Happy Anniversary!

Saturday, July 21, 2018 0 comments

6 Years!

This blog started six years ago today!

Thanks to all my faithful readers, I hope you have found something of interest in al these posts.

Looking forward to continuing to bring you interesting and entertaining information, both  Steampunk and historical.

Thanks for reading and as always...

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

Ice and Clockwork Part II

Thursday, July 19, 2018 0 comments

New Orders

Previously, three members of Max's crew, Engineer John Watkins and the two Marines, Kade Fraser and Ellis Cooke, had been left behind in Scapa Flow to try and get the engines from the old Doris running again. After Max and the rest of his crew are lost at sea in a great gale, Watkins and the marines are assigned to the HMAS Francis. The Francis is a Royal Navy cargo airship that makes a regular run to Iceland to supply the British Aetherwave stations there.

On their first trip to Iceland, Watkins is summoned to the airship's Comms room to receive a message from Naval Intelligence.

Enjoy Part II
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

Ice and Clockwork
A serial story from The Airship's Messdeck.
Part II
  by Kevin Jepson

As Sweep, the Comms Officer of the HMAS Francis, scans the Aetherwave gear before her, transcribing the messages into her Comms Log with a whirring and chirping of her mechanical arm, Watkins peers at the tightly packed characters of the message.

To: John Watkins, Chief Engineer (temp) HMAS Francis
Classification: PRIVATE and CONFIDENTIAL
Follows: One (1) document Classification: SECRET
Orders from: Naval Intelligence Portsmouth
Urgency: With Dispatch
Their Lordships Hereby Order and Command:
1) On arrival Iceland proceed to HMAS Operations HQ Iceland.
2) Report to Major Woolsley-Hampton MBE.
3) Arrange transport to AETHER WIRE STATION WEST #3
4) Contact AWSW3 Security Officer.
5) Present credentials supplied by HMAS OHQ Iceland and code phrase. You will receive a package. Details of package transport parameters follow.
6) Proceed on board HMAS Francis for return to SCAPA FLOW.
7) Return Portsmouth and personally deliver package BY HAND to Naval Intelligence Portsmouth.
Signed: Hon. Algernon Biphington IV
Authorization: Chief Naval Intelligence

Watkins looks up from reading. "Hmmm... No rest for the wicked it seems."

Sweep nods her head, at least it seems to Watkins that she does by the motion of the wires and gears along the side of her face which turns towards him. She finishes transcribing the current message. "I have the follow up message here, tricky to decode this one, it is a new code specific to Naval Intelligence. Just started using it actually, still not familiar with the details, let's see where did I stash that..."

With more whirring and buzzing a section of the desk starts to rise up. Watkins can see what looks like card catalog trays. Even as Sweep starts to transcribe a new message coming in, her real arm begins to riffle through the trays. It is disconcerting to see her doing two things at once like that.

"Ah, here we are." She hands the paper to Watkins.

"That is a burn after reading one. Try not to blow us out of the sky dear." There might be a smile hiding under the gears and linkages, Watkins can't be sure, but he can hear it in her voice.

Watkins smiles back. "Aye aye Ma'am."

He looks at the long columns of characters and says "Ah, I have never received SECRET orders before, do you have to hold your tongue in a particular way while reading it?" He hands the message back to Sweep with a grin.

She looks at the paper and laughs. "Ah sorry, that is the raw code." Her real hand rummages in the tray again. "This should be clearer."

"Thank you Ma'am."

To: John Watkins, Chief Engineer (temp) HMAS Francis
Classification: SECRET
Follows: None
Orders from: Naval Intelligence Portsmouth
Urgency: With Dispatch
Their Lordships Hereby Order and Command:
1) Package is human transportable not fragile but requires careful handling.
2) Package must remain in container at all times.
3) Containment requires electrical power at all times equivalent to Mark VII Stable Tech Source 4/b-11
4) In event of containment breach or loss of power on no account must package be outside containment for more than 3 minutes!
4a) If over sea dispose of over the side immediately.
4b) If over land dispose of in sea water if available or destroy with heavy hammer.
Code Phrase: Argo
Sweep watches Watkins reading. Seeing his eyes widen at the last part she says, "Oh don't worry too much about that dear, we have transported such things before. You will find that my Aetherwave power setup matches those specs."

"It don't say what happens after three minutes though."

Sweep snickers. "No it doesn't and it never does. Tricky folks the Intelligence gang, always playing with things that could be really dangerous, or just messy. Doesn't pay to take a chance though."

