Steampunk inspiration and resources

Steam Tour

Take a Trip Down Memory Lane with the Earliest Footage of London

Yestervid is a super cool website that compiles footage from the earliest days of filmmaking. This montage features some of the oldest film and sound recordings around the city of London, and they have a map showing the exact location and camera angle for reference.


The Italian Garden, London

Italian Gardens 1

Originally, the Kensington Gardens were part of the grounds of the Kensington Palace, the birthplace of Queen Victoria. During her reign her husband, Albert, commissioned the lovely Italian Gardens as a gift to his beloved and work was completed in 1860. Albert was an avid gardener and was entranced by the Italian-style water garden composed of ponds, terraces and raised beds along a geometric plan. This relaxing site sits on the Long Water, a river that runs into The Serpentine lake, so it is a nice place to spot birds and enjoy native water plants such as water lilies. After Albert’s death, Victoria had the Albert Memorial built on the south side of the Kensington Gardens.


Spotlight on Traders: Empire Edibles

I had a wonderful time talking to traders like Claire “Skip” Peacey (pictured below) and giving out bumper stickers at the 2014 Weekend at the Asylum, and I am planning to do more of these spotlights like the one I did for Doctor Geof earlier this year.

Empire Edibles stall at the Castle Market

Empire Edibles stall at the Castle Market

Empire Edibles close upOur steamy business this time is all about delicious food. As you can see, this booth featured beautifully packaged goodies with a Victorian theme. Flavors like absinthe and rose are front in center in a variety of chocolates and cookies, and Steampunk author Kit Cox (aka Major Jack Union) helped Miss Emily Ladybird to design the packaging and presentation. If you are planning a Steampunk event in the UK, or you need something special for a wedding, you should definitely keep Empire Edibles in mind.

Links:

Empire Edibles official site There is a note on the homepage that says the website is being revamped, but there is lots of information there in the meantime.

Empire Edibles Etsy shop

Empire Edibles Facebook page


Saville Row

1912 saville row

A drawing of the Royal Geographical society interior

In the early days after its construction in the 1730’s, “Saville Street” was home to officers of the British military. The next century it became the first home of the Geographical Society of London (today known as the Royal Geographical Society, RGS), which was granted its Royal Charter under Queen Victoria. The RGS was responsible for financing such notable expeditions as David Livingstone’s sojourn into Africa, which lead to the discovery of the Nile’s source (named Lake Victoria) by Sir Richard Burton and John Speke. The RGS moved its headquarters in 1913, which was also the same year that women were first allowed to join.

This is now the go-to place for bespoke men's fashion

This is still the go-to place for bespoke men’s fashion

During the Victorian era, Saville Row become strongly associated with the tailoring trade, and today the street is lined with stores selling natty men’s fashion. On a literary note, Jules Verne gives Phileas Fogg, the hero of Around the World in 80 Days, the address of No. 7 Saville Row. There isn’t a lot to see today, so for me, the most compelling thing about visiting this area ended up being the nearby Burlington Arcade.


The Reform Club

The Reform Club exteriorIf you have heard of this site, it is probably because of Around the World in 80 Days. Phileas Fogg’s journey began at The Reform (as it is colloquially named) over a game of cards, and ended in dramatic fashion on the same spot. The Reform was also featured in politically-minded novel entitled Phineas Finn, which was released as a serial by notable Victorian author Anthony Trollope from 1867-1868.

The club was founded in 1832 as a liberal bastion for people to exchange radical ideas in response to the conservative Whig Party that had held power in London for decades. For many years it was the unofficial headquarters for the Liberal Party, and boasts a huge library filled with contributions from its members. Unfortunately, the inside of the club is off-limits to non-members except for select groups that can visit during a special architectural festival in September, and the exterior is nothing special. But, you can see a few photos of the interior on their website.


Steampunk Sourcebook: Around the World in 80 Days

Around the World in 80 Days cover

Around the World in 80 Days cover

Fun Facts and Context

  • Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours  was Jules Verne’s 11th novel, and like many of the time it was first presented in a serialized format before it was compiled into a book in 1873. It was accompanied by the illustrations of Alphonse de Neuville, a French painter known for his depictions of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871).
  • Verne served in the Franco-Prussian War, and doing research for this book likely served to take his mind off of those events.
  • The dates of Fogg’s return to England coincided with the final date of publication for the original serial. Because of this, some readers believed they were reading a real travelogue rather than a fictional story.
  • Many people associate a hot air balloon trip with this story, but in fact there was no balloon in the original text. This is likely because the 1956 Disney film added an additional stop in Spain to the tale and the protagonists reached it by balloon. Jules Verne did write about a daring escape by balloon, but it wasn’t until The Mysterious Island was published in 1874.

