Power Systems and Transportation
Note to readers: First mention of placenames not common to our timeline and that of the Domination are given with their equivalent in brackets, thus: Virconium [Durban, South Africa]
Industrial Power Systems and Transportation
The development of the steam engine followed rather different paths in the three most important centers of innovation during the Early Industrial era — Great Britain, the USA, and the Crown Colony of Drakia.
Steam Engines to 1850
The Watt engine had assumed its mature form by the early 1780s; a double-acting reciprocating engine with D-slide valving, a centrifugal governor, a separate condensor and steam pressures of no more than 5 psi, capable of delivering reciprocating or rotary action via sun-and-planet gearing. This engine was very suitable for the British market, which was small, coal-rich and had an excellent transport infrastructure by the standards of the time. Watt engines were extensively exported to Drakia in the late 1780s, and put to a number of uses in mining and agricultural processing, particularly sugar milling, and also in civil engineering — principally harbor dredging.
However, the Watt engine had serious disadvantages in the Southern African environment. The coal was abundant and cheap but the mines were far inland and out of the reach of water transport; water itself was often scarce and highly mineralized. Unlike the Americas, there were virtually no navigable rivers. The centers of economic activity — plantations, ranches, harbors, gold, coal, and diamond mines — were very widely scattered, islands in a sea of thinly-populated grazing country. By 1796 there were over 250 Watt engines at work in the Drakian colony, a number second only to that of Britain herself, and these problems were becoming acute. Boulton & Watt, the manufacturers, were far too distant to understand the needs of the Drakian market, and uninterested in the sort of research program necessary to solve the manufacturing problems involved; after all, they were selling every engine they could turn out and more.
It was at this point that Richard Trevithick arrived in Virconium to take up a post as inspector of steam engines for the African Mining and Metals Combine. The young Cornish engineer had little formal education, like many of the entrepreneur-inventors of the time; unlike them, he also had virtually no business sense to speak of. What he did have was an almost instinctive grasp of the thermodynamics and mechanics of steam engines, and a matchlessly fertile imagination. In Africa, he found a patron with limitless capital and driving needs.
Trevithick's first accomplishment was a simple modification of the Watt engines used for pumping water and crushing ore in the Combine's gold mines in eastern Archona province; he substituted a riveted-iron double flue boiler for the earlier copper model, inserted the cylinder in the boiler itself, and tripled the operating pressures. The drastic increases in fuel efficiency led directly to his promotion to Inspector-General of Engines for the Combine.
Shipping shortages produced by the Napoleonic Wars, coupled with high prices and demand, had already prompted a coalition of investors to start a coal-fired iron smelting plant on the site of the future city of Diskarapur [Newcastle, South Africa], where suitable coking coal and iron ore occurred in close proximity. The colonial Assembly had financed its expansion to include a Court-process puddling plant and crucible-steel facility for munitions production; there was a large Wilkinson-type cannon boring mill, imported from England, as well. The Mining Combine was sufficiently impressed with Trevithick's talents to propose a merger, and the setting-up of a Ferrous Metals Combine which would produce mining equipment — steam engines in particular.
Trevithick was in charge of the new operation, and recruited extensively in the British Isles for mechanics and engineers. Improved products followed rapidly, particularly since Drakia was too remote for Boulton & Watt patent-protection lawsuits. Pressures of up to 25 psi were quickly achieved, and smaller and more precisely-bored cylinders produced. Trevithick's next crucial innovation was the external feedwater condensor, which permitted recycling of boiler water (1799) and the uniflow valve system, which raised fuel efficiency another order of magnitude by separating the steam entry and exhaust areas of the cylinder. By 1800, Trevithick high-pressure single-cylinder engines were being produced in some numbers and were replacing or supplementing the Watt engines then in use.
However, Trevithick was not content with fulfilling his original mandate. The new engines were now compact and rugged enough to be a credible power plant for locomotive purposes. In 1800–1801 Trevithick and his team of assistants (which included a number of instrument makers familiar with precision metalworking) produced working scale models of road-engines and rail locomotives, as well as an experimental paddle wheel steamboat. The backers of the embryonic Ferrous Metals Combine were sufficiently impressed to provide funding for prototype development. While slow and cumbersome by later standards, the resulting locomotives and "road autosteamers" were an obvious and vast improvement on animal traction. Capital from gold production and the export trades flowed into further investment, and the first production models were in use by 1803. Steam-powered gunboats on the Nile proved the military utility of the new engines, and were crucial to the rapid pacification of the province of Egypt after the uprising of 1803. Steam dredges of Trevithick's design helped to build the Suez Canal in 1803–1810, and coastal steamers and harbor tugs. Steam gunboats pushed Draka control up the eastern control of Africa and into Madagascar. As early as 1810, "drags" (steam haulers pulling wagons) were being used to transport troops.
The next important innovation was in the fuel and boiler systems. Power-driven drills had been an early application of Trevithick's work, searching for underground water in the extensive arid regions of southern Africa. When Egypt was overrun, drilling teams began operating in its Western Desert — and discovered petroleum in the deserts west of Alexandria, natural gas in the Nile Delta. There were no convenient coal mines in Egypt, and local engineers quickly modified their machinery to use at first crude oil, and then distilled products, as a fuel source. Once the greater convenience and heat-density of petroleum became apparent, most road-engines and an increasing number of nautical ones were converted to liquid fuels. At the same time, "water-tube" boilers (in which the furnace fire circulates around water-filled tubing to produce steam) were introduced, lowering the weight and bulk of boilers.
Power Distribution Systems
Meanwhile, Trevithick had not forgotten the special needs of his original Mining Combine patrons. The gold mines were quickly running deeper, and this was the hardest of hard-rock work. While unskilled labor was plentiful and cheap, costs still rose with depth. Trevithick and the team of apprentices and subordinates that grew around him experimented with direct-acting steam drills and borers, as well as with improved pumping and hoisting systems. However, piping hot steam without loss of heat (and therefore pressure) proved to be extremely difficult and dangerous, especially in underground situations.
