Happy Halloween

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 0 comments

Chilly night here.
Hoping for lots of kids tonight.

May all your treats be sweet and your tricks fun.
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Clockwork Automaton Extrordinaire!

Monday, October 29, 2012 0 comments

This beautiful mechanical dulcimer player was built in 1772 Pierre Kintzing and David Roentgen for Marie Antoinette. At just eighteen inches tall, she plays eight different songs. She was restored in 1864 by Robert-Houdin and is now at the Musée des Arts et Métiers

The intricacy of the mechanism here is exquisite!

Take a look.

The following video is a look at the automaton that inspired the "The Invention of Hugo Cabret".

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your mainspring wound up!

The Remarkable Pneumatic People-Mover of 1870

Friday, October 26, 2012 0 comments

The ground beneath our feet sometimes holds some interesting history.
Case in point the this system described at Damn Interesting
 The Remarkable Pneumatic People-Mover of 1870
This system used a sealed brick tunnel in which a passenger car ran. The system was propelled by air pressure acting on the car, the end of the tunnel was fitted with a great steam powered blower that exhausted the air from the tunnel producing a vacuum. The difference in air pressure across the car propelled it along the tunnel.
A demonstration system was built underneath Broadway in New York and opened to the public in  Feb of 1870.

From the link above:
On the twenty-sixth of February 1870, Alfred Beach finally exposed his secret tunnel for the inspection of the public. The event was described by one silver-tongued newspaperman as a “Fashionable reception held in the bowels of the Earth.” Visitors entered the basement of Devlin’s clothing store by way of a vestibule which had special linked doors on either end; the inner door would not open until the outer door was closed, providing a rudimentary airlock for the pneumatic pressure. Therefrom they emerged into an ornate lobby encrusted with the stuff of high society, including wood trimmings; chandeliers; an ornate, goldfish-filled fountain; and a grand piano. Although electrical service was still a thing of the future, the underground lobby was brilliantly illuminated by a collection of new zircon oxygen/hydrogen gas lamps.

At the far end of the waiting area was the portal to America’s first subway, installed “for the purpose of temporarily illustrating, by an actual demonstration, the feasibility of placing a railway under Broadway.” The tunnel was framed in handsome brickwork, and two stately bronze effigies of Mercury stood alongside. On a placard above the tunnel hung the words, “Pneumatic / 1870 / Transit.” For a fare of two bits per passenger– all of which was donated to a charity for soldiers’ orphans– twenty guests at a time could take a ride on the pneumatic carriage.
 The custom-built, fifty-ton blower was situated in an adjacent chamber, separated from the waiting area by a long corridor. The Æolor blower was twenty-one feet high, sixteen feet long, and thirteen feet wide, and it contained two colossal lengthwise paddles which rotated to draw air in through the rear and thrust it out from the front. The magnificent blower was also outfitted with a special set of adjustable baffles which allowed her to switch from suck to blow without reversing rotation. By tapping a telegraph wire, the conductor signaled the boiler engineer to engage the 100 horsepower steam engine. Atmospheric pressure increased by “a few grains per inch,” pressing the carriage into the tunnel as the air rushed to escape through the vent at the far end.
 Here is how a visitor described a trip on this experimental wonder.
We took our seats in the pretty car, the gayest company of twenty that ever entered a vehicle; the conductor touched a telegraph wire on the wall of the tunnel; and before we knew it, so gentle was the start, we were in motion, moving from Warren street down Broadway. In a few moments the conductor opened the door, and called out, Murray street! with a business-like air that made us all shout with laughter.
The car came to a rest in the gentlest possible style, and immediately began to move back to Warren street, where it had no sooner arrived, than in the same gentle and mysterious manner it moved back again to Murray street [...] Our atmospheric ride was most delightful, and our party left the car satisfied by actual experience that the pneumatic system of traveling is one of the greatest improvements of the day.”
The system was not a commercial success however and was abandoned in 1873. The tube, cars, blower and digging machine, used to bore the tunnel, remained until around 1918 when they were destroyed by the building of the electric subway system.
An interesting system indeed.

Keep our sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Tesla, Edison and JP Morgan

Thursday, October 25, 2012 0 comments

This video is a section of a movie called The Secret of Nikola Tesla
Produced in 1980 and directed by Krsto Papic, it stars Petar Bozovic as Nikola Tesla, Dennis Patrick as Thomas Edison and Orson Welles as J.P. Morgan.
In this scene Morgan holds a meeting between Tesla and Edison in an attempt to decide what form the new electrical systems will take.
A fascinating recreation of one of the turning points in technological history.

You can watch the entire film at YouTube here.
It is a reasonably accurate biography of Tesla from what I can see.
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

1896 Steam Motorcycle

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 0 comments

You gotta love Youtube!
This segment of Pete's Garage shows the details and workings of a steam powered motorcycle from 1896.
This is one sweet machine.
Would love to take spin, or two, or three!
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

1884: Yesterday’s Future

Monday, October 22, 2012 0 comments

This looks like a very interesting concept production.
Found an article about this film over at Steampunk Costume
Animator Tim Ollive and Terry Gilliam have joined forces to create a film combining puppetry, CGI, animation and old photos. The movie is basically a Steampunk Spy Story of a sort.
Here is the trailer for your viewing pleasure:

This trailer is as much a proof of concept as anything else, but it still looks very interesting indeed.
Here is a  short animation test piece for the film.