Timeline and Synopsis of the Story

  • September 28, 1872: Bank of England is robbed. 50,000 GBP is stolen. This is the equivalent of four million GBP or 6.2 million USD today.
  • October 1, 1872: Phileas Fogg hires Passepartout as his new valet after his old valet gets the temperature of his shaving water wrong. Fogg goes from his home on Savile Row to the Reform Club as usual, and during a discussion about a new stretch of railroad in India he is drawn into a bet with his friends. With the hefty sum of 20,000 GBP (1.6 million today) on the line, he agrees to travel around the world and return at the same time 80 days later on December 21, 1872.
  • October 2, 1872: Fogg and Passepartout leave England by train.

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  • October 9, 1872: After a brief stopover in France, the travelers reach Suez, Egypt and meet Detective Fix for the first time. He is on the trail of the bank robber, and Fogg’s erratic behavior and passing resemblance to the vague description of the burglar make him a suspect. They leave Suez by ship with Fix in tow.
  • October 20, 1872: The travelers arrive in Bombay, India, two days ahead of schedule. Passepartout wanders into a temple and is chased out by the monks for not removing his shoes. He arrives at the platform and boards a train bound for Calcutta just in time.
  • From fiked.com

    From fiked.com

    October 22, 1872: Fogg’s train can go no further because the railway is unfinished, despite what the newspapers say. They manage to hire a guide called Parsee and an elephant named Kiouni to carry them on toward Calcutta.

  • October 24, 1872: While traveling through the jungle, the travelers encounter a ceremony where a young bride, Aouda, is being prepared to follow her aged husband into death. She cannot struggle because of the influence of drugs, so she is rescued by Fogg and another traveling companion after Passepartout creates a diversion by posing as the deceased man’s body and “rising from the dead” to scare the natives. They escape by means of their trusty elephant and continue to Calcutta.
  • October 25, 1872: The travelers arrive in Calcutta with five hours to spare to remain on their original itinerary despite the delay. As soon as they arrive Passepartout is arrested for his transgression in Bombay and both he and Fogg are taken into custody. They use some of Fogg’s considerable cash resources to pay off his valet’s debt and make the noon ship bound for Hong Kong. Aouda continues on the journey because India is no longer safe for her, and she knows of family living in China. Fix, still without a warrant but with high hopes for Britain’s Easternmost colony, tags along in secret.
  • November 7, 1872: The travelers arrive in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, Aouda’s family member had already moved away from Hong Kong years earlier. While out getting supplies for the next step of the journey, Passepartout gets news of an earlier departure time for their vessel. Fix still has not received his warrant for Fogg’s arrest and is determined to keep him from leaving British soil. Fix invites Passepartout out for a farewell drink and gets him to try opium. The valet becomes so besotted that he falls asleep and Fogg does not hear about the new travel arrangements. In his delirium, Passepartout says the name of the disembarking ship and is brought there and installed in his master’s cabin. He awakes the next morning to find that he has left his master behind, but determined to rejoin him somewhere along his route and alert him to the danger that Fix represents. Fogg hires a small vessel called the Tankadere to carry he and Aouda to Shanghai to catch the ferry to Yokohama at its next port.
  • verda192November 13, 1872: Passepartout arrives penniless in Yokohama, Japan. He seeks for ways to continue his journey to America to intercept Fogg by offering his services to the owner of a traveling circus. He is hired as an acrobat and during his first performance is astounded to see Fogg and Aouda in the audience, having also arrived in Yokohama after flagging down the American vessel in the port of Shanghai. Fix continues to travel with Fogg, who is covering all of his expenses.
  • November 23, 1872: Fogg and company pass the 180th meridian, which marks the halfway point of their circumnavigation of the planet.
  • December 3, 1872: The travelers reach San Francisco and are caught up in a political rally where Fogg has a confrontation with an American named Colonel Stamp Proctor. Fix steps in to help because he needs Fogg to return to England before he can be arrested. The company boards a train that evening intent upon using the Transcontinental Railway to reach New York.
  • December 7, 1872: Fogg runs into Colonel Proctor on the train and a duel ensues. It is interrupted by an attack on the train by the Sioux tribe. Passepartout is taken hostage and Fogg, Fix and Aouda are left behind when the train continues on its route as they attempt to devise a rescue mission. With the help of American soldiers stationed nearby, Fogg retrieves Passepartout and the travelers are forced to continue by way of a wind-powered sledge to Omaha in hopes of catching another train.
  • December 9, 1872: Arrive in Omaha and board a train for Chicago.
  • December 10, 1872: Arrive in Chicago and board a train for New York.
  • December 11, 1872: Arrive 45 minutes late for their steamship from New York to Liverpool.
  • December 12, 1872: The party boards a ship bound for Bordeaux with little hope of arriving in London before the December 21 deadline, but it is the only ship leaving with a destination even close to England.
  • December 16, 1872: Fogg proceeds to buy the ship from the captain and throw all of the wooden parts into the furnace to fuel their journey. He redirects the ship to bring them to Liverpool, England.
  • December 21, 1872: With six hours to reach London in order to win the bet, Fogg and co. arrive in Liverpool. They would have just enough time to beat their deadline, but now that they have finally arrived on English soil, Fix arrests Fogg. It doesn’t take long to find out the real bank robber had been caught during the mad dash around the world, but the short delay is just enough to lose the wager for Fogg. He arrives in London 5 minutes late.
  • Actually, December 21, 1872: The party gained an entire day during their journey, but they have yet to realize it. Aouda proposes marriage to Fogg and he heartily accepts. They intend to marry that very day and send Passepartout for the parson. When he arrives at the parson’s door he says he cannot perform the ceremony at that time because it is Sunday and he was busy on church business. Passepartout races back to Savile Row and whisks Fogg away to the Reform Club, where he arrives exactly on time to win the wager.
From wikipedia

