By Daniel Ottalini
Steampunk is a genre of imagination and creation. Nowhere is that more apparent than the majestic steam train. Harkening back to an era of opulence, industry, hard work, and elegance, the chugging steam train kindles the joy of machinery and a love for transportation. As a small child, I was famous in my family for not only building long, winding, one lane traffic jams of Hot Wheels cars, but also for creating extravagantly huge sets of train tracks and monopolizing the entire living room for hours at a time.
Many years later, I wanted to include this long-dormant fondness back into my own literature. After all, don’t many people say write what you know?
Well, to be honest, I knew very little about ACTUAL steam trains. Yes, I had the basics of how and why they worked, put fuel and fire in one side, motion and force come out the other. But before I could write, I had to do some research.
How would a Roman interpretation of the majestic steam engine look? Would it really be all that different from our original timeline?
In essence, probably not. Considering that the laws of physics have not changed in my alternate history (See Dies the Fireto read about that type of alternate history – done quite well in my opinion) an engine on a pair of straight running tracks is able to move far heavier loads than just over standard roads, even Roman ones.
And with the Roman preference on engineering and transportation/communication, trains on highly maintained trackbeds would probably have come into existence earlier, especially with Roman experience in road construction, bridge construction, etc. The only real changes would be modifying their old designs to handle the heavier weights and higher traffic levels of the trains. In addition, Roman engineers would have had to develop further skills and strategies for designing tunnels through mountains to ease train travel.
Trains have yet to play a critically important role in the first two novels of the Steam Empire Chronicles. With the exception of the Brittenburg train station and subsequent [redacted to avoid giving away spoilers] trains have not featured prominently.
That, my friends, will change with Iron Tribune. Just as it took a war for the United States to discover how useful and critical trains could be (The Civil War, in fact), so too will the Romans. How? You’ll have to read I.T. to find out!