From the website of Peculiar Pictures :

A story of outstanding heroism in the face of deception, subterfuge and treachery. Conjuring up the belief that it was made forty years before film was even invented, 1884: Yesterdays Future tells of a future that might have been but never was. Directed by Tim Ollive, the film is a mix of animation, puppetry and two dimensional and three dimensional computer generated imagery (CGI) set against backgrounds created using stunning artwork, model sets and period photographs from the Hulton Picture Library division of Getty Images. Combine these idiosyncratic production techniques with a script of mind boggling ingenuity and you have a hilarious comedy film the like of which you will not have seen before. So, put your tongue firmly in your cheek, stiffen your upper lip and prepare to be shaken and stirred by 1884: Yesterdays Future.
Here is a still from the film, I would love to take a stroll down the streets of that version of  London.

Definitely going to keep an eye out for this one!
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Chilly Sunday Musing "What is Steampunk?"

Sunday, October 21, 2012 0 comments

With my mug of hot, dark and strong, coffee in hand on this chilly Sunday morning, it is time to ponder...

The more I wear my Steampunk clothes out in public,the first question, after the obligatory "Why are you dressed like that?", is usually "What is Steampunk anyway?"

I've given a variety of answers, depending on the context. Things like; it is neo-victorian, or quasi-victorian, or an alternate history, or techno-fantasy, or like the Wild-Wild-West, Sherlock Holmes ( the movie), or the stories of Jules Verne or H.G.Wells (and others I can't recall at the moment). 

While these are all reasonable catch phrases to use to describe Steampunk, they are just that, "catch phrases", and not really a description or explanation. Consequently, I usually get a request for more information, which is where I usually fall back on the traditional comments about: "What if Babbage's engine, mechanical computer etc, had worked." or "What if the technological development had stopped with Steam?" or any of a half dozen other "What ifs".

A difficulty with explaining Steampunk, is not an uncommon problem. Looking up "What is Steampunk?" in Google will turn up many pages worth of different descriptions and explanations, long and short, most of which can be traced to elaborations on the comments above.

So why is it so difficult to distill Steampunk down to a sound bite, or even to a nice socially digestible paragraph or two?

I think it is because the Steampunk world is actually a "World" in the big sense of that word. It is not simply a costume style, alternative music scene, design aesthetic, or social subculture. Steampunk encompasses all of these, in many ways it is more diverse and complex than the Goth and Punk movements, with which it shares many costuming and social components. Not having been a member of either the Goth or Punk scenes I have not had to describe them to others, but I suspect it is just as difficult to do.

At first it seems that Steampunk should be relatively easy to put in a soundbite box, the "What ifs" and Neo-Victorian costuming are probably sufficient for most people. On further reflection it becomes apparent to me that there is vastly more here that should be explained, if only to promote our interests to others. Steampunk is surprisingly attractive to many people. People that one would not at first expect to be interested at all, are donning a corset and goggles, or a top hat and cravat, and heading out for tea at the nearest fancy hotel or quaffing a pint at an English style pub. People who would never think of taking their car apart for fun, are tearing apart old clocks and gluing and sewing their gears to their hats and delving into the arcane mysteries of Babbage's Difference Engine and watching in fascination the Youtube videos of old steam engines, airships and early motor cars.

I've noticed an interesting pattern, when there is one Steampunk there will shortly be more!
(Heh. No comments from the wags about cockroaches! )

Once people perceive that it is OK to dress up and pursue their interests, in the way the Steampunk scene allows them to do, it doesn't take long before they start to do just that.

But what is it about Steampunk that is so attractive to so many people?  It is not simply a matter of being "Goths who discovered brown" as a friend once snidely remarked. Nor is it strictly speaking a "Geek" thing or an "historical re-creation gone bad" thing, although that is part of it I think.

Why is it so hard to pick a few common elements to use in a description? My own reasons for being active in the Steampunk World aren't the same as yours or anyone elses, and like most things in life, our motivations are idiosyncratic and the result of our own history and experiences. So trying to distill "Steampunk" down to a soundbite is just as hard as doing that for our real life, and perhaps, just as futile. However the process of trying to do this may give us some insights that are otherwise lost in the complexity, and there may be some common elements that would be interesting to identify.

In future posts I'm going to describe some of my ways of looking at Steampunk that might be useful, or at least interesting.

Thanks for reading.
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Book Trailer "Frank Reade Adventures in the Age of Invention"

Saturday, October 20, 2012 0 comments

Found this lovely collage of images in my ramblings this snowy morning.
It is a book trailer for  "Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention"

From Youtube:
A trailer for the book "Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention"
Before Jules Verne's flying machines and H. G. Wells's spaceships, there was Frank Reade, globe-trotting inventor and original steampunk hero. Frank Reade magazines were the world's first science fiction periodicals, enthralling millions of readers with tales of fantastic inventions and adventures. Now many of the spectacular images from the vintage dime novel series are being reprinted for the first time in more than a century, along with excerpts from the action-packed stories. In Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention, this lost legacy of Americana is interwoven with a biography of the "real" Reade family—inventors and explorers who traveled the world with their helicopter airships, submarines, and robots, and who encountered figures like Geronimo and Houdini. This epic saga is brought to life in the multimedia style of the authors' previous volume, the critically acclaimed Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel. Frank Reade is part science fiction, part history, and entirely exciting!

This trailer was created by Paul Guinan on his Mac using iMovie. Paul's images are all from the Frank Reade book that he co-authored with wife Anina Bennett. The book is published by Abrams Image and was released in February 2012.
I just wish the video spent a tad more time on each image, the pause button is your friend.
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

On the "Art of Organ Building"


Pipe organs that is.

This profusely illustrated two volume Dover reprint of The Art of Organ Building by George Ashdown Audsley was originally published in 1905.

