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Steam Powered Overland Unfired Terrifiers (SPOUT).

Two ideas from my friend Ed:

Picture an 1890s pennyfarthing, but with both wheels large, driven by a compact horizontal steam engine (Hiram Maxim could design a good one in an afternoon).

They needn’t carry a firebox or fuel; instead, they tap steam from the boilers of the Landship, conserving it in pressure tanks and topping off just before Charge! is sounded. There’s easily enough steam in a large geyser-size tank to power a Spout for several miles, even at high speed over rough ground. (Those six-foot wheels give the Spout great rolling capability.)

The cavalryman lies prone above the engine; an infantryman rides sitting behind him (the sight of two lads in such a posture will of course give rise to unseemly jests; these are to be sternly suppressed as a point of discipline). Training is the answer. Men should be selected for this duty who in civilian life held such occupations as telegraph messenger and grocer’s deliveryman.

As our Steam Charioteer drives his Spout at the enemy, controlling his vehicle with handlebars and a simple throttle, the doughty 19th Century Archer keeps up a steady fire with his patented Webley Revolving Carbine w/ Sawhandle Grip (Sir R. Burton invented one of these).

This is nothing but the stirrup charge brought into the Modern Age! When a simple and easily understood pressure dial indicates waning steam, the Spout Cavalryman returns to the Landship for repressurizing; in as little as two hours an entire regiment can be ready for further service.

With assistance from the well-tested Hale rocket, a Spout suitably fitted with glider wings could even, after a short run to attain speed, sail flying-squirrel-like over water obstacles to establish a bridgehead; I’m sure that brave men will gladly volunteer or be chosen for such duty.

How many wheels does this thing have?

Light cavalry, two, with training wheels for parades.

Heavy cav, three; in the Heavies, a grenadier rides beside the rifleman—except in the Guards regiments, when the grenadier is replaced by a cuirassiered dragoon, who leaps off at impact and gets in among the enemy with a sword.

The colour-bearer has a broom-handle Mauser pistol instead of a sword, because he must keep the flag on high to guide the support—and to warn the artillery that friendly troops are on the objective now, so raise those sights!

The idea of using stored steam for power is not as zany as it sounds. There’s one old short-range switch engine still in use at a large chemical plant in (I think) West Virginia that operates that way. One tankful of steam from the plant’s boiler room is good for about an hour’s work moving freight cars. No smoke, no noise, extreme mechanical simplicity.

The Horse Overland Omnibus Transport (HOOT)

The Horse Overland Omnibus Transport (HOOT) can carry an entire cavalry squad, horses standing saddled inside the main compartment with half facing right and half facing left, their riders holding the bridles. Hardly bigger than two or three ordinary London trams.

Lloyd’s best rolled iron armour protects the entire vehicle; a one-inch Gatling mounted right forward clears the way, whether across a heath in full charge against a European enemy, or through an embattled Souk aswarm with rebels.

At a signal, the sides of the Hoot drop downward, forming ramps securely cleated with wood for traction. The men lead the horses down to the ground, mount, form, and attack, sabres gleaming.

And about that one-inch Gatling: Dr. Gatling himself powered one of his guns w/ a common electric motor and achieved 3000 rpm. Consider the effect of such a weapon in a vehicle advancing on your position. Reflect too that (say) one in four Hoots would carry not ordinary cavalry but horse cavalry with 15-pounder guns!

Another point about my Hoots: They can operate on railroad tracks, using their own power or as part of a conventional train. Railroad car wheels to replace the road tires can be bolted to the exterior, serving as supplementary armor until they’re needed. In a trice (as little as 6 or 7 hours, depending on how many Railroad Service Corps troops are available) you can have an armored train to patrol supply lines, warding off raiders and securing the safety of travelling staff officers, for whom selected Hoots can be fitted up with comfortable berths, banquettes, wine bars, crystal lighting, and batman’s quarters.

If you don’t like the Hoot, how about the Bicycle Unpowered Transport Truck? Twelve cycle troops conveyed in an armoured van, the sprockets of the bikes driving a simple shaft attached to the driving wheels. Silent, independent of fuelling dumps, light, versatile, and sure to be popular with the men; they needn’t carry their own kit, you see.

This last device reminds me of a Victorian illustration of a 14-wheeled pedal vehicle. Between each of the first six pairs of wheels sat a pair of infantrymen in forage caps with Martini-Henrys slung across their backs. Between the last set of wheels was a trunk for their baggage.

Space 1889 Main Page


By the Author of the Scrapboard :


Attack, Avoid, Survive: Essential Principles of Self Defence

Available in Handy A5 and US Trade Formats.

Crash Combat. Second Edition with additional content.
Epub edition. Second Edition with additional content.