Trevithick (and Edgar Stevens, his principal assistant) turned to compressed-air systems instead. The basic mechanical principles were already familiar, and local experiments with native rubber provided a solution to the problems of gaskets and flexible connectors. Large reciprocating double-action compressors were set up, enabling each mine (or later, factory) to have an efficient central power plant. Regenerative systems (using the heat generated during the compression of the air to warm the feedwater of the steam engines) provided greater thermal efficiency. Compressed air was stored in central reservoirs, then distributed by iron piping to dispersed locations with only minor frictional losses; drills, pumps, winches, and crushers could be placed as needed and flexibly operated.
Once developed, this had obvious applications outside mining. Mobile compressors were developed to power rock drills and other equipment in road building and construction work; powered rock-saws drastically reduced the cost of masonry, despite the lack of trained masons and quarrymen. Central-factory systems, particularly after the development of the rotary-vane air motor in the 1820s, superseded the clumsy, friction-ridden and dangerous belting and shafting the British pioneers of the Industrial Age had used. Whole new categories of machine tool proved possible with the flexible and precise control which air motors could offer with a simple manipulation of valves, and powered equipment could now be used in locations — e.g., the home — where direct steam drive was out of the question. Air transmission systems had few moving parts and were easily centrally controlled, leading to low maintenance costs. Compressed-air auxiliaries greatly simplified the operation of autosteamers.
Technology and the Sociology of Industry
By the 1830s, most Draka mining-industrial plants were using centralized pneumatic transmission systems, operating at standardized pressures. Given the vastly superior efficiency of such systems, the question arises of why the other industrial countries, particularly Britain, did not follow suit to anything like the same degree. (For example, several of the larger Draka cities installed mains systems delivering metered compressed air via understreet tubes in the 1840s and 1850s; the first European city to do so was Paris, in the 1880s — and that system was installed by Draka engineers.) A digression into industrial organization is necessary to establish the causal links.
The overwhelming majority of European and American industrial firms — even in heavy industry — were organized on a family business basis until well into the twentieth century; corporations were closely held. Before about 1870, railroads aside, this was the only form of business organization in those countries. These firms, mostly small, were obstinately self-financing, which sharply limited their capital reserves; and they were almost pathologically averse to debt and the supervision by banks it entailed. This form of organization responded quickly and intelligently to shifts in consumer demand; it was matchlessly efficient at supplying a diverse and "atomized" market.
In the proto-Domination, by contrast, industry developed to serve production rather than consumption; mines, heavy transportation, the armed forces, the Landholders' League and its agricultural processing plants, were the primary customers. The primary demand was for metal goods, principally tools, rather than the textiles and other end-products which were the staple of British industry in the period. When consumer goods manufacture did become important, it was mostly as a part of the Landholders' League's drive to capture value-added by following its members' crops "downstream" through processing to final sale. Even here, orders were "lumpy" by contemporary standards; for example, the Combines bought standard products in immense quantity for their basic serf labor forces. After the League went into cooperative wholesaling/retailing for its members (at first by mail order), plantation demand was largely aggregated as well — the League bought uniform goods in bulk, e.g., agricultural machinery or cheap shoes for fieldhands, later canned goods and power systems. Thus markets were simple, and on the whole quite reliable, making it possible to utilize economies of scale with little risk. The production units were large, from the beginning, and operated by salaried managers. The government, and especially the League, dominated the banking system, which served to funnel the surplus capital of agriculture into concentrated locations.
Thus Draka enterprises could afford to be of technically optimum
size (indeed, sometimes larger); sales were reliable enough, and capital
abundant enough, that long-term planning and research became a feature of
their operation two generations before the Germans followed in their
footsteps. The concentration of all incomes in the top 4%–8% of the
population kept the savings rate extremely high, usually in the neighborhood
of 30%–50% of GNP, which meant an economy that was both awash with capital
and furnished with abundant opportunities for productive investment. Land,
unskilled and semi-skilled labor, and raw materials were all superabundant and
cheap; the perennial shortage of managerial personnel led to an early emphasis
on higher education — influenced by the German tradition of many of the
The result was what the great classical-liberal economists of the 19th century regarded as an utterly perverse economy: one in which human beings and their food and clothing were intermediate production goods, and machine-tools and cannon end products. But for the sort of brute-force, quantitative, capital-goods intensive industrialization the Domination needed to power its relentless expansion, it was ideal.
Power System Development, 1840–1910
The low operating efficiency of reciprocating steam engines was obvious, both intuitively and from the growing knowledge of thermodynamic and mechanical analysis in the early 19th century. Even with pneumatic transmission, the reciprocating action of pistons lost efficiency every time it had to be transformed into rotary action, and there were annoying limits to the size, speed, and power-output of steam pistons. Attempts at direct rotary engines (steam turbines) were made in a number of countries, but the manufacturing difficulties were many. A multi-stage turbine was obviously essential if the expansive power of steam was to be utilized, but this required precision machining of unprecedented quality. Furthermore, for maximum efficiency operating speeds and temperatures whole orders of magnitude greater than the piston engine were needed. Wrought and cast iron, and direct-contact oil lubrication, had sufficed for Watt and even Trevithick; they were not enough for the turbine.
However, the Draka did have one advantage in the race to perfect a working steam turbine. Their extensive use of pneumatic systems had led to an early interest in axial-flow air motors, which is to say, air turbines. While it was much easier to manufacture a workable air turbine (operating temperatures were low, and for most uses a relatively low degree of efficiency was tolerable), the basic operating principles and problems were quite similar. The development of roller-, ball-, and air-bearings from the 1840s was largely done in the course of work on air turbines, and so was the development of larger precision-machined steel alloy rotor blades — especially for the large boring machines used in heavy-artillery manufacture. By the 1860s, materials technology had advanced to a stage where steam turbines were a distinct possibility.
While industrial demand might have provided incentive enough, it was a military-transport need that provided the final impetus. Powered dirigible balloons had been experimented with in Alexandria and Diskarapur from the 1850s. During the Franco–Prussian war, the besieged French garrison of Paris improvised semi-rigid dirigibles powered by a Draka-made industrial compressor (reciprocating type) and propellors driven by air turbines. These were capable of speeds up to 60 kph for several hours, and were used to ferry passengers and messages, and even to bomb the Prussian artillery; during the Paris Commune, they were also used to bombard Communard positions before attacks by government troops.