What I find most fascinating about this book is the intricacy of the mechanisms that connect the beautiful ivory and ebony keyboards to the hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of pipes in a big pipe organ. I'm sure we've all seen the famous scene of Captain Nemo playing his pipe organ in the saloon of the Nautilus while the storm rages on the surface above or, more recently, Captain Davey Jones playing his on the Flying Dutchman in Pirates II. These instruments, whether small chamber versions like those on the Nautilus or in many an evil genius' lair, or the massive organs in cathedrals and concert halls, are truly the "King of Instruments".

In their 19th c forms they were magnificent examples of wooden engineering, made of natural materials for the most part. Elegant machines of finely balanced levers, rollers, fine wires and leather clad close grained wood. Thousands of moving parts all aligned and adjusted to transmit the finest touch of the organist to the valve opening air to the base of a pipe that might be as small as a match stick or as big around as an ale barrel and over a hundred feet long!

The 400 illustrations included in this 1300 page masterwork, cover the whole range of mechanisms from the earliest Roman and Mediaeval instruments, played by slamming the keys with closed fists, to early 20th c pneumatic and electro-pneumatic systems.

A fantastic source of ideas on linking one motion to another in elegant and efficient ways.

The Art of Organ-Building
A Comprehensive Historical, Theoretical, and Practical Treatise
on the
Tonal Appointment and Mechanical Construction
of Concert-Room, Church and Chamber Organs

George Ashdown Audsley, LL.D.

Dodd, Mead, and Company
New York

Dover Re-print 1965

ISBN: 0-486-21314-5

Keep your sight glass full and your firebox trimmed.

The Markets Today

Friday, October 19, 2012 0 comments

I can't say much more than this...

Caveat Emptor!
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your wallet closed!

New Zealand Steampunks


A TV report on the "League of Victorian Imagineers" in Oamaru NZ.

Oamaru 'steampunk' festival kicks off

More info here:
The League of Victorian Imagineers

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

The Alchemyst's Clocktower

Thursday, October 18, 2012 0 comments

Imagine the clockwork inside this beauty...

"The Alchemyst's Tower" 2004-2008
Absolutely the most ambition project to date. It took many years to realize this automaton and care was used to make the advanced technology below stage adaptable in the future while keeping the figure itself purely mechanical. The Alchemyst is only 12" tall and consists of hundreds of hand machined brass and steel pieces. The tower itself consists of thousands of pieces was built from scratch out of wood, steel brass and fabric and just about any other high quality material where needed. The industrial machinery includes pneumatic valves, servos, clockwork, lighting and fountain (water) systems.

An amazing piece!
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

What is the "Union Jack"?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 0 comments

In case anyone is wondering smile

From Wikipedia:
Whether to call it the "Union Flag" or the "Union Jack" is a matter of debate by many. According to the Flag Institute, the vexillological organisation for the United Kingdom, "the national flag of the United Kingdom, the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories is the Union Flag, which may also be called the Union Jack."[4] It also notes that "From early in its life the Admiralty itself frequently referred to the flag as the Union Jack, whatever its use, and in 1902 an Admiralty Circular announced that Their Lordships had decided that either name could be used officially. In 1908, a government minister stated, in response to a Parliamentary question, that "the Union Jack should be regarded as the National flag" .[5][6] Nevertheless, the term "Union Flag" is used in King Charles's proclamation of 1634,[7] and in King George III's proclamation of 1 January 1801 concerning the arms and flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.[8]

When the first flag representing Britain was introduced on the proclamation of King James I in 1606, it became known simply as "the British flag" or "the flag of Britain". The royal proclamation gave no distinctive name to the new flag. The word "jack" was in use before 1600 to describe the maritime bow flag.[5] By 1627 a small Union Jack was commonly flown in this position. One theory goes that for some years it would have been called just "the Jack", or "Jack flag", or "the King's Jack", but by 1674, while formally referred to as "His Majesty's Jack", it was commonly called the Union Jack, and this was officially acknowledged.[3]

Amongst the proclamations issued by King George III at the time of the Union of 1801 was a proclamation concerning flags at sea, which referred to "Our Flags, Jacks, and Pendants" and forbade merchant vessels from wearing "Our Jack, commonly called the Union Jack" nor any pendants or colours used by the King's ships.[9] In contrast, the King's proclamation of the same day concerning the arms and flag of the United Kingdom, not colours at sea, called the new flag "the Union Flag".

The size and power of the Royal Navy internationally at the time could also explain why the flag was named the "Union Jack"; considering the navy was so widely utilised and renowned by the United Kingdom and colonies, it is possible that the term "Jack" occurred because of its regular use on all British ships using the "Jack Staff" (a flag pole attached to the bow of a ship). In other words, a "Union Flag" is called a "Union Jack" when flown from the Jack of a ship. Even if the term "Union Jack" does derive from the jack flag (as perhaps seems most likely), after three centuries, it is now sanctioned by use, has appeared in official use, and remains the popular term.[10]
The Americans also have a "Union Jack" it is the blue box with white stars from the US flag and is flown the same way on US Navy ships.

As for whether the Union Jack can be flown upside down, it actually can.

