Fantastic Devices to Improve Your Steampunk Reality Part 2: The Airship

     So, as an extension of my previous post, I am taking a look at another essential piece of technology to the Steampunk genre: Airships. They have been a staple of both the steampunk genre as well as alternative history in general- and with good reason. The images conjured up when a description of a sky filled with airships of all sizes and shapes fills your page are often indescribable.

     Often the images that fill her head resemble flying versions of the traditional water bound vessels, such as this:


Who wouldn't want to fly in one of these?

     Some with propellers, others with sails, with crews of men and women that appear to have been pulled from high seas adventure stories. These images and others much like them have existed in our minds since Jules Verne first put pen to paper. Amazing machines capable of things that were once only possible in the wildest of imaginations.

     These devices seem tailor-made for the steampunk genre. Steam powered engines fuelled by coal and the sweat of the crew belching black smoke into the heavens. The vision is both romantic and a bit Stark, with the realization that many of these stories involve at least on a subconscious level, the darker side to the progress. With pollution, thick smog, and poor health as side effects of the push for progress.

     The reality of airships is slightly less beautiful but no less majestic:


     Real dirigibles were less elegant, but inspiring. In these real pieces of flying technology, people were able to break free of the earth below. Machines like these helped to inspire the imaginations of the first modern Writers of science fiction

     Within the reality of the world I am writing, I have a combination of real-world dirigibles and the more fancifully designed airships. The blimp-style tends to be chosen for function, while the ships based on their nautical counterparts are purchased more for vanity.

     A look at some of the available photographs of some of the airship interiors has helped me to better understand not only how these vehicles were built, but it gives me a clearer picture of where the different sections of the ship are in relation to each other, as well as what controls and communications Devices were used.


Control room

     There is so much to learn about the airships of the past. My focus is on flight control and procedures. I have a confession: I am a learning nerd. One of the things I love about writing is that it gives me a reason to research different topics. Whether it is about the History of flying machines or the life of a 19th century pirate, I get to learn things I might never have thought to research, if not for the project in progress at any given time. But, as usual. I find myself over-researching. I start out looking for specific information, such as the altitude of flight or amount of time it would take to travel via airship from England to the U.S; then before I realize it, I have pages of notes. then I have to hunt through those notes for the information I actually need.

     For the writers: when you research, do you look for specific information, or do you find yourself going more in-depth with the research?



2 thoughts on “Fantastic Devices to Improve Your Steampunk Reality Part 2: The Airship

  1. I tend to start broad with my research, reading around a subject for inspiration, and though look for specific details later when I need them. That reading around often leads to a lot of inspiration.

    Though airships are part of why I love steampunk, I have a friend whose love of airships puts him off the genre. He’s a trained engineer and naval architect, so he can’t help seeing what’s unworkable in many steampunk airships and being put off by it. If you really love something, seeing it done badly can be worse than not seeing it done at all.


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