the panacea for many of the problems we face today. If we can reduce conflict by giving everyone the chance to make a good living where they actually live we would eliminate the refugee problem because there would not be any refugees. The transport system will enable entrepreneurs to get their products to a global market. Some of the rolling stock could be converted to mini-aircraft carriers to launch and recover drones for pin-point deliveries. The system becomes the means of spreading and employing thousands of ideas and products. Last night I worked out how to enable a trolley to disengage with the track, move laterally completely off the track and lower itself down on the adjacent ground so the track is completely clear. The trolley can reverse this procedure and get back onto the track, perhaps after its cargo has been unloaded. This means that a single track can accommodate two way traffic. About my being almost seventy years old, which fact seems to have attracted your attention, I think it is the relevance of your ideas to the current situation which is important, not what the calendar says. Luckily due to my advanced years I have worked on many tracked systems including a metropolitan underground railway system as well as remotely controlled industrial machines. I chose to use scaffold tube rather than standard rail sections because of bang for the buck and availability. The height of the track above ground depends on the terrain encountered. The four adjustment screws on the inverted jacking base are standard issue and are the cheapest solution. I have been using scaffold tube for forty years. The whole point of the exercise is to make a basic system that can be made on site by the local people. The real problems will be political and financial, every war-lord and village chief whose land is occupied will need some form of tribute. One of my super high-tech friends(used to manage a wafer fab) suggested I block-chain it and issue a transport cyber currency like bit-coin whose value will rise as the railway grows, but then you might as well issue shares in a traditional joint-stock company. So many things one can do. The most important thing is to make a working model and then get funding. I do not need to employ anyone until I have made the model and got funded. Get the horse, then get the cart. Vous avez prenner l'image mon ami?


View all comments