Again from Wikipedia:

The flag does not have reflection symmetry, due to the slight pinwheeling of St Patrick's cross, which is technically called the counterchange of saltires. Thus, it has a right side and a wrong side up. To fly the flag the correct way up, the broad portion of the white cross of St Andrew should be above the red band of St Patrick (and the thin white portion below) in the upper hoist canton (the corner at the top nearest to the flag-pole), giving the Scottish symbol precedence over the Irish symbol. This is expressed by the phrases wide white top and broad side up. Traditionally, flying a flag upside down is understood as a distress signal. In the case of the Union Flag, the difference is so subtle as to be easily missed by many. Indeed, some people have displayed it upside down inadvertently.[12]

On 3 February 2009, the BBC reported that the flag had been inadvertently flown upside-down by the UK government at the signing of a trade agreement with Chinese premier Wen Jiabao. The error had been spotted by readers of the BBC news website who had contacted the BBC after seeing a photograph of the event.[13]

Union Flag with red bars in diagonals to one side of the white diagonals, such that there is a thicker white border on one side. The red bars are all off-centre as if they had been pushed in an anticlockwise direction.
Right way to fly the flag, assuming hoist to the left

Union flag where red bars in diagonals are moved off-centre in a clockwise direction. This is both the vertical and horizontal mirror image of the previous image.
Wrong way to fly the flag, assuming hoist to the left

This is particularly subtle and takes a sharp eye to notice.
I thought it didn't matter myself until I actually played with the flag at the Victoria Day event, and even then when I messed with pictures it looked like it didn't. However when you flip the flag the hoist stays on the same side, it isn't just rotating the image. Duh.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Steam Patriots a Kickstarter

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 0 comments

This is an interesting project.
A book about the American Revolutionary War with a decidedly Steampunk twist.  Now of course the American Revolution was 18th century not 19th so perhaps not quite "the thing" for us Quasi Victorians, but it still looks like it could be a fascinating tale.

Check out the blog on their project and kickstarter here:
Steam Patriots

They have some interesting illustrations to go with it, here is a couple of examples of Ben Franklin by Patrick Arrasmith

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Absintheum as Art

Monday, October 15, 2012 0 comments

I posted this query back in August:

One thing I've been thinking about, that somewhat complicates the design, is that not only must the design actually work, it also has to look really cool while doing it!
That my friends is ART(tm) which I'm frankly lousy at cool
So my question to you all is this:
Is it better to come up with a practical workable design first and then decorate it?
Is it better to create the artistic design and then make the functional design fit that vision?
Keep in mind that I consider this machine to be as much a sculpture as it is a machine, but it still has to actually work.
My buddy Andrew replied:
I always find it is better to start with making sure the design is functional before you make it artistic ... because really anything can be considered art these days...
Plus there is that famous song that goes along the lines of just glue a gear on it wink
You can always add to the design too once it is fuctional to make it more visually appealing if you think it needs it
 Interesting, thanks Andrew.

For modern equipment I quite agree, because in today's world it is not so much designing a machine to work with a given material as it is designing materials to work with given machine design. Steampunk artifacts are different however, as the Steampunk aesthetic delights in displaying the workings themselves. It is as much about how the machine does its job as it is what it looks like (think Rube Goldberg in brass).

For me personally the most interesting Steampunk artifacts are those that actually do things, and can be seen to be doing them. The hand cranked wine pourer being one of my favourites.

The vast majority of Steampunk things are not like this, they are an aesthetic gloss over an otherwise mundane mechanism or object. The reworked Nerf pistol as Steampunk Ray Gun is probably the archetypal example. In this case 'just glue some gears on it' seems to be the way to go biggrin Since we don't have real ray guns, jet-packs or mechanical appendages, this isn't really a problem. We don't actually have a choice if we want to have one of these gadgets to liven up our outfits.

However since the Absinthium is to be more like the Wine Pourer than the Ray Gun, it seems to me that the Steampunk aesthetic needs to be 'baked in' from the start, if only to make sure that it is not simply a Steampunk cover for a modern machine. Also the very nature of the materials I would like to use to make this, will constrain the design to a certain extent.

Alas that also raises my original dilemma again, because the design process must try to cover both, the artistic and functional elements.

Perhaps if the materials are suitable, the artistic elements will fall out of a suitable design all by themselves. The beauty of the form will follow the elegance of the design/function.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Click here to see the other Absinthium posts.

Match made in...

Friday, October 12, 2012 0 comments

Well... Not really sure where.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Things could be worse...


A great collection of comics.
Many with a definite Steampunk twist.
The Tragedy Series 
Here are a couple to whet the old steam whistle!
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Steampunk Sculptures in Action

Thursday, October 11, 2012 0 comments

Check out these videos of  fantastic Steampunk sculptures in action.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Oh the Gears!!!


There is an even bigger version here at Tumblr
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Airlords of Airia

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 0 comments

Check out this fantastic looking trailer

Now that is something I'm looking forward to seeing!
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

More Glue some Gears On It!


Follwing on from my recent post about the unofficial Steampunk anthem:
Just Glue Some Gears On It and Call it Steampunk
Here is an interesting web comic from Real Life  by Greg Dean.

This came from an interesting discussion by The Steampunk Scholar back in June of 2010.  The Steampunk Scholar is Mike Pershon, who holds a PhD in Steampunk Literature (!?! yup really!) and teaches at Grant MacEwan University.  In his post he talks about the elements of Steampunk technology and how while it is non-functional it is still interesting.
If all one had for research was the internet, you'd certainly be lead to think steampunk is just science fiction, focused as much of the art is on technology. Yet without an understanding of steampunk's regular dalliances with technofantasy, the joke of "but it doesn't really do anything" is all too appropriate.
Steampunk technology, on the whole, doesn't do anything, especially in its literary manifestation. That is to say, if you were to bring the technology of steampunk out of a book and into our world, it wouldn't work very well once it ran out of phlogiston or aether, or when you tried to invoke whatever arcane powers it runs on. It's very easy to assume that since the aesthetic device of technofantasy is pointless in terms of physical reality, it is likewise meaningless in its thematic content. Yet consider the relevance of the municipal Darwinism in Reeve's Mortal Engines, the underlying social contract theory of the living airship in Leviathan, and the complexity of constructing gender identities in The Alchemy of Stone

We play with technology as art, it doesn't have to do anything as long as it looks cool in the process.
I highly recommend you keep The Steampunk Scholar blog in your favourites, he has lots of great reviews and discussions there.
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and yoour water iced.