From wikipedia

References in Steampunk Literature and Other Media

  • Philip Jose Farmer wrote The Other Log of Phileas Fogg as part of his Wold Newton Universe. In it, Fogg is the foster child of an alien and Captain Nemo is aligned with another race of aliens. The bet and journey around the world were an elaborate cover story to disguise Fogg’s quest for an alien artefact that would change the tide of the war between the two competing races.
  • It has been adapted for film five times since 1919, the most recent being in 2004, where martial arts expert and comedic actor Jackie Chan played Passepartout opposite Steven Coogan (Night at the Museum, Despicable Me 2) as Phileas Fogg in a new adaptation of the novel.
  • It has been adapted for television four times since 1972, including a Japanese version where all the characters are animals.
  • It was adapted for the stage for the first time in 2001 by Mark Brown. He has also written a sequel for the stage for another Victorian classic in the form of The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge.
  • In 2014, a game called “80 Days” was launched by Inkle Development Company. It is an interactive game that blends the story and retro-futuristic technology.
  • Also in 2014, Ben Steele released a version of Around the World in 80 Days (a Steampunk Reimagining) with illustrations by Josh Ross. It includes “lost” content and a board game.
  • The International Steampunk Symposium in April of 2015 is going to feature the theme “Around the World in 48 Hours” as an homage to Verne’s work.

“Big Ben” and the House of Parliament

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The House of Parliament and its iconic clock tower date to 1844 and were built after the original building was destroyed by a fire in 1834. Although today we know the tower as “Big Ben,” this is technically the name given to the huge bell that accompanies the world’s largest four-sided clock. The tower has officially been known as the Elizabeth Tower since 2012 to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee, and prior to that was simply The Clock Tower.

However, during Victorian times journalists often referred to it as St Stephen’s tower because Members of Parliament (MPs) held their proceedings in St Stephen’s hall. In fact, there is a St. Stephen’s tower on the Westminster premise, but it is much smaller than the clock tower, which is the third tallest in the world. While you can tour the House of Parliament, the tower itself is off-limits unless you are a British citizen with express permission from an MP.


The Science Museum, London

Science Museum 1This is definitely a must-see attraction for any Steampunk visiting London. The first exhibit you come to is called Energy Hall and features full-size steam engines and has interactive features that show you the physics of how they work and give the history of how they fit into the evolution of steam technology as a whole.

But, the absolute best exhibit hall is Making the Modern world. It offers a veritable cornucopia of amazing inventions, including Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 1 and a working model of a Victorian-era workshop run on a belt system.