This success resulted in desultory research in a number of European countries (particularly the new German Empire), and a crash project in the Domination. Using a single-stage expansive steam turbine, extensive construction with the newly-available aluminum alloys, and pneumatic transmission, dirigible airships proved to be an expensive but practical weapons system during the Anglo–Russian war of 1879–1882. Shortly thereafter heavier models of steam turbine were used to generate electricity, to power turbocompressors for large-scale pneumatic systems, and to power ships through mechanical and pneumatic gearing.
Internal Combustion Engines:
The possibility of using combustion gases directly in the cylinders of a prime mover, rather than indirectly by heating a working fluid such as steam, had been theorized as far back as the 17th century. The attractions — simplicity, since there was no boiler system, and greater inherent thermal efficiency — were obvious. Again, manufacturing limitations prevented widespread use until well into the 19th century. In this field, French and German researchers established an early lead; the very efficiency of the central engine-pneumatic transmission system in the Domination inhibited research on alternatives. Andre Charbonnneau (1820–1887) and Rudolf Diesel (1858–1920) established the workability of internal-combustion prime movers (using a flame-ignition and compression-ignition system respectively); by the 1880s, such "gas engines" were in quite common use in Europe, mostly as single-cylinder factory engines, especially in steel plants where they could be run on blast-furnace gas. The German General Staff's Transport Section, in conjunction with Diesel, made the first serious application to transportation, with a compression-ignition system for their experimental dirigibles of the mid- to late-1880s. Meanwhile the French were perfecting the lighter spark-ignition engine, leading to the first practical heavier-than-air flight by Edouard Sancerre in 1898.
Once alerted to the possibilities, the Domination's armed forces and Institutes quickly eliminated the Europeans' early lead in piston-action internal combustion engines. By the 1890s, Diesel-type engines (largely of aluminum-alloy construction and running on a mixture of kerosene and hydrogen gas from the lift cells) had become the standard engine for dirigible airships worldwide. The spark-ignition engine was largely limited to airplanes; there were experimental applications to automobiles, but the industrial inertia of 60 years kept the steam engine dominant on the road, especially considering its greater range of fuels, ease of manufacture and maintenance, and greater reliability. However, the greater power-to-weight ratio of the internal combustion engine did maintain a certain degree of interest for ground applications, particularly in armored fighting vehicles.
The next step was obvious, by analogy from the progress of steam engines: a gas turbine. The Domination's researchers first attempted (by about 1900) a "pure" turbine, with a rotary compressor delivering air to a combustion chamber, whence the gases exited through an expansive power-turbine. This proved to be a monumental engineering task, and the speeds and especially temperatures involved were beyond the manufacturing technology of the day — particularly when the corrosive nature of the combustion gases was considered. Developing an axial compressor that did not consume more power than it generated also proved frustratingly difficult. A further analogy suggested itself, however: the steam piston-compressor, air-turbine combination which had always been the mainstay of the Domination's industrial machine. Using a conventional compression-ignition cylinder as the gas-generating unit, a high-pressure gas of moderate temperature could be obtained, and then delivered through a power turbine. This gave many of the torque advantages of a turbine engine, an excellent power-to-weight ratio plus the fuel efficiency of Diesel's engine. This "turbocompound" engine was demonstrated on a trial basis in 1914, and was first applied to war dirigibles in 1917, and to armored fighting vehicles in 1917–1918. While easier to make than a pure turbine, the turbocompound was still a formidable proposition; American and European manufacturers continued to develop the reciprocating IC engines, until pure turbines became available in the late 1930s.
By the 1840s, the basic technology of Draka 19th-century industrialization — reciprocating steam engines, with direct or more commonly pneumatic transmissions to various machines and machine-tools — had been established. The next two generations saw a continuous refinement, increased efficiency, and vast expansion of scale; installed horsepower in the Domination probably surpassed that of Great Britain in the 1850s, and by 1910 it was equal to that of the United States, or equivalent to Germany, France, and Russia combined.
In the meantime, experimentation had shown itself to be a paying proposition, and the overlords of Draka were nothing if not practical men; accordingly, they subsidized research lavishly. Furthermore, developments in mechanics and especially in industrial chemistry were obviously moving beyond the inspired-tinkerer stage. Drawing on the partly Germanic educational tradition of their ancestors, both the regular universities and the Technological Institutes (which had originally been craft training centers and lending libraries) increasingly emphasized direct, systematic research in well-equipped laboratories. The largely illiterate and unskilled nature of the industrial workforce paradoxically reinforced the drive for efficiency; by mass-production, assembly-line methods and by "building in" skills into specialized machine tools, it was possible to substitute rote-trained machine tenders for the all-around skilled craftsmen of European countries.
The next major development in power systems was electricity. The initial interest was for communications purposes, and secondarily for electrochemical and electrometallurgical work. Copper-wire telegraphs were introduced in the 1820s and spread quickly, in the Domination as elsewhere. Long-distance transmission and underwater cables, however, required more theoretical work. The University of Archona [Pretoria, South Africa] succeeded in acquiring the services of Michael Faraday (born 1791, Newlington, Surrey, died 1872, Archona, Archona Province) in 1824. As Director of Electrical Research, he made a number of discoveries, including the basics of electromagnetic induction, and the first electric dynamo and electric motor (1830–33); students under his supervision perfected the lead-acid storage battery. During the 1830s and 1840s, fresh discoveries included electrolytic refining of a number of metals (principally copper and magnesium), electric arc-lights, improved direct-current motors, and electromagnets. In 1838 a new industrial firm, the Faraday Electromagnetic Combine, was established to manufacture and market the new discoveries; Faraday himself was granted 10% of the capital gratis, the remainder being supplied by the government, the Ferrous Metals and Trevithick Autosteamer Combines, and the Landholder's League and individuals.
