Steampunk Basics: A (Really) Quick Tour of Steam Power

A Stanley Steamer: the steam-powered car

It All Starts, Like So Many Things, In Ancient Greece:

Hero of Alexandria (also known as Heron, rather like Diddy is also P. Diddy or Puff Daddy) started it all with his design of a steam-powered device called a aeollipile, or Hero-engine.  It was never given a practical application (it’s been said he intended the device as a toy) and yet the seed was planted…

The cauldron on the bottom gets hot, the steam rises, and the ball dances — a simple toy

Wait about 2,000 years and then…

1679: the pressure cooker
1698: the first crude steam engine
1769: James Watt improves the steam engine.  The result?  Just a little thing we like to call the Industrial Revolution.  

Watt’s engine, which brought us affordable mass-produced goods and sweatshops alike

 The High-Pressure Steam Engine

Richard Trevithick created the next innovation, the high-powered steam engine, sometime in the early 1800s (that pre-Victorian time called the Regency).  Now steam engines could be both more powerful and smaller. 

I am including this picture of a boiler simply because it seems to be wearing goggles!!!


 The Steam-Powered Bicycle;
 The Locomotive;
 And finally something a bit more, well, modern day, especially if you’ve been following the news from Japan:

Yes — steam power plays a role in today’s nuclear power plants.  Nuclear energy only produces HEAT.  Only when the heat produces STEAM is useful energy generated.  Without Hero/Heron and James Watt and all the rest, Homer Simpson wouldn’t have a job.  And isn’t that a chilling thought?


5 thoughts on “Steampunk Basics: A (Really) Quick Tour of Steam Power

  1. The steam powered bike looks interesting. There is one line of thought that the steam-powered automobile went out of favor in part because of the lack of convenient access to water once horse water troughs disappeared.Steam is used as the motive force in almost all large electric power plants, be they fueled by coal, natural gas or atomic power. This is explained in the first part of my novel Rad Decision, which provides a rare inside look at the US nuclear industry. It is available free at .

  2. It's interesting to realize that all much of our power comes from steam, since I think most people think of steam power as out of date. once again, you educate and enlighten!

  3. I tried to respond to this before but it wouldn't accept me. sigh…Steam power is fascinating to me. More than steampunk, but that's kind of fun too.

  4. This is just so perfectly penned, so to speak. I really enjoyed my visit here. Your writing is clear as a bell, and nowhere do I see anything which isn't of interest.We're holding a Links Party over the holidays, and wondered if you'd care to become a part of the proceeding.Our first installment-cum-chapter, if you will, is all about our arrival in old London, with ephemera and a slight storyline for aded fun.If you would be so kind as to link your choice of Steampunk-themed post (this one would be great fun for the average Steam neophyte), we'd be most grateful.Yours in Steam-themed fantasyRose & Rhissanna

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