 

Like the Museum of London, I would definitely recommend this as a great place to take people with mixed interests because the museum also has exhibits on the history of agriculture, real objects used in the early days of space travel and a “4D” cinema that has films on a wide range of topics.

 


The Albert Memorial

People spend a lot of their time focusing on Queen Victoria, but the Prince Consort Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel (but just Prince Albert for short) was also an incredibly influential figure in shaping the city of London. Among other things, he was instrumental in organizing the Great Exhibition (1851), reforming education in Britain, and championed the cause of the universal abolition of slavery. Though their marriage was to some extent arranged, the Prince Consort and the Queen clearly had a loving relationship, and when he died at the age of only 42 in 1861 his passing deeply affected Victoria. She wore mourning garb for the rest of her reign– her black clothing and understated appearance have become closely associated with her iconography and are seen in many depictions and monuments.

Albert MemorialThere are many memorials and buildings that carry Albert’s name, and my favorite was the Albert Memorial in the Kensington Gardens. The huge, Gothic Revival-styled architectural part of the sculpture was “opened” in 1872, but it wasn’t formally dedicated by the Queen until the seated figure of Albert was placed into it in 1875. The polished bronze of the sculpture and the gilded angels on the canopy glint in the sunshine and catch the eye even from a great distance.

The figure of the Prince Consort is not the only sculptural element of the memorial. There are also eight allegorical stone sculptures that are divided into two groups. One set expresses the Victorian sciences and arts of agriculture, engineering, commerce, and manufacturing, while the second set reflects the continents of Asia, Africa, The Americas, and Europe. The entire memorial is surrounded by a gorgeous iron fence painted burgundy and gold. There are also several mosaics in the canopy as well as a frieze, but the fence keeps you from getting close enough to see these elements well. I was really glad for the zoom feature on my camera, which allowed me to see some details, or you might consider bringing binoculars.


Music to Steampunk by: Frenchy and the Punk

Frenchy and the Punk WebsiteBanner

I missed my chance to see the Frenchy and the Punk performance during Weekend at the Asylum, but I’m not going to miss sharing this dynamic duo with you! “Frenchy” (Samantha Stephenson) was on the panel for the Steampunk on the International Scene session at the con, and she shared that though she and “The Punk” (Scott Helland) hadn’t necessarily set out to be a Steampunk band, the way to community had embraced them was amazing and she was so thankful to be doing what she loves for an appreciative audience.

This “Folk Punk Cabaret” band is currently touring in the US, so if you are lucky you might get to see them this Spring.

Upcoming Tour Dates

Jan 16-18 HRM Steampunk Symposium @ Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA

Jan 22 Pond 5, New York, NY

March 6-8 Wild Wild West Steampunk Con, Old Tucson, AZ

Apr 24-26 International Steampunk Symposium, Cincinnati, OH

May 15-17 Steampunk World’s Fair, New Jersey


The Museum of London

This institution has two different locations, but I only got a chance to make it to the one just north of the Millennium Bridge. (the other is at the seafront and focuses on the history of the docklands and shipping industry). The city of London has a very long history, so there is lots to see that doesn’t fit into my Steampunk theme, which can make it ideal for entertaining a group with varied interests. I loved the open format of the exhibits that allows visitors to meander through history, including one of the best displays on the everyday life during the Roman Empire that my Historian hubby has ever seen.

From the Pleasure Garden exhibit at the Museum of London

From the Pleasure Garden exhibit at the Museum of London

On the steamy side, there is tons to see. There was an amazing immersive exhibit about pleasure gardens like those that became popular during the 1800s. The darkened space features really cool period clothes, and videos that appear on the walls featuring people wearing them and acting out scenes. The mannequins are also sculptures in their own right and are lit according to what is being shown on the walls. The low light made it difficult to capture with a camera, especially because I didn’t want a flash to ruin the experience for other visitors, but trust me when I tell you it was captivating.

There is also a series of Victorian storefronts that you can walk through that are chockfull of period-appropriate merchandise and props. There is a big-wheel bike out in the open if you want a picture with one.

I also liked the displays of shoes, watches, and other technology that were strewn around in some of the other period sections. The exhibit on the suffrage movement was extremely well done, though I was shocked by a lot of what I saw. I had no idea how violent the pursuit of voting rights became in Britain. All in all, it is a wonderful museum with free admission and worth a whole day’s visit.