The combination of dynamo/motor and storage battery made many applications common, although pneumatic-transmission systems remained predominant in most industrial use for several generations. The dynamo was usually powered by axial-flow air turbines, which gave the steady high-speed rotation needed. Carbon-arc lamps quickly took over the high-intensity outdoor and factory lighting roles, and by the 1860s incandescent bulbs had been developed. At roughly the same time small electric generators became common on autosteamers and trains, mainly for lighting purposes. Initially, electric power was generated on the spot in plants, factories and mines via the existing pneumatic transmission methods; there was little incentive to develop central-plant distribution systems until home-lighting became common, or until electric motors began to supplement or replace pneumatic transmission — the latter awaiting the perfection of alternating current motors in the 1870s.
The first large-scale electric power development project was the Quattara Depression Scheme. Located about 120 kilometers west of Alexandria, much of this area of salt marsh was hundreds of meters below sea level. Studies from the 1850s on had reviewed the possibilities of digging a canal through to the Mediterranean and tapping the resulting hydraulic energy, but the distances involved made pneumatic transmission impractical. In 1878 a hydroelectric format was selected, and construction began in the same year; by the mid-1880s, a yearly production of 250 megawatts was reached, climbing to 500 MW by 1890. Initial applications were mostly electrometallurgical, particularly aluminum refining by the newly discovered cryolytic process; large-scale plants were set up on site, and underground DC power cables were laid to Alexandria itself. The discovery of natural gas and oil beneath the half-flooded Quattara, and the growth of chemical plants associated with the evaporation of brine, led to further expansion; in the end, to the explosive growth of the Alexandria conurbation westward, a solid block of factories, refineries, artificial harbors and residential developments along the shore from the Delta to El Alamein.
With the discovery of the alternating current motor and generator (1870s, largely in the US and Germany), the mercury-arc rectifier for easy conversion of AC to DC power (Alexandria Technological Institute, 1880) and the Tesla transformer (Archona University, 1891), large-scale use of electrical power as a general power source became possible. The concurrent development of steam turbines provided another suitable prime mover.
Developments in the Domination followed a rather different path than those in Europe and the US. As usual in Draka practice, a central agency was established for power generation; the Electricity Supply Combine, in 1890, with financial backing from most potential industrial consumers. Distribution systems within urban areas were mostly AC from about 1895 on. Africa proved to be superabundantly supplied with hydroelectric potential — the Inga falls on the lower Congo alone had 10% of the potential of the entire planet — although it was often rather inconveniently placed.
The period from 1880–1910 saw continuous investment in hydroelectric and hydroelectric/irrigation projects, and continuous improvements in transmission efficiencies and range of uses (e.g., electric trains, 1890, arc furnaces for alloy steel production, 1893, fluorescent lighting, 1903). Comprehensive basin projects for the Orange River (1884), the Nile (1889), the Chad/Benue (1893), and the Congo (1900) were launched, with radical innovations in high-dam and large-scale water-turbine technologies. These were long-term projects; the Zambezi–Cunene scheme, which supplied water for the central Archona Province industrial zone, irrigated 9,000,000 hectares, provided deep-lift barge traffic as far inland as Kariba and generated over 2,000 MW, was started (piecemeal) in the 1880s and not complete until the 1930s. Nevertheless, by 1914 the Domination produced over half the world's electricity, 80% from hydropower, and had a commanding lead in electrochemical and metallurgical technology — producing approximately 90% of the world's aluminum and aluminum alloy production, for example. Supplementary sources of electrical energy included coal- and natural-gas-fired steam turbines; North Africa in particular proved very rich in natural gas, which came on stream in increasing amounts after the discovery of the Libyan and Saharan petroleum fields in 1880–1900. Along the Great Rift, experimental development of geothermal power began in the last decade before the Great War, and theoretical studies of deep-ocean convection taps and oceanic currents as power sources were launched.
One notable feature of the Domination's power-grid was the use of compressed-air storage systems to even out demand. This grew naturally out of the central compressed-air delivery systems which had preceded electric power, and which had left a complex of underground ferroconcrete tanks around most of the Domination's cities. Since demand for electrical power was irregular on both a daily and seasonal basis, costly excess peak capacity had to be kept idle during "off" periods to meet peak demand. The Draka used the power generated in the off hours to pump air into the storage tanks in highly compressed form. When demand rose, the hot dense air was released through pneumatic turbines to generate power; there were frictional losses in the system, but it still allowed savings of up to 25% in comparison to the cost of keeping additional fossil fuel plants on standby, and it was more flexible as well.
Immediately after the Great War of 1919, these storage systems also proved an ideal way of making solar-powered electricity generation practical. Solar water-heating systems had been in operation in the Domination and the US since the 1860s, and the constant sunlight of the arid tropics was an obvious energy source. It was also frustratingly irregular. In the period 1910–1916, researchers at the Kolwezara Institute developed a new sun-powered generator: black-painted insulated pipes, running above parabolic steel mirrors that were moved by electric motors to keep the pipe at the focal point. With a suitable working fluid, this was an economical method of power generation, and one that was extremely suitable for automatic operation and required no nearby water source. Adding compressed-air storage made it possible to even out the power flow, and mass-production brought the cost of the equipment down to levels competitive with any but the lowest-cost fossil fuel and hydropower plants; the flexibility of location was an added advantage. Large areas of low-value desert land in the tropics and subtropics were available, and long stretches of remote railroad and many isolated mining settlements were so equipped. By the 1920s, remote plantations without suitable hydropower sources were buying prefabricated units through the Landholder's League.
The period after 1919 saw an enormous expansion of the Domination's power grid as the New Territories were settled. Hydro developments were very extensive, often as part of multi-purpose flood-irrigation-power projects. The petroleum reserves of the Persian Gulf, Iran, Central Asia, and Ferghana were also brought on-stream, but very little of the oil was used for central power generation; instead, the natural gas was burned in situ and used as the basis of a very extensive electrometallurgical and electrochemical complex along the Gulf.