HMS Cerberus 1868

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 0 comments

The last remaining ship of her class in the world!
Built in England and sailed to Australia where she remains to this day.
Lots of great info at the website below.
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Friends of the Cerberus Inc. which consists of enthusiasts, works hand in hand with Heritage Victoria and the National Trust of Victoria. Our sole aim is to preserve HMVS Cerberus for future generations.
HMS Cerberus 1868

Significance of HMS Cerberus
  • Launched in 1868 Cerberus is the only remaining breastwork monitor class warship left in the world. Cerberus not only has its hull but also its gun turrets and its guns.
  • Cerberus was the first of the modern battleships.
  • Preceding HMS Devastation by almost three years, Cerberus was the first British warship to dispense completely with sail power and to incorporate the shallow draft.
  • Cerberus was the first, and is the only remaining example, of a Monitor having a central superstructure.
  • The design for the Cerberus was the first in the world to incorporate the combination of a central superstructure with fore and aft gun turrets.
  • Cerberus is the only substantially intact surviving warship of any of Australia's pre-Federation colonial navies.
  • Cerberus is the oldest as well as the only surviving inaugural warship, to have served in the Royal Australian Navy.
  • Cerberus represented Cutting Edge Technology from the 1860's.
  • Cerberus was the flagship and most powerful warship of the Victorian Navy. In addition it was the most powerful warship of any of the Australian Colonial Navies.
  • Cerberus incorporated the latest developments in metallurgy, steam power, gun turrets and the use of low freeboard.
  • Cerberus was the first armoured warship built for Australia.

Looking a little care worn at the moment:

Heroine of Suffrage


This is a photo of Elizabeth Cady Stanton,  who was instrumental in helping pass a law allowing women to own their own property. The law was passed in New York in 1848.

From Wikipedia
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (November 12, 1815 – October 26, 1902) was an American social activist, abolitionist, and leading figure of the early woman's movement. Her Declaration of Sentiments, presented at the first women's rights convention held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, is often credited with initiating the first organized woman's rights and woman's suffrage movements in the United States.[1]
Before Stanton narrowed her political focus almost exclusively to women's rights, she was an active abolitionist together with her husband, Henry Brewster Stanton and cousin, Gerrit Smith. Unlike many of those involved in the woman's rights movement, Stanton addressed various issues pertaining to women beyond voting rights. Her concerns included women's parental and custody rights, property rights, employment and income rights, divorce, the economic health of the family, and birth control.[2] She was also an outspoken supporter of the 19th-century temperance movement.
After the American Civil War, Stanton's commitment to female suffrage caused a schism in the woman's rights movement when she, together with Susan B. Anthony, declined to support passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. She opposed giving added legal protection and voting rights to African American men while women, black and white, were denied those same rights. Her position on this issue, together with her thoughts on organized Christianity and women's issues beyond voting rights, led to the formation of two separate women's rights organizations that were finally rejoined, with Stanton as president of the joint organization, approximately twenty years after her break from the original women's suffrage movement.
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Banner Women of the 1890s

Monday, October 8, 2012 0 comments

Retronaut is always a fun place to spend some quality online time.
Found this section on The Banner Women of the 1890s.

Using women on billboards for advertizing is nothing new, although they are nowhere near as elegant these days.
I've posted a few examples below, check out the link above for more.
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Extraordinary Incidents

Sunday, October 7, 2012 0 comments

Found this blog this morning whilst whiling away a few hours out on the Aether Webs.
An Extraordinary Incident  is a collection of odd reports from Victorian newspapers, many of which are very entertaining indeed!
Alas it does not appear that the author is currently updating the blog, as its last entry is in January of this year.
Check it out.
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

For example from The Leicester Chronicle, Saturday 30 September 1837

 She exhibited a pair of pistols

This day fortnight an event took place in the shop of a respectable watchmaker in this town which had nearly been attended with a tragical result. The sister of a young lady who once made some stir in this town, respecting a certain hymeneal disappointment, had, it appears, for a long period received visits from the gentleman in question. She either had, or concluded she had reason for believing that the consummation would be matrimony. Suddenly, however, and, as the lady avers, without any reason assigned, the gentleman discontinued his visits. She repeatedly called at his shop and requested to see him, but either by accident or design her wishes in this respect were frustrated. If the shop-boy may be believed she more than once betrayed signs of violent agitation, and exhibited a pair of pistols.

Last Monday week she called at the shop, where she found the gentleman. She asked him if he intended to call at her house. He said no, he did not intend to call any more. At that moment she placed her hand in her pocket, and he heard the click of a pistol-lock. The sound was that of placing the weapon on full cock. She drew the pistol from her pocket, and he rushed towards her and seized it with the intention of disarming her. A struggle ensued, during which the pistol went off. The ball entered the young man’s leg just above the knee, and shattered the bone in a most dreadful manner. She immediately threw away another pistol and rushed from the shop.

The young man took up the pistol which she had thrown away, and, on examining it, found it to be loaded with ball. An application was made to the magistrates last week for a summons against the lady, and the case was heard on Friday. The young man is in a precarious state, and was so ill from the effects of his wound that it was found expedient to have the case heard in the office of the magistrates’ clerks. The above facts were stated, and the young woman was bound over to keep the peace for twelve months.—Liverpool Albion.