Steampunk Sourcebook: Jack the Ripper

On display at the Museum of London

On display at the Museum of London

Jack the Ripper is the world’s most famous serial killer, both because of the brutality of the murders and the fact that the crimes are still unsolved. I have seen many Steampunk works make reference to the Whitechapel Murders as a means of situating their stories in time, as well as Jack appearing as a character in movies and books. But with so many interpretations floating around, it can be hard to keep the facts straight, so here is a cheat sheet to help you get it right.

(I went on a Jack the Ripper tour while I was in London for my Steam Tour research and you can read about it here.)

The Murders

  • In 1888 there were a string of murders in the Whitechapel District of London. Due to the similarities between the victims, modus of the murders, and the proximity of the crimes they were attributed to the same killer. There are five women who are generally accepted as victims of the same serial killer, but there easily could have been more murders that were never discovered, or there could have been more than one murderer.
    • Murder #1: Mary Ann Nichols, killed sometime between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m. on August 30, 1888. She was an alcoholic, which led to her separation from her husband in 1882 and her inability to keep any other job than prostitute. Her throat was cut and her abdomen was mutilated.
    • Murder #2: Annie “Dark Annie” Chapman, killed at approximately 5:30 a.m. on September 8, 1888. After the death of one of her children by meningitis, she and her husband both became heavy drinkers and separated in 1884. Her husband was required by law to provide for her welfare, but he died in 1886 from alcohol poisoning. She tried to support herself through crocheting and selling flowers, but was also involved in prostitution.
    • Murder #3: Elizabeth “Long Liz” Stride, killed sometime between 12:35 and 1:00 a.m. on September 30, 1888. Her throat was cut and her abdomen was mutilated. The postmortem doctor identified the weapon as a thin knife blade, approximately 6-8 inches in length. Like the other victims she and her husband separated, but she was a prostitute before and after her marriage fell apart. She spoke Yiddish and Swedish in addition to English.
    • Murder #4: Catherine Eddowes (aka Kate Conway and Kate Kelly), killed a few hours after Elizabeth Stride on September 30, 1888. She left her first common-law husband, Thomas Conway, and her three children in 1880. Later, she took up with John Kelly and they lived together in a lodging house on Flower Street. The night of her death she was arrested for drunkenness and held at the Bishopsgate police station until approximately 1:30 a.m. Within minutes she was killed on her way home. Her face and her abdomen were mutilated, and a piece of her ear as well as her kidney was taken by the killer.
    • Murder #5: Mary Jane “Fair Emma” Kelly (aka “Ginger” and “Black Mary”) was killed November 9, 1888. It is believed that the increase in police patrols accounts for the lag between the deaths of Eddowes and Kelly. Her origin is less well-documented than the other victims, but sources say she was the widow of a coal miner with the surname Davies who died in an explosion around 1881. Like the other victims, she was a drinker and reportedly sang Irish songs while enjoying her gin, so it is believed she hailed from Ireland. Unlike the other victims, she was found murdered in her home around 10:45 a.m. and the time of death was set at between 6 and 8 a.m. that morning. Her body was extensively mutilated, the coroner believed the murderer took more than two hours to complete his task.
  • During press coverage, the killer was most often referred to as “The Whitechapel Murderer” or “Leather Apron” because of the aprons worn by butchers. The name “Jack” became connected to the murders after letters began to arrive at news outlets and signed by that name.
  • The five canonized Ripper killings occurred between August and November of 1888, but police continued to investigate a total of 11 murders that they suspected were linked up until 1891.