The most startling development was the Bosporus Project. Theoretical studies had been done before the Great War, and had shown that the Gallipoli–Golden Horn strait between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea contained two consistent and very powerful currents, one at depth flowing into the Black Sea and one on the surface flowing out. From 1920–1937, a series of enormous underwater structures, a steel and ferroconcrete grid, was inserted into many miles of the strait, often in conjunction with elaborate surface structures amounting to a minor city suspended over the water. Large low-speed turbines fixed to the underwater frames were driven by the currents, and the power transferred to generators by hydraulic pressure. Initial capacity (1927) was approximately 1,000 MW, and the final total was in the 6,000–7,000 MW range.
Railways and Road Transport
Railways — in the sense of roads with rails wagons running on flanged wheels, had been in use in mines for centuries before 1800. In the 18th century a number of British coal mines built small railways to link their pits with water-transport; traction was by gravity or horse-power. The mines of the Crown Colony of Drakia quickly adopted internal rail systems, and shortly thereafter built small surface lines — to transport ore to central crushing and smelting plants, or to bring coal short distances to the fixed engines.
Application of steam power was an obvious development, but practically impossible until a better prime mover than the Watt engine was available. Trevithick conducted a number of experiments using the existing mine railways, and once the correct road-bed was developed (crushed rock, timber crossties and iron I-section rails spiked to the ties) began developing locomotives to replace the existing animal-traction systems. Once the concept was proved on a local scale, he lobbied for the first main-line systems; the Archona–Virconium was begun in 1805. Like all subsequent main-line railways in the Domination, this was built to a 1.75-meter gauge and was government owned and operated. The locomotives were much simpler than the road-engines being developed at the same time, and the inflexibility of a fixed route was offset by the lesser rolling friction on iron rails. Railways were used for traffic between towns, and for heavy-goods haulage: coal, stone, grain, metals and so forth. Local distribution from the railheads was by animal traction, or increasingly by autosteamer and steam drag. The primary initial limitation was the shortage of iron rail, but after the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars excess capacity in England and the increasing domestic production removed this bottleneck.
The Transportation Directorate was organized in 1822, and became the major shareholder in the Drakian Railroads and Harbors Combine, sole operator of rail transport outside a few narrow-gauge specialty lines. Since DR&H quickly became the world's largest single railroad enterprise under one management, it was a short step to becoming the world's greatest manufacturer of locomotives, rolling stock, and other equipment; however, this was so closely tailored to local conditions that it had surprisingly little effect on worldwide practice.
The first Trevithick locomotive engines had vertical cylinders driving gear-trains which in turn powered the wheels. By the mid-1820s, horizontal cylinders linked directly to cranks on the outside of the driving wheels had become standard. The Diskarapur Works began turning out standardized "classes" of locomotive at about this time, with interchangeable parts. Power and size gradually increased, with fast-express passenger trains reaching averages of about 40 mph by the 1840s. Condenser cars (where the exhaust steam was recondensed into water to feed the boilers) became an early feature, as did petroleum fueling in the northern provinces. Other notable innovations were pneumatic-powered stokers and air brakes, introduced in the 1830s. The nature of traffic on the DR&H (mostly long-distance heavy minerals, coal, and agricultural products) resulted in innovations in handling and marshalling techniques, such as "unit" trains and multiple locomotive use. Railway stations were usually located on the outskirts of urban areas, with passengers and goods distribution by autosteamer or later by mass-transit systems.
Fast pneumatic-drive express trains were introduced in the 1850s, with the Cape Town–Archona "Gold Train." This was powered by a locomotive mounting an industrial-type three-cylinder uniflow reciprocating compressor, with a regenerative heat-pump to transfer the waste compression heat to the feedwater. Transmission was via axial-flow air motors on all wheels, including those of the ten passenger cars; speeds of up to 110 kph were achieved, especially on the long straight stretches of the interior plateau. The ultimate development came in the great trans-continental expresses of the 1890s, the Apollonaris–Suakim (Atlantic–Red Sea) and Cape–Alexandria (Indian Ocean to Mediterranean) runs. These huge passenger specials were radically streamlined, constructed largely of new alloy-steels and light metals, and powered by giant steam turbines driving turbo-blowers; the wheels ran on frictionless air bearings. Average speeds of 170 kph, with bursts of up to 200 kph, were achieved.
The period 1890–1910 saw a further burst of innovation. The increasing use of electrical power in industry naturally provoked interest in the Transportation Directorate. Experiments with electric locomotives had been going on in a low key since the 1860s, but it was not until large-scale power generation and long-distance transmission got underway in the late 1880s that main-line use became practical. The first line to be electrified (on a 3,500-volt AC system) was, understandably, the Alexandria–Quattara line, in 1884. Some sections of the southern network were converted to electric traction in 1886–90; in particular the perennially overloaded Archona–Virconium and Archona–Shahnapur. Electric traction showed numerous advantages: central power stations were more efficient than locomotive prime movers, electric locomotives could operate well above their rated horsepower in "burst" mode, and with regenerative braking they fed power back into the net on downslope runs. As additional bonuses electric locomotives required no water supply, were indifferent to altitude and temperature; they proved to be simpler to maintain than the various steam engines and, once the techniques were mastered, easier to build. In 1900 the 25,000-volt overhead system was standardized and a 10-year plan to electrify most of the heavy-traffic main lines was launched, and by 1914 30% of the Domination's mileage and 50% of the ton-miles were electrified. The all-electric Cape Town to Alexandria express of 1912 maintained an average speed of over 190 kph.
Direct-drive steam engines remained popular everywhere, due to their huge numbers and industrial inertia if nothing else. The European networks (particularly in Switzerland and other countries rich in hydropower) had installed significant mileage of electrified line by 1914, and were experimenting with direct and hydraulic-transmission diesel systems. The Americas had some electrification, but were pioneers in internal-combustion/electric (particularly diesel-electric) traction. The high-speed diesels developed for airships in the 1880s and 1890s proved to be ideal for this purpose, and by 1910 were supplanting steam engines on fast express runs.
