Airship Technology Speech

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 0 comments

A presentation!

My character in our role playing game was ordered to make a public presentation about some of the technological advancements embodied in our Airship. Basically the Government wanted to share these advancements with the Civilian companies as a way to boost the Empire's commercial competitiveness.

Just for fun I decided to actually give the presentation as part of an ongoing series of Absinthe Cafes here in Calgary.

I presented it in character and in costume, and it was a lot of fun.

Lt Cmdr(E) Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe
Photo by Lewis King
The information presented here is based on my Practical Airship Design series.

Here is the text of my speech.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.
A January evening in the latter years of the 19th century.

Madame and Mr Chairman, My Lord, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Good evening.

I have been asked, by the Experimental Airship Division of the Royal Navy, also known as the the EAD, to present some of the technical details of one of the marvels of our age!
It is the hope of Her Majesty's Government that by releasing this, hitherto classified, information to the British business and manufacturing community, that the further development of these exotic and ground breaking technologies will help to maintain our Empire's lead in global commercial and military affairs.

Many of you have probably seen or heard the reports concerning the latest experimental airship of Her Majesty's Navy. You may also have seen the speculation concerning many of the developments and mechanisms that she has on board.

I have the honour to have been, and continue to be, her Chief Engineer.

And, Ladies and Gentlemen, as much as I would like to confirm that she is powered by exotic Indian demons and lifted by some remarkable gaseous material never seen before, and even that she can fly in the vast reaches of space, I must assure you that everything we will discuss this evening is in fact the product of the investigations into Natural Philosophy conducted over many years by brilliant men and women just like yourselves.

Nothing of what I will be showing this evening is in the province of the Metaphysical realm.

Having, alas, thus ruined your excitement concerning the information I am about to present to you, I hope that you will find the real information just as intriguing.

And so, to begin…

Here is the object of our discussion this evening.

Her Majesty's Air Ship The Velvet Brush!

She is truly a marvelous vessel, the largest self mobile object ever built by human beings!
Her dimensions are enormous,
  • Her Length is 245 m or 800 ft, longer than the largest ocean liner.
  • The Diameter of her hull is 42 m or 137 ft
  • She contains a Gas Volume of 231,000 cubic meters or 8 million cubic ft
  • She weighs uninflated 150 tons
  • When in flight trim she can carry a cargo load of 28 tonnes
  • Her propulsion system can move her at a steady cruising speed of almost 120 km/hour or  65 knots, thus making her one of the fastest ships in the Airship Navy.
  • Her maximum speed is still classified as is her maximum altitude, however; I can say that she has maintained that 120km/h value at elevations in excess of 1800m or 6,000 ft above sea level on numerous occasions. Her operational pressure height is 1200m or 4,000 ft under normal load conditions.
  • Her maximum cruising range is currently unknown!
I will say that on her very first flight she flew non-stop from the Royal Navy Airdock in Esquimalt British Columbia across the breadth of British North America, and the North Atlantic, to Portsmouth a distance of some 9000 Km or 5500 miles. This trip was accomplished in the dead of winter no less.

Ladies and Gentleman the Velvet Brush is a truly amazing ship, and despite the controversies and scandals attending her construction, she will be a model for future large Aerial Vehicles.

So to the technological developments that allowed the Royal Navy to construct such a stupendous vessel.

There are three developments that I will discuss this evening.

The first is the intellectual development that permitted her to be designed,

The second concerns the key material used in her construction,

And the third is the novel form of her lift generating system.

Many of you I am sure are aware of the advances in mechanical computation that have attended the construction of the Lovelace-Babbage engines in use at Oxford and Cambridge. The Difference Engine, designed by Charles Babbage under contract to the Royal Navy to produce navigational tables, was completed in 1849. Babbage completed the design for his more advanced Analytical Engine but it had not been constructed by the time of his death in 1871.

However his associate Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, continued working on the design, again under contract to the Royal Navy and the new machine was produced and first began calculations in 1880. Along with the physical design of the machine, the countess was instrumental in composing the grammar for the lists of instructions that the machine uses. Her treatise on "Simulation of mechanical processes by computation", published when she was in her 60s in 1875, earned her a worthy place in the Royal Academy.

One of the first applications of the Lovelace-Babbage machine was the analysis of stress and strength in the metal components of ships hulls. It was also used in the computations to design the first Naval scouting Airships and the first Cunnard Passenger Airships that followed soon thereafter.

The design of such a magnificent vessel as the Velvet Brush would not be possible without the speed of computation, and the elegance of the Countess's Analytical Engine Grammar.

As part of the technology transfer program of her Majesty's Government, two new Lovelace Babbage machines, of the latest design, will be available for public use starting later in the year. One will be in London the other in Liverpool.

Now, as to the construction of the Velvet Brush herself.

Copperfield Ensemble

Monday, January 12, 2015 0 comments

Steampark March!

A wonderful group from England.

Definitely worth checking out.


Here is a taste.


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

Practical Airship Design Part 6a

Sunday, January 4, 2015 0 comments

More Domestic Tranquility Systems

In Part 6 I described some of the crew spaces and layout of our airship.
This post is a document I produced for our RP group, to give the other players a mental map of the spaces in which we conduct our role play. It references some of the adventures we have had too.

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

The table of contents for the whole Practical Airship Design series is HERE.