"Aye that! Our last ship* had a fearsome thing at its core, gave me the willies every time I had to deal with it. That much power and heat coming from such a small thing ain't natural."

"Heard about that ship, was the one they tried to blow up in Portsmouth right?"

"Aye Ma'am that was her, fine ship all in all. Odd things about her though. Experimental craft always have them. Some things work fine others don't, and some just don't seem to do anything at all. We had half a hold full of weird junk left by the company boffins. They were still working on her when we took her over. Might still be in her hold for all I know."

Watkins hands the secret message back to Sweep who loads it into a small box on her desk. With the push of a lever it shreds and then burns the paper. A second lever blows the ashes over the side through a screen that insures no sparks or still burning pieces can ignite any leaking hydrogen.

"Good luck with your travels Mr Watkins."

"Thank you Ma'am. Can I bring you anything Ma'am?"

Another message begins to come in on the Aetherwave and even as Sweep's mechanical arm begins to transcribe it she waves her real arm. "Nothing at the moment thank you."

"Ma'am." Watkins touches his cap and leaves the Snug.

"Well now this is going to be interesting."

Part III coming soon.
* The HMAS Velvet Brush an experimental airship whose design is documented in my Practical Airship Design series.

Ice and Clockwork Part I

Sunday, July 1, 2018 0 comments


Here is the next serial story inspired by our Role Playing group "The Airship's Messdeck."

In the first story, Frozen Sky, Lt. Cmdr(E) Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe (aka Max), Chief Engineer of the experimental airship the HMAS Velvet Brush, and his crew are sent north to the Royal Navy base at Scapa Flow in the dead of winter. They fly an old cargo airship, The Doris and their mission is to test a secret device that works very much like sonar.

After spending months of flying back and forth over the waters of Scapa Flow the engine in the old Doris fails.  The Admiralty then sends Max out into the North Sea to continue the testing in a steam trawler.

The next story,  Lost at Sea,  tells how Max and some members of his crew aboard the old steam trawler Argo, are caught in a massive storm and blown towards the rocky coast of Norway.

This story concerns the remainder of Max's crew, John Watkins and the two Marines, Kade Fraser and Ellis Cooke, who had been left behind in Scapa Flow to try and get the engines from the old Doris running again.

Enjoy Part 1.

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

Ice and Clockwork
A serial story from The Airship's Messdeck.
Part I
  by Kevin Jepson

John Watkins is sound asleep in a hammock slung along side the keelwalk of Her Majesty's Air Ship Francis. There are ice crystals glittering in the dim frosty light that comes through the fabric cover of the keelwalk. Unlike the open keelwalks of the old Doris, the Francis has her's covered over so that the crew can use them for their quarters on the long cold flights across the North Atlantic to supply the Admiralty's Aetherwave stations in Iceland.

She is two days out of Aberdeen and, having had to swing South around a nasty depression, is now heading Northwest towards Iceland. Watkins is the Chief Engineer, temporarily at least, replacing the regular engineer who is suffering one of his recurring bouts of some nasty tropical disease picked up someplace in Her Majesty's service. A place very much hotter than the middle of the North Atlantic in Winter.

Corporal Ellis Cooke comes along the keelwalk and gently taps Watkins on the shoulder.

"Sir...  Mr Watkins Sir..." Watkins opens his eyes and groans.

"Eh, what is it Ellis?"

"Sorry to wake you Sir, but there is a message. Sarge says it is marked private for your eyes only Sir."

"Alright, I'll come forward. See if you can rustle up something hot to drink eh?"

Cooke smiles. "Aye Sir I'll see what I can do." Always the same request, always the same response. Also, unfortunately, not much chance of getting anything hot outside of meal times.

"Do you think it could be something about Max and the others finally?"

Watkins shakes his head sadly. "Perhaps, but I'm thinking we ain't never going to know what happened to em." At the crestfallen look on the young marine corporal's face Watkins says, "Aye, well you never know, stranger things as happened and that's the truth."

As Cooke heads back forward Watkins reaches for his fleece lined boots, hanging on a hook beside his hammock, and then grabs his heavy winter coat before finally, carefully, climbing out of his hammock onto the keelwalk. He moves with the smooth but cautious motions of an experienced airship sailor. A slip or misplaced foot here could send him through the fabric cover on a one way trip to the icy Atlantic nearly a thousand feet below.
Airshipmen on the North Atlantic run.