There were also important advances in fixed way and rolling stock in the period before the Great War. Central traffic direction was introduced (Domination, c. 1900; US, a few years later) and made much higher traffic densities safely possible. The Domination began converting to ferroconcrete ties and welded rails in the 1890s, re-laying about 40% of their track by 1914 and making considerable savings in maintenance costs. Improved suspensions were instrumental in raising average speeds, and specialized cars of all types grew in number and complexity. Sealed freight-containers of standard size were another innovation, originally (1895) German, but rapidly taken up in other European countries and the US; they also spread to shipping and the new intercontinental airfreight services in the same period.
After the Great War, the Domination's primary problem was extending its rail net to the 3,000,000+ square miles of additional territory gained in 1914–1919. A Draka-financed line had been built between Bandar Abbas and Tehran in 1905–1910, and was within 100 miles of the Russian network in Turkestan at the outbreak of the war. The Domination also inherited some 10,000 miles of Turkish and 3,000 miles of Russian line, although these were of different gauges and substandard quality. Between 1917–1940 approximately 100,000 miles of line was built to the 1.75-meter, all-welded standard in the new territories.
Electric traction was also extended, but was risky in imperfectly pacified areas, as the power lines were easy to sabotage. Because of this, and for use in areas where traffic density did not justify the capital cost of electrification, in 1920–22 a new series of locomotives using turbocompound-electric power were brought into service. These gradually replaced the remaining steam fleet; construction of new steam locomotives was phased out in the 1940s, and the last engines removed from service in the 1960s. With advances in power transmission and construction, the vastly increased network of the post–Eurasian War period was mostly electrified; by the 1960s, speeds of up to 240 kph were common for intercity express trains. Total mileage exceeded 1,000,000 by the time construction was complete in 1990.
Urban mass-transit systems developed concurrently during the 1850s. After experimenting with steam-powered street tramcars, the municipal governments of Archona, Shahnapur, and Alexandria decided to switch to elevated pneumatic-powered rail systems. These were supported on ferroconcrete pillars, and ran with rubber-tired wheels on single concrete "rails"; essentially a monorail. Propulsion was supplied by a tube in the fixed way, kept at overpressure by central pumping stations and with a longitudinal slit sealed by rubberized fabric. The cars were attached to pistons in the tubes, fastened to the bodies by L-shaped bars which lifted and replaced the fabric cover as they moved. Systems of this type were built in the larger cities, usually to link suburbs with central business districts, as "ring roads" around the urban perimeter, and to shuttle crowds to and from railway stations, harbors, and later airship havens and airports. The rights-of-way were usually park zones (since the system was pollution-free and relatively quiet) with escalators at widely-spaced intervals. The original pneumatic system was replaced by electric motors in the 1880s, and these in turn by linear induction in the late 1930s.
Trevithick's initial experiments had included both road and rail engines. Rail quickly proved to be more efficient for long-distance bulk transport, but initial capital costs were high, and the fixed rail lines required a "catchment area" large enough to provide a constant stream of traffic. Since much of the Domination was thinly-populated, with most freight (e.g., agricultural goods) available only seasonally, rail lines were impractical for local transport. Road engines were the obvious answer, since they could flexibly collect goods from scattered locations and "bulk" them at convenient locations for rail transport. Roads were cheaper to construct than railways, particularly on the extensive flat plateau surfaces of the interior, and road-engines proved to be much better at handling steep grades than rail. Since roads (especially after the appointment of John L. McAdam as Chief Inspector) could be built by chain-gangs of unskilled labor, the advantages were obvious.
The original vehicles were simply coaches with cranked axles driven by steam cylinders; the heavier models (drags) pulled one or more wagons, while the lighter and faster models transported passengers and high-value goods. The spread of condensors freed autosteamers from their dangerous dependence on local water, and liquid fuels gave added range. Continuous improvements were made in the 1805–1825 period in steering, suspension, gauges and auxiliary systems; e.g. oil-lamp headlights with mirror backing. By the late 1820s, autosteamers had become common enough (a total of over 2,000) that rudimentary traffic codes became necessary, and there was some export of luxury models and intercity steamcoaches to Europe and America. Bad roads (America and central-eastern Europe) and vested interests (Britain and Europe) slowed the adoption of steam road-transport outside the Domination. In Africa neither of these factors were important, and expansion of the mining/slaving frontier into areas where sleeping-sickness (ngana) made animal transport impossible was a further spur.
The next major innovation was in transmission systems. Direct drive to the rear axles was simple but unreliable, as the necessary long connecting rods and cranked axles often broke, given the erratic forging techniques and rough suspensions of the day. The development of pneumatic power systems for mining and industry suggested an automotive application. In 1829 Edgar Stevens redesigned a popular light autosteamer. Instead of power cylinders driving the wheels, a three-cylinder expansive uniflow compressor was installed and linked to air motors in the wheel hubs. All four wheels were independently sprung and steerable, and all could be powered. A reservoir evened the supply of compressed air, and there were automatic venting and shunting systems to prevent overpressure. The boiler feedwater, as had become standard practice, was preheated by being used as the cooling-water for the compression cylinders.
Fuel consumption proved to be roughly comparable to the direct-drive models, and the power-to-weight ratios were drastically improved. Pneumatic transmission also proved to be much more reliable, more flexible, and to offer better tractive power on steep slopes and rough ground, and maximum speed was increased. The resulting machine was, however, somewhat more expensive and required more sophisticated manufacturing techniques.
Concurrent advances in materials and machine tools (the universal borer, the turret lathe, planing machines, and diamond-tipped cutting tools) resulted in a mutually reinforcing process. As autosteamers and drags dropped in price and increased in reliability, the market increased. This permitted increased economies of scale in production (leading to full-fledged conveyor-belt mass production with interchangeable parts by the 1850s), which in turn reduced costs — including fuel and maintenance as infrastructure and skills built up — and increased reliability. The willingness of the Legislative Assembly to vote funds for road-building and maintenance was a tribute to the precious importance of powered road transport in the Domination's growth.