You can find all my Airship posts by clicking on the tag "Flight Engineer".

Interior layout HMAS Velvet Brush

Since some of our adventures are centered around the physical aspects of our fine ship, I thought it might be useful to have a mental map of how the ship is laid out.

I'm a lousy graphics guy so my attempt at doing a diagram was a miserable failure. Although I could draw one on paper. I might do that and scan it to include here if this description isn't good enough.

Probably the biggest thing to keep in mind is that even though our ship is enormous all the interesting stuff is along the bottom of the hull. If we exclude the lifting part we are a long narrow set of spaces connected by the keelwalk.

What I find fascinating is how the design of our ship has evolved over the last year. There have been some interesting changes that have resulted simply from the need to have identified places in which episodes of our story could take place. A good example is the position of the Captain's cabin. Originally we didn't have one, because we didn't really have a Captain smile Once Captain Hodgson arrived we needed a place for him to hang out.  Another example is the "viewing platform" that Madame flew her bird off of while flying from Esquimalt.  We were never specific about where that was on the ship, it had to be close to her cabin though because she could get there easily. Having it used by the British Consul in Venice means it must be fairly large and accessible from the accommodations.

At the risk of being arbitrary then, the following is the layout as it seems to be at the moment. We can change some parts if needed as long as they don't get in the way of what we already have. We can also do a refit at an Air Dock sometime too, to add extra spaces if needed.
 When thinking about the cabins remember that this is essentially the first floor of a two story block. So far (as of May 20) the upper floor is not populated with named spaces, with the exception of the Captain's cabin right at the front above the Flight-deck and possibly the cabin that First Officer MacLeod was in when the KAR* exploded in Portsmouth.

The Keelwalk is a triangular passageway integral with the base of the ship's hull, inside the circular cross section. This walkway runs the entire length of the ship, some 700 feet, from the Captain's Cabin in the bow all the way to the lower fin at the stern. Note that this walkway is above the cabins in the diagram. It is reached by a ladder outside the Bubble Bath Room aka "Secured Storage" as well as a ladder in the Flight-deck that goes directly into the Captain's Cabin.

Personally I view this passageway as being a corridor like the one that runs through the accommodations with a couple of (as yet undefined) cabins on either side.  Once you head aft of the accommodations however, the keelwalk becomes a simple triangular girder framed walkway, like that in the Hindenburg.

Just aft of the accommodations there is a ladder that runs all the way up to the top of the hull. This ladder reaches an observation platform in font of the bases of the funnels.  Climbing this ladder is quite a process and very hot as it is between two of the lift bags which are filled with steam of course.

The "Last Step" is the main access to the ship and is on the Starboard (right) side just aft of the galley as you can see on the diagram.

Engineering is located nearly 300' aft of the accommodations! This is another space similar in shape to the accommodations and also below the hull. It is reached by a ladder down from the keelwalk.  I've described the layout of engineering on my blog if you are interested.  There are no windows in Engineering except perhaps one over Max's desk and one in the break room for the off watch. Above Engineering on either side of the keelwalk is all the steam and condensate piping. the Tesla power transmission system extends from Engineering right up to the center of the hull which is 50' above. The keelwalk is offset as it passes this device.

There are two cargo holds in our ship. Originally I had them attached to Engineering but not extending all the way to the forward accommodations, but that doesn't work given the ships behaviour, and the movement of loose bits of cargo, in the storm over the Baltic. Also the ease in which people seem to be able to get into and out of it means it needs to be closer to the main accommodations up forward.  Placing the forward cargo hold as an extension of the accommodations makes a lot of sense and also provides a perfect place to put the viewing platform.

This is my proposed layout of the forward hold. From the diagram of the accommodations you can see that the Bubble Bath room is right at the end of the central corridor. I propose that the cargo hold is immediately aft of that space and extending maybe another 60' or so. The forward part of that hold, right up against the aft wall of the bubble bath room, is now walled off with the "secret" machinery installed by the company workman sealed inside. Briggs' armoury and weapons storage is against the wall of the secret compartment.

Access to the cargo hold is just aft of the end of the accommodations and is by a hatch with a ladder down from the keelwalk which runs over the top of the hold.  There is an outside access to the cargo hold in the form of a large cargo door in the side of the hold. This is not normally opened while in flight of course. The hold has no windows or other accesses.

The "aft viewing platform" is a broad platform built around the outside of the forward cargo hold. It is reached from a doorway in the accommodations just outside the Bubble Bath Room. This platform has  a railing is the perfect place to observe fireworks and the passing world below.

The aft cargo hold is a similar extension of Engineering. It is reached by a ladder and hatch from the keelwalk. It also has a large outside cargo door that is sealed while in flight.

The general crew bunk in spaces above the forward hold on either side of the keelwalk and the Black Gang bunk in similar spaces over the aft cargo hold.

Things to keep in mind from an RP perspective is that it takes time to get from Engineering to the Flight-deck, especially for Max who has to use a cane. smile

With the exception of the Captain's Cabin, and the crew and Black Gang's bunks, everything is BELOW the keelwalk. That means having to climb a ladder to get to the keelwalk to move forward or aft in the ship.

I hope this will be of some help in keeping track of what's where in our fine ship.

*KAR Kamikaze Automaton Rat. An automoton shaped like a large rat and loaded with explosives.

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