Watkins pauses on the keelwalk listening to the steady thumping of the engines. Once he is sure that nothing is amiss he heads forward towards the control car.

The HMAS Francis is very much like the old Doris, but longer and with twin engines instead of one. She is otherwise laid out the same with a control car forward, cargo amidships and an engine car aft. The Francis is therefore a typical cargo carrying hydrogen airship. The long flights over the ocean, ferrying supplies to the Admiralty outposts in Iceland, are tedious but necessary. The captive balloons that hold the Aetherwave antennas high up in the atmosphere are the only way to make transatlantic communications work.

After months of hanging about in Scapa Flow, Watkins had been offered the chance to fly as the replacement Engineer on the Francis. It would probably only be a couple of crossings before the Admiralty figured out what to do with him, but at least it was better than painting buoys and brooding on the loss of Max and his shipmates aboard the long overdue Argo.

He hadn't felt right about abandoning the two marines, so he had managed to get them assigned aboard the Francis as well. It had been tricky springing Fraser from the brig. More than likely the Marine Colonel was happy to get Fraser off his hands, it wasn't right to lock up a man for trying to do right by his shipmates, but stealing their Lordships property was just not on.

As Watkins approaches the access down to the control car a marine sentry snaps to attention and touches his cap. Kade Fraser, ex Sargeant now Private, looks very much like any of the other crew, heavy leather fleece lined coat, heavy boots, fur lined cap. The only thing marking him as a Marine is the incongruous white cross belts. The Skipper of the Francis always pictured himself as a Post Captain of the Old Navy so was happy to have the two Marines available to add some colour to his crew. Strictly speaking the Francis was too small to warrant a Marine presence at all, but that didn't seem to matter to the Skipper.

Watkins nods to Fraser. "Mornin' Sarge, all well?"

"Well as could be expected Sir, bit nippy."

"Not used to this 'Sir' stuff yet Sarge, makes me want to look over me shoulder in case a real officer is lurking there."

Fraser smiles. "Well you are Chief Engineer now, doesn't matter if you don't have a stripe to go with it... Sir"

"Still... Ellis says Sweep's got a message for me."

"Aye that she does Sir, says it is marked private and personal. She's in her snug as usual. Skipper was not happy to hear there was a message he couldn't see, heard him say 'Always some bloody cloak and dagger business on this run'. Seemed quite resigned to it all though Sir."

"Ah. Thanks Sarge carry on."

"Sir." Fraser touches his cap as Watkins climbs down into the control car.

Looking to see if the Captain is on the flight deck, and seeing only the helmsman and the elevator man, he salutes anyway as any officer would when coming on the Quarter Deck of a warship, and then knocks on the door of the Comms room, 'The Snug', as the crew call it.

Knocking is necessary because in addition to being the room with all the aetherwave gear it is also the quarters of the most unusual crew member of the Francis.

"Enter!" comes the gruff voice from inside.

Watkins enters the Comms room. It is not much bigger than a large closet really, a larger than normal Aetherwave setup takes up almost half of the room, the other half is a desk/bed combination at which sits Sweep, the Communications officer of the Francis.

Sweep is an elderly lady officer, a full Lieutenant in fact, long past retirement but sharp as a pin. Badly injured in an action against the air pirates in the Far East she has many mechanical parts replacing her legs, one arm and part of her face. She has a reputation as being one of the best comms operators in the service.

She is called Sweep because of her penchant for the heavy smoking of the nasty smelling cheroots, like those smoked by Fleet Admiral Chicheley, thus making her smell like a Chimney Sweep.

Living aboard a hydrogen lift airship means not being able to smoke at all while aboard. This was not good for her state of mind... or that of her shipmates. One of the first things Watkins did on joining the ship was figure out a way that Sweep could safely smoke while they were in flight. So now as Watkins comes into the crowded room and touches his cap her eyes sparkle.

"Ah Mr Watkins, how are you this fine frosty morning?"

"Not too bad Ma'am, Cooke says you have a message for me?"

"I do indeed." Rummaging through a pile of paper, with a whir of gears and linkages, Sweep hands Watkins a page with a message written out in the precise fine letters of a master code smith. "Spot of tea?"

Of course there is no tea and won't be any for an hour or so yet, but Watkins smiles and says, "That would be fine Ma'am."

Turning the message to get a clearer look at it he starts to read.

Continue to Part II


Thursday, April 12, 2018 0 comments

And a Lady's mind turns to...

Parasol Duelling!

Yes  the 4th annual Spring Regionals are coming up on April 29th in Calgary Alberta.