Another factor pressing for mass-production was the bulk nature of demand. Private passenger autosteamers were fairly common, but well into the 1870s remained a luxury for the very wealthy, even among the Draka aristocracy. Steam drags for transport purposes, and steamcoaches for urban mass-transit, were the most common types, and these were ordered in bulk by municipal governments and by the embryonic Combines. The Landholder's League was also a steady customer; for example, the sugar plantations of the Natalian coastal zone rarely processed their own cane. Instead, League-owned heavy drags collected the cut and bundled cane from the fields and transported the produce of dozens of plantations to central-powered crushing mills, a crucial factor in the successful battle for the world sugar market; by the 1850s, 90% of Europe's cane sugar, molasses, and rum were Draka grown. When the more prosperous planters began buying steamtrucks and drags for their own use in the 1830s and '40s, they almost invariably ordered standard models through the League's cooperative purchase program, if only because they could do so on credit — an early example of hire-purchase.
Steam road transport spread slowly outside the Domination-to-be, but it did spread. Besides the opposition of other forms of transportation, and the poor quality of roads, there was the problem of climate (the early autosteamers were very susceptible to freezing weather, being designed for Africa) and infrastructure. Until fuel, spare parts, and trained maintenance technicians were available, there was little incentive to buy autosteamers; until people bought autosteamers, there was little incentive to invest in infrastructure. The Combines had been able to introduce the technology gradually, and in any case they had capital reserves (and government backing) unmatched elsewhere in a world of Victorian laissez-faire. Accordingly, the first non-African use of autosteamers was as toys for the rich in Great Britain; this almost led to a complete ban in the 1820s, and did result in punitive speed limits. France then established an early lead, since it was comparatively large and had good roads by the standards of the day; Paris was connected with Lyon, Orleans, Strasbourg and the Channel ports by autosteamer coach services by the 1830s, although these had difficulty competing with the railways in later decades. Most European states gradually copied Draka autosteamer and road-building technology, and steam power gradually supplemented horse traction in local transport.
By the 1850s, autosteamer taxis were common in most large Euro-American cities (London had over 1,000); a majority of these were imported from the Domination, but Britain, the United States, Brazil, France, Belgium, and Prussia had the beginnings of indigenous industries — see, for example, the crucial role played by steamcoach schedules in Dickens's masterpiece The Drood Detective. The technology was not very demanding, and any country with an up-to-date ferrous metals and steam engine industry could manufacture passable vehicles. In the United States, with its weak federal government and poor roads, autosteamers tended to be limited to urban use, and to prairie-plains areas (such as the Midwest and the Far West) where flat hard ground was available. Everywhere, autosteamers were a driving force in industrial development; machine tools, precision engineering, lubricants, and bearings, all benefited from the demand and served as learning-centers for industrial skills. The prominent roles of smaller industrial countries such as Belgium (from the 1840s) and Sweden (1860s) were made possible by the initially small scale of autosteamer output. The fuel requirements of the new form of transport also encouraged first process-coal industries (especially in Germany, where chemical byproducts were important) and then the French, Romanian and Russian petroleum producers.
The Prussian military, always among the most flexible of European institutions, saw the potential of steam transport as early as the 1840s; the use of improvised armored warcars in the suppression of the revolutionaries in 1848, and the use of railways and steamtrucks in shuttling troops between centers of insurrection, were exemplary. At the same time, Britain and Prussia (both areas characterized by large estates and labor shortages) experimented successfully with mechanized traction in agriculture. By the 1870s, some British landowners and east-Elbian Junkers had consolidated single farms of up to 5,000 acres worked by autosteamer traction power and powered harvesters; these attracted much attention from Karl Marx and his followers, but remained exceptional. In the United States, the demands of the Civil War (1860–1866) transformed the small-scale autosteamer industries of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, leading to the formation of the predecessors of the great Stanley Motors, Angleheim, United Autosteamers and Carnegie companies. The Confederacy remained dependent on imports from the Domination and Europe, a crucial handicap after the Union succeeded in closing most of its ports in 1863–64. Pittsburgh-made warcars, artillery tractors and steamtrucks, plus limitless numbers of Mexican conscripts and European mercenaries, ended the Confederate experiment.
By the 1880s, with alloy-steel and light-metal construction, electric light/ignition/heaters and cheap light-oil distillate from the newly opened fields of Texas, Ploesti, Baku, and Libya, autosteamers had become a mature technology. Pneumatic tires gradually replaced solid models, bodies contained less wood and more metal, safety glass was introduced . . . but these were detail matters. Costs remained high — $1,500 for a six-seater Trevithick in 1885, equivalent to four times the average per capita wage even in the US — but steam transport was gradually replacing the horse and ox throughout the developed world. The postwar surge in road construction in the US laid the foundations of American supremacy in passenger-steamer production, and by the 1890s America was also the only country to introduce steam-powered farm machinery on a large scale; however, this was limited to the large grain-farms of the Midwest and Great Plains areas. The Domination had already decided, for a mixture of social and economic reasons, effectively to ban direct use of powered traction in agriculture, and lacked a mass market for light passenger steamers; Europe remained uneasily poised between the two models. The next great breakthrough was in production technology rather than design — the reduction of prices in the US to the point where, by the 1890s, tens and then hundreds of thousands of the middle classes could afford the light four-wheel models pouring out of the Midwestern factories.
Hot-air and hydrogen balloons were a product of the 1790s, with the experiments of the Montgolfier brothers in France. While there were some military applications (e.g., for artillery observation in siege operations) the lack of directional control limited their usefulness. Later development of hydrogen-inflated balloons lead to valuable experience in how to balance ballast and gas-valving, and in gasbag materials.
By the 1860s, the steam engine (especially the automotive types) was making some sort of powered balloon possible if not practical. Individual inventors tinkered with a number of models, usually with Domination-built autosteamer motors, but these remained one-off curiosities. Several Combines in the Domination experimented also, but while providing valuable experience these studies also indicated that a long and expensive period of trial-and-error would be necessary before anything useful resulted.
The first major impetus came during the Franco–Prussian War of 1870. Paris, which by this time had an autosteamer and compressor industry of some size, was surrounded by the Prussian troops and under siege for several months. Powered semi-rigid dirigibles (craft with a fixed keel but a gasbag whose shape was maintained by internal pressure) were built to restore communication with the armies in the field and the National Government in Bordeaux; these were powered by automotive engines driving wooden propellors through air-turbine motors, and provided a power-to-weight ratio just sufficient for controlled flight in calm to moderate winds. The dirigibles were also used for counter-battery fire and artillery observation, and on a small scale for bombing Prussian positions. The Prussians retaliated with light cannon, firing upward and mounted on autosteamers; there were several dramatic chases cross-country. After the French government admitted defeat, the Paris Commune uprising saw the "Versailles" use the two surviving powered craft to bomb the communards.