D'Orcy'S Airship Manual 1917

Saturday, October 6, 2012 0 comments

A great book, compiling most of the information on Airship development as of 1917.
There is also an index of every airship used in the Great War, their technical specifications and career/fate.
From the preface:

An International Register of Airships with a Compendium of Airship's Elementary Mechanics

The present volume is the result of a methodical investigation extending over a period of four years in the course of which many hundreds of English, French, Italian, German and Spanish publications and periodicals dealing with the present status as well as with the early history of airships have carefully been consulted and digested. It has thus become possible to gather under the cover of a handy reference-book a large amount of hitherto widely scattered information which, having mostly been published in, foreign languages, was not immediately available to the English speaking public.
The information thus gathered is herewith presented in two parts; one being a compendium of the elementary principles underlying the construction and operation of airships, the other constituting an exhaustive, but tersely worded register of the world's airshipping which furnishes, whenever available, complete data for every airship of 500 cubic meters and over, that has been laid down since 1834. Smaller airships are listed only if they embody unusual features.
It has been attempted to furnish here the most up-to-date information regarding the gigantic fleet of airships built by Germany since the beginning of the Great War, a feature which may, in a certain measure, repay the reader for the utter lack of data on the Allies' recent airship constructions, which had to be withheld for military reasons. A revised and enlarged edition of D'Orcy's Airship Manual, in which all the airships built during the Great War will be listed and their features duly discussed, will be issued upon the termination of the war.
Ladislas d'Orcy, New York City (U. S. A.)
Available online here:
D'Orcy'S Airship Manual 1917
There is also a PDF file scanned from a copy of the book deposited at the UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY under the reference YC 68298.
Download the pdf version of the D'Orcy's Airship Manual.

Lots of detailed illustrations and period photos included.
Highly recommended if you are an airship buff (and who isn't).

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and water iced.

Steampunk Comics: A Reading List


From Chriss Cornish, of the more Vikings book blog.

Steampunk Comics: A Reading List

Does your comic book reading need a hefty does of retro-futurism? Could your graphic novel collection use a dash of far future etherpunk western? Are your webcomic choices woefully bereft of Victorian scientists toting ray guns and having adventures?

Boy-howdy are you in luck, then!

There's quite a bit of steampunk fiction available in the good 'ol sequential media these days (as I found when last I assembled a steampunk reading list); from webcomics full of moody engineers in goggles to steampunk manga westerns set on alien planets.

Steampunk Comics Recommended Reading List
Here find a list of 20 highly recommended comics of various and sundry sort all disporting in that delightful retro-furturist speculative fiction genre we like to call...STEAMPUNK.

presented for your amusement & edification by moreVikings.

There follows a massive list of awesome Steampunk linkage.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

The "World System" of Nikola Tesla

Friday, October 5, 2012 2 comments

The more I read of  Tesla, that wunderkind inventor and experimenter of the early Electric Age, the more I am fascinated by the immense scale of his vision.
For example, in 1900 he had an idea for what he called his "World System".  Keep in mind that this was when wireless telephony was still in it's very early stages. Tesla's description of what his system could achieve is striking in its scale and depth. It is also very prescient and although we do not use his "World System", which was based on wireless power transmission through tuned resonance between the Earth and its Atmosphere and Magnetic field, the results of our developments have come very close to his predictions.
Below is a description of his "World System" in his own words.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

From My Inventions By Nikola Tesla
 At the age of 63 Tesla tells the story of his creative life.
 First published in 1919 in the Electrical Experimenter magazine.

This invention was one of a number comprised in my "World-System" of wireless transmission which I undertook to commercialize on my return to New York in 1900. As to the immediate purposes of my enterprise, they were clearly outlined in a technical statement of that period from which I quote:

"The 'World-System' has resulted from a combination of several original discoveries made by the inventor in the course of long continued research and experimentation. It makes possible not only the instantaneous and precise wireless transmission of any kind of signals, messages or characters, to all parts of the world, but also the inter-connection of the existing telegraph, telephone, and other signal stations without any change in their present equipment. By its means, for instance, a telephone subscriber here may call up and talk to any other subscriber on the Globe. An inexpensive receiver, not bigger than a watch, will enable him to listen anywhere, on land or sea, to a speech delivered or music played in some other place, however distant. These examples are cited merely to give an idea of the possibilities of this great scientific advance, which annihilates distance and makes that perfect natural conductor, the Earth, available for all the innumerable purposes which human ingenuity has found for a line-wire. One far-reaching result of this is that any device capable of being operated thru one or more wires (at a distance obviously restricted) can likewise be actuated, without artificial conductors and with the same facility and accuracy, at distances to which there are no limits other than those imposed by the physical dimensions of the Globe. Thus, not only will entirely new fields for commercial exploitation be opened up by this ideal method of transmission but the old ones vastly extended.

The 'World-System' is based on the application of the following important inventions and discoveries:

1. The 'Tesla Transformer.' This apparatus is in the production of electrical vibrations as revolutionary as gunpowder was in warfare. Currents many times stronger than any ever generated in the usual ways, and sparks over one hundred feet long, have been produced by the inventor with an instrument of this kind.

2. The 'Magnifying Transmitter.' This is Tesla's best invention, a peculiar transformer specially adapted to excite the Earth, which is in the transmission of electrical energy what the telescope is in astronomical observation. By the use of this marvelous device he has already set up electrical movements of greater intensity than those of lightning and passed a current, sufficient to light more than two hundred incandescent lamps, around the Globe.

