I’ve been working on the design for a steam-powered motorcycle – a velosteam – for my Steam Highwayman gamebook. Despite having written more than 100,000 words and having made many assumptions along the way, I’ve never actually pinned down the appearance or internal workings of the second main character in my story.
Cue Mr Crabfu of California. His excellent article about using real miniature steam workings to better understand and design steampunk vehicles catalysed my new design – which may not be perfect, practically possible or the final version I use. But it does feel a lot more real than anything else I’ve sketched or created yet. I’m going to show some of the process I used here.
I don’t have any CAD or computer graphic skills so I used what I knew: pencil, rubber, ruler, cartridge paper and a protractor for some laying out.
This is where I started: with an angled view to feel how a boiler, originally elliptical, would hang between two broad wheels.
I then created a second angled view, with an inversely pear-shaped boiler, clustered with a small firebox, two pistons and a condenser. I spent quite a while deciding where to put my vent and ended up with a python-esque sausage out the rear left. Leaf-spring suspension is better for my period, together with some drive linkages and guesses at a mudguard.
I then laid our plan and elevation and angled the pistons, which could feasibly be a little smaller. I looked at steam traction and locomotive wheels and went for a 24 solid-spoke style. The leaf-springs are back – I really like the carriage ancestry they imply. I also drew a line-figure on the plan to consider riding position, seat, handlebars and so on.
How would the velosteam work with a pillion rider? I also reinforced the boiler with oak laths and added that snakey vent. At this stage I realised how long the velosteam was going to be… I had started with a 3 wheel length, but the circumference of these wheels is something like 3’3″. Which would make my whole velosteam more than 10 feet long. I feel like I’ve got the scale of the machinery wrong for what I’m trying to create and may have another go later at making this machine. But forward with the process!
Now a frame to hang all the components from: two curvy pieces of iron, a spherical gas tank, front suspension, pillion footstubs (which I later replaced), lubrication pipes, steam pipes, and friction igniter.
Several stages later, I have added a saddle, fairings, handlebars, regulator handle, gas valve, footrests, an indeterminate F-marked blob (secondary water tank?).
Taped the whole thing to my window for tracing and…