The dramatic role of the dirigibles attracted military attention in many quarters. The new German Reich copied the French models, with improvements, regarding them as principally useful for scouting and artillery observation. Britain tended to regard them as "unsporting," and also a menace to sea power, and tried to have their use banned by an international convention. Small pressure blimps became a curiosity in many parts of the world, but the high accident rate — particularly on landing — prevented any widespread civilian use. The early models were small, few being over 50–80 meters, and had very limited range and cargo-carrying capacity.
The Domination's researchers were galvanized by the news from France. They quickly realized that the problems of range, speed, and ability to stand adverse weather could only be solved by a vehicle much larger than the blimps or semirigids; a hull whose shape was dependent on internal pressures had sharp limits of size and weight-bearing capacity, and was also very vulnerable to bending stresses in the thunderstorms of the continental interiors. The solution they developed was an internal frame, covered with a cloth outer coating and with the gasbags within. The elongated teardrop shape of the new craft "airships" was based on that of whales and birds, a bit of inspired empiricism that later aerodynamic analysis proved right. The basic frame was made from two spirals of light, strong laminated tropical woods running in opposite directions from the nose of the dirigible to the tail; the spirals were glued together every time they crossed, with a reinforcing circle of wood on the joint; four to six internal circular braces and a keel strengthened the whole. The lower section of the interior was sealed off to form engine rooms, crew quarters, and cargo holds, while the interior of the hull was divided into cells for the gasbags, which were contained by a network of steel wire.
Power was provided by a steam turbine, a radical high-pressure design mostly manufactured from the new, and as yet very costly, aluminum alloys. This was coupled to a compressor, which supplied high-pressure air for six external pneumatic turbine pods driving large wooden propellors. The fuel was hydrogen from the gasbags, mixed with petroleum distillate, balanced so as to have a neutral effect on buoyancy. The compressor also powered pumps for compressing the gas into cylinders, and an electrical generator, which could, at need, crack extra hydrogen from the water in the ballast tanks along the keel. Steering was via large cruciform control fins at the rear of the vessel, and longitudinal control could also be achieved by pumping ballast water between different tanks. The gondola was entirely enclosed in the hull, and the bridge was a glassed-in section of the dirigible's lower nose section. The nose itself had extra bracing and a large metal eyebolt for fastening the craft to a mooring tower; permanent stowage and repair was done in huge hangars, and the deflated craft was hung from the rooftree of the hangar while undergoing construction or maintenance work.
The first craft were quite small, 200–400 feet in length, and served mainly for experiment and training; several were lost, in storms or to fire. Hydrogen proved inherently risky, but not impossibly so provided careful precautions were taken to prevent the buildup of an explosive air-hydrogen mixture inside the envelope of the dirigible. Maintaining a slight overpressure within the gondola, and keeping the outer fabric envelope permeable (so that any escaped hydrogen would quickly rise and diffuse into the atmosphere) sufficed to bring safety to acceptable levels. By the time of the Anglo–Russian War of 1879–1882, the Alexandria Institute's craft had reached the point where voyages of some hundreds of miles, carrying payloads of several tonnes, were routine.
The Northern War (as the Draka called the conflict) broke out in the spring of 1879; its basic cause was Russian pressure on Turkey, and the Czar's desire to push his frontiers farther south in central Asia at the expense of Afghanistan, which was the last of the Muslim khanates between his dominions and British India. The Draka were involved first as members of the British Empire, and secondly because their possessions in the Mediterranean (Cyprus, Crete, Rhodes, the Ionian Islands, and ultimately Egypt) would be menaced if the Russian Empire took Constantinople and the Straits.
The war went badly for the British in the first year, with Russian armies laying Constantinople under siege and advancing as far as Kabul in Afghanistan; the Russians were embarrassingly ahead of the hidebound British armed forces in their application of autosteamer transport to logistics. The Draka entered the war only when they were given ironclad assurance of overall command, whereupon 750,000 Janissary and Citizen troops poured into the conflict. The war on land is outside the scope of this paper, but it was the conflict in the air that captured the imagination of the world.
The first massed attack was launched from Draka bases on Crete; ten 600-foot Lammermeyer-class dirigibles bombarded the Russian siege lines around Constantinople, in conjunction with the landings at Thessalonika. The Russians had balloons, and a few French-style semirigids, but nothing like these purpose-built aerial warships. Subsequent raids on both military and civilian targets disorganized the Russian rear echelon and played a substantial part in the eventual Draka victory. They also brought the dirigible well and truly into the public eye, and in the postwar period every major power rushed into dirigible research, often with catastrophic results.
The next major steps in dirigible design were the substitution of aluminum alloys for wood in the frame and of internal-combustion engines for steam turbines as the motive power. Both occurred in the mid-1880s, as the Alexandria Institute's research program pressed relentlessly for improved efficiency. The first transatlantic flight (1882) was made in a Northern War-style craft, crossing between Apollonaris and Recife, Brazil, where the South Atlantic is narrowest. This was a spectacular success, but not of much practical importance, as the fuel and ballast requirements left little cargo capacity.
Aluminum had been available for specialty use since the 1840s, refined by
an offshoot of the cyanide-process gold-refining methods developed for the
refractory ores of the Whiteridge. The early 1880s saw the electrolytic
process perfected, and the Domination proved very rich both in bauxite and
hydropower. Prices fell continuously, and a wide variety of aluminum alloys
were developed. The first metal-frame dirigibles had duralumin skeletons and
cloth coverings, with internal gasbags. By 1900, a new type with gas-tight
aluminum-alloy shells, reinforced within by spiral bracing, had become
predominant. With multiple turbocompound engines, airships were capable of
speed in excess of 120 kph, and unrefueled flights of several thousand