3. The 'Tesla Wireless System.' This system comprises a number of improvements and is the only means known for transmitting economically electrical energy to a distance without wires. Careful tests and measurements in connection with an experimental station of great activity, erected by the inventor in Colorado, have demonstrated that power in any desired amount can be conveyed, clear across the Globe if necessary, with a loss not exceeding a few per cent.

4. The 'Art of Individualization.' This invention of Tesla's is to primitive 'tuning' what refined language is to unarticulated expression. It makes possible the transmission of signals or messages absolutely secret and exclusive both in the active and passive aspect, that is, non-interfering as well as non-interferable. Each signal is like an individual of unmistakable identity and there is virtually no limit to the number of stations or instruments which can be simultaneously operated without the slightest mutual disturbance.

5. 'The Terrestrial Stationary Waves.' This wonderful discovery, popularly explained, means that the Earth is responsive to electrical vibrations of definite pitch just as a tuning fork to certain waves of sound. These particular electrical vibrations, capable of powerfully exciting the Globe, lend themselves to innumerable uses of great importance commercially and in many other respects.

The first 'World-System' power plant can be put in operation in nine months. With this power plant it will be practicable to attain electrical activities up to ten million horsepower and it is designed to serve for as many technical achievements as are possible without due expense. Among these the following may be mentioned:

(1) The inter-connection of the existing telegraph exchanges or offices all over the world;

(2) The establishment of a secret and non-interferable government telegraph service;

(3) The inter-connection of all the present telephone exchanges or offices on the Globe;

(4) The universal distribution of general news, by telegraph or telephone, in connection with the Press;

(5) The establishment of such a 'World-System' of intelligence transmission for exclusive private use;

(6) The inter-connection and operation of all stock tickers of the world;

(7) The establishment of a 'World-System' of musical distribution, etc.;

(8) The universal registration of time by cheap clocks indicating the hour with astronomical precision and requiring no attention whatever;

(9) The world transmission of typed or handwritten characters, letters, checks, etc.;

(10) The establishment of a universal marine service enabling the navigators of all ships to steer perfectly without compass, to determine the exact location, hour and speed, to prevent collisions and disasters, etc.;

(11) The inauguration of a system of world-printing on land and sea;

(12) The world reproduction of photographic pictures and all kinds of drawings or records."

Horology Horde!

Thursday, October 4, 2012 0 comments

Ordered this DVD in the mail with 3.1 GB of pdf files, most are from the 19th c. and cover everything you always wanted to know about clocks, clock making and the repair of clocks and watches.
This fantastic horde of information cost me a whopping $14.00 (incl shipping)!
I found it here:
Homesteading Self Sufficiency Survival
They have lots of other collections of interesting info as well.

Here is what's on the DVD:

A Catalogue of Books, Manuscripts, Specimens of Clocks, Watches and Watchwork 1875 - 114 pages.pdf
A Description of a Clepsydra or Water-Clock 1753 - 8 pages.pdf
A Portion of the Papers Relating to the Great Clock 1848 - 55 pages.pdf
A Practical Course in Horology 1944 - 193 pages.pdf
A Practical Treatise on the Balance Spring 1876 - 150 pages.pdf
A Rudimentary Treatise on Clock and Watch Making 1850 - 304 pages.pdf
A Rudimentary Treatise on Clocks, Watches and Bells for Public Purposes 1903 434 pages.pdf
A Treatise on Modern Horology in Theory and Practice 1887 - 895 pages.pdf
A Treatise on the Teeth of Wheels 1868 - 213 pages.pdf
A Ttreatise on Watch-Work, Past and Present 1873 - 320 pages.pdf
Abbott's American Watchmaker and Jeweler 1898 - 383 pages.pdf
Accutron Service Manual Series 214 - 39 pages.pdf
Accutron Service Manual Series 218 - 52 pages.pdf
American Horological Journal - Devoted to Practical Horology Vol 1 1869 - 287 pages.pdf
An Analysis of the Lever Escapement 1895 - 94 pages.pdf
Art of Engraving 1904 - 205 pages.pdf
Bangerters Inventions His Marvelous Time Clock 1911 - 92 pages.pdf
Catalogue of Waltham Watch material 1909 - 158 pages.pdf
Chats on Old Clocks 1917 - 299 pages.pdf
Clock and Watch Work 1855 - 189 pages.pdf
Clocks and Watches 1922 - 147 pages.pdf
Description of an Astronomical Clock 1837 - 2 pages.pdf
Directions for Using Bottum's Patent 1852 - 23 pages.pdf
Former Clock & Watchmakers and Their Work 1894 - 402 pages.pdf
Friction, Lubrication and the Lubricants in Horology 1896 - 93 pages.pdf
Government and Industry Interactions in the Development of Clock Technology 1981 - 22 pages.pdf
Horology - A Popular Sketch of Clock and Watch Making 1849 - 70 pages.pdf
Horology 1868 - 100 pages.pdf
How to Keep the Clock Right by Observations of the Fixed Stars 1876 - 98 pages.pdf
Isochronism of Balance-Springs 1862 - 30 pages.pdf
Kemlo's Watch-Repairer's Handbook - 1882 - 117 pages.pdf
Lessons in Horology Vol 1 1905 - 286 pages.pdf
Mechanical Philosophy, Horology, and Astronomy 1857 - 586 pages.pdf
Modern Electro Plating 1897 - 191 pages.pdf
Modern Letter Engraving in Theory and Practice - A Manual for the Use of Watchmakers 1898 - 185 pages.pdf

Just glue some gears on it...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 0 comments

This is rapidly becoming a kind of anthem for many of us...