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

For more information and to find out more about this great sport go to:
Madame Saffron Hemlock’s Parasol Duelling League for Steampunk Ladies

Click here for information on the history and development of Parasol Duelling
or click the Parasol Duelling tag.

The Rules for Parasol Duelling

Maddie Hatter and the Timely Taffeta

Monday, February 5, 2018 0 comments

Maddie Hatter's adventures continue!

Here is a book trailer I did for Maddie Hatter and the Timely Taffeta by Jayne Barnard


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

Practical Airship Design Part 7

Saturday, December 23, 2017 0 comments

Splendid she must be!

"How time flies when you are having fun."
Or conversely...
"Life is what happens when you have other plans."

This is the final post in my Practical Airship Design series, which I started way back in November of 2012, 5 years ago!

You can read that initial post and start the series here.

According to the "Contents and Prospectus" this post should have been:

"In conclusion, our Captain has ordered that she must, in addition to being one of the most technologically advanced airships of the age, be one of the most "Splendid"(tm) and this post will attempt to grant his wishes to the best of this poor flight engineer's ability."

Alas, I never got around to writing that post and cannot at the moment remember what I had intended to cover...

However, I think this series does need a formal conclusion, so if you have landed here please stay with me for a bit.

Like any good fictional tale, the action does not take place in isolation from the world around it.  Fictional tales always have a framework that supports the story. For speculative fiction like Steampunk, that framework/world may or may not bear much of a resemblance to the real one. The world of our Role Play group, "The Airship's Mess Deck", is no exception. The world in which we traveled, on the experimental airship the Velvet Brush which is the subject of this series, was similar to the real world physically but its technical and political history was slightly different.

As I mentioned in the first post we tried to limit the fantastical to keep the world realistic, with only a few key changes to make it interesting. Authors are allowed to create any kind of world they like in which to place their tales, but in the case of our Role Playing, we consciously decided to make our shared world a parallel one only slightly different. Physics still works like normal, and even the most fantastical elements are still "believable" in context.  The awesomely powerful core of the Velvet Brush herself being a good example.   

In our world the Velvet Brush was truly a technical marvel, the finest ship in the Royal Airship Navy. No other airship in the world could match her. Being experimental, and therefore fantastically expensive, she was never equaled or copied. During the course of our role play, she survived storms, sabotage, intrigues, and political machinations. Those of us who flew with her across the skies of the world always had her as a solid base for our adventures.

The crew and passengers have moved on to new adventures, however the shared world we created still exists in the imaginations of those who played in the Airship's Mess Deck (see more below). Like the crew of any "happy ship" in the real world, lasting friendships have resulted.

As the Engineering Officer, and eventually the Commander, of our ship, I see her in my minds eye still, an enormous silver and polished brass ship,  moving through the clouds, steam rising from her twin funnels, signal flags hanging from her rails. The Velvet Brush is truly as "Splendid" as she was intended to be. 

Thanks for following along as I tried to do some Practical Airship Design.

I hope you have enjoyed the journey.

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



My character's adventures, along with some of the crew, are posted as Serial Tales on this blog:
"Frozen Sky"
"Lost at Sea"
"Ice and Clockwork"

One of the passengers on our ship has her own adventures chronicled in the brilliant Maddie Hatter stories written by Jayne Barnard
Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond
Maddie Hatter and the Gilded Gauge
Maddie Hatter and the Timely Taffeta
And more coming soon.

Oh, and Parasol Duelling is now a formal sport played all over the world!

Thanks for reading.

Absinthium Redux

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 0 comments


A few years ago I was working on the design of a mechanical Absinthe preparer inspired by a mechanical wine pourer.

I called my device The Absinthium Project.

This machine which prepares a Gin and Tonic might just inspire me to start working on it again.


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

About Gears, Goggles, and Steam oh My!

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

Category List

Absinthium (12) accessories (15) Airships (65) Art (1) Beakerhead (3) Books (65) comics (5) computation (11) costumes (16) etiquette (18) events (29) fiction (79) Flight Engineer (30) Fun (57) games (36) history (106) howto (21) Inventions (57) manners (6) Meetup Repost (90) movies (3) music (4) Musings (44) mystery (23) news (8) Parasol Duelling (44) Photos (66) Pie In the Sky (3) poetry (1) resources (50) Role Playing (51) Serial Story (20) Ships (39) Steam (34) Steampunk Sports (24) Tesla (13) video (77) website (57) What Ifs (16)

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