Thinking about this today it occurs to me that the video raises some excellent points about "jumping on the bandwagon".

This is nothing new of course, it is the standard process by which a new "scene" morphs into a "hipster scene" and then ultimately, either into the "mainstream" or oblivion.

Personally I'm a fan of the aesthetic aspects of Steampunk, so as long as it looks cool I don't particularly care if it works or not smile.

That said, I'm still fascinated by process and, like the tinkerers rules I posted here, I love trying to figure out what some arcane looking piece is supposed to do. The better the illusion of possibly working a piece has the better I like it.

"Glue gears on it and call it Steampunk" is a good slogan for that cashing in on a nascent trend behaviour we are seeing now.   It should not however be taken as a call to arms by any kind of authenticity mavins. One of the great strengths of the Steampunk scene is the creativity and sense of wonder that we share in making and displaying "fabulousness".

Since some of us, me in particular, are not really very creative or skillful, we have to buy our bits 'n bobs to participate. Captian Horatio Hooke's famous line "My tailor is pay pal" is very apropos frankly.

After all it doesn't matter what it is, it matters what it looks like.

Keep your sightglass full and your firebox trimmed.

Videos about Steampunk

Tuesday, October 2, 2012 0 comments

There are lots of videos out about the Steampunk scene.

Here are some to "whet your steam whistle" with:

From PBS

From BBC

From Make TV
Jake Von Slatt in his own words and works!

A Pirate's view of World Steam Expo 2012

And lots more!
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Wheels within wheels...


Found this picture from DragonCon 2012, taken during the Costume parade.
Imagine the possibilities of cruising down the open road on one of these babies!

The big wheel one also has a smaller wheels under the boiler a la a "Penny Farthing".

Source: flickr.com via Kevin on Pinterest
A better profile shot

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

October 1, 2012 time to...

Monday, October 1, 2012 0 comments

Start thinking about my favourite time of year!

The year is getting colder and darker as we get closer to Halloween. When the "veil between the worlds" is the thinnest and when dressing up in exotic outfits is actually encouraged. This is the time when decorating one's front lawn with tombstones, skeletal hands reaching out from the turf, skulls, black cats and carved pumpkins becomes the new normal in the old neighbourhood.

It is also time to ask that most burning of questions...

What do Zombies have to do with Steampunk!
 An excellent question, to which the easiest answer is simply that they are a Victorian invention (see Dr. Frankenstein's Monster).  My eldest daughter calls them "Tesla's Children" which works too.  The Victorian age was an age of marvels with new technologies and new developments in chemistry and biology appearing almost every week.  Mysterious new phenomenon like electricity, had almost boundless possibilities, including making lifeless bodies twitch and move.  It isn't too big a stretch to see that bringing an otherwise dead being back to "life" would be possible.
Mix theses new found scientific and technical marvels with the exposure to exotic myths, legends, and strange religions, brought back from the far reaches of Britain's great empire and it is easy to see where such ideas as Zombies (in the modern sense) could come about.  This is also the time where Dracula first makes his appearance in Bram Stoker's novel, as well as Werewolves and other terrifying creatures which appear in the "penny dreadfuls". The Victorians were just as interested in the arcane, fantastic, and scary as we are today, and authors were always ready to produce the product that the consumers wanted. 

It was during Victorian times that the Gothic Novel reached the pinnacle of that verbose macabre genre.
So in Steampunk, where we deal with scientific what ifs, it makes sense to me that there is a slice of that macbre that comes along for the ride. Zombies, the walking dead, a scientific impossibility shambling through our brass and leather bound world of wonders, to raise the hair on the necks of our gallant explorers, heroes, heroines and plucky street urchins.

IMHO of course!
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your sword cane sharp!

P.S. Some of the best Steampunk Zombie stories, for me, are Bone Shaker, and Dreadnought, by Cherie Priest.

The Steam Powered Submersible "Ictíneo II' of 1867


One of those great "what ifs" of history.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

From a great article at Low-tech Magazine
A steam powered submarine: the Ictíneo

Few Victorian inventions have the grace and charm of the Ictíneo, the series of two wooden submarines built by Narcís Monturiol i Estarrol in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Unlike some of the better known early submarines from his contemporaries in Germany, France and the United States, the Catalan inventor managed to build submarines that operated flawlessly.

The Ictíneo II was the first combustion engine driven submarine ever, pioneering concepts that were only rivalled in the 1940s. Sadly, both submarines were eventually scrapped and Monturiol died penniless and forgotten.


Monturiol had successfully resolved the two basic obstacles presented to submarine inventors: air supply and mechanical power. In fact, he devised an early form of anaerobic (air-independent) propulsion only to be repeated in the 1940s with the Walter turbine in Germany, and finally with the first atomic submarine, the USS Nautilus.

The Ictíneo II was the first of its kind providing its own oxygen, without surfacing regularly or using a snorkel, as seen on the Nautilus. Perplexing is the reality that Monturiol, never having patented his ideas, is absent in many maritime records of the progression of submarines.

On account of all the machinery in the vessel, only 2 men could fit in the submarine originally designed for a crew of 20. The Ictíneo II made almost 20 problem free demonstration drives. It could stay submerged for eight hours and plunge to a depth of 50 meters. Monturiol calculated that the maximum possible depth was 500 meters, but chose not to take the risk of diving to this depth.!?!

In 1868, shortly after its launch, the groundbreaking Ictíneo II was seized by the shipyard and scrapped, together with her predecessor. The reason? Monturiol could not pay the bills.

About Gears, Goggles, and Steam oh My!

Here I collect interesting bits of information related to the world of Steampunk.

Category List

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