The Suspects

  • Historians and hobbyists alike have speculated over the identity of The Ripper, and some sources say as many as 500 different people (including at least one woman) have come under suspicion. Many of these people were not suspects during the actual investigation and that is far too many to talk about here to I will only highlight the most well-known and/or plausible.
  • According to some, Jack’s identity was already discovered in 2014—or was it? A silk shawl that supposedly belonged to one of the victims underwent DNA testing starting in 2007. In 2014, a book by Russell Edwards detailed the findings of scientist Jari Louhelainen, who claims to have definitive evidence that identifies Aaron Kominski as the notorious murderer.  Kominski came under suspicion in 1888 at the age of 23 and died in a mental institution 30 years later. Unfortunately, Louhelainen made at least two major errors in his analysis that were brought to light in October 2014, rendering the conclusions useless. The search continues.
  • Others think that the Jack the Ripper conspiracy went all the way to the highest levels of government. Spoiler alert! In the 2001 Johnny Depp flick called “From Hell,” Jack is in fact Prince Edward “Eddy” Victor, aka “grandson” to queen Victoria. According to the theory, Eddy impregnated a low-class girl (and a Catholic no less!) and to avoid the scandal, the queen ordered the matter be “taken care of.” Annie Crook and her royal offspring are spirited away by the royal physician, John Gull, but her friends like Mary Kelly are making too much noise about the disappearance and must be silenced. The serial killer who hates prostitutes is created to cover the real scandal and claims many victims.
  • Others actually suspect John Gull himself as the murderer because of the precision of the cuts made to the victims and the fact that Jack was never caught points to some kind of conspiracy in the minds of many enthusiasts.
  • One of the more likely suspects is Seweryn Klosowski (aka George Chapman), a Polish-born Jew who had only been in Whitechapel a short time before the murders began. In 1903 he was convicted on three counts of murder and hanged for killing his wives. This would seem to make him a very good suspect indeed, but he killed his known victims with poison, not brutality, and serial murderers rarely change their modus operandi.
  • John Pizer was arrested in 1888 for the murders, but was later let go because he had alibis (including talking to a policeman) during two of the five canonical murders. The Sergeant who arrested him, William Thicke, allegedly had personal animosity against Pizer and no evidence whatsoever. Pizer sought reparations from at least one of the news outlets that reported he was the murderer. Thicke was later accused as being The Ripper in a letter sent to The Home Office, but this was likely a hoax and was never followed up on by the authorities.

batman-gotham-by-gaslight-000Jack the Ripper in Literature

  • Gotham by Gaslight (1989) pits Jack against Batman in Gotham City.
  • In the Steampunk Chronicles series by Kady Cross, Jack is a character.
  • Ripper (2012), by Stefan Petrucha, follows the quest of young man from New York City to find his father in London, but instead finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation.
  • Ripper (2012), by Amy Carol Reeves, is about a young woman who is volunteering at a Whitechapel hospital and has visions of the Ripper’s murders before they happen.

PosterJack the Ripper in Other Media

  • Ripper Street” is a BBC show about rebuilding Whitechapel in the wake of the Ripper killings. It began in 2012 and the third season is airing as of now (January 2015). (Review coming soon!)
  • Time After Time” (1979) Jack the Ripper uses H. G. Wells time machine to escape his own time and is pursued by Wells to San Francisco, CA.
  • From Hell” (2001) Johnny Depp and Heather Graham star in this film that takes its name from one of the famous Ripper letters that were sent to the press.
  • Progress” is a webseries that operates in an alternative Victorian London where there is already a steam-powered internet. You can watch the first three episodes for free at progresstheseries.com.
  • A game for Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows entitled “Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper” was released in 2009.

SH vs JtR game

Did I miss and Ripper references, books or movies you know? Please leave a comment so I can add to my list!


The Tower Bridge Part 3: The Inner Workings

Tower Bridge Engine Room 1My favorite part by far of visiting the Tower Bridge was venturing into the engine rooms below street level. The green and black coal-powered hydraulic engines reminded me of a giant mechanical grasshopper ready to spring, and made the whole exhibition worth the admission fee. One of the biggest surprises for me during Steam Tour was how colorful some of these old engines are! If you are a fan of engines and haven’t seem my post about the London Museum of Water and Steam don’t forget to take a look.

How it works: “When it was built, Tower Bridge was the largest and most sophisticated bascule bridge ever completed (“bascule” comes from the French for “see-saw”). These bascules were operated by hydraulics, using steam to power the enormous pumping engines. The energy created was stored in six massive accumulators, as soon as power was required to lift the Bridge, it was always readily available. The accumulators fed the driving engines, which drove the bascules up and down. Despite the complexity of the system, the bascules only took about a minute to raise to their maximum angle of 86 degrees.” From the Tower Bridge website.

For more information and pictures from my visit to the Tower Bridge, check out Parts 1 and 2.


The Tower Bridge Part 2: The Exhibition

View from the Tower BridgeVisiting the bridge and looking at the outside is of course free, but visiting The Tower Bridge Exhibition within has a small fee. Visitors begin by going up into the top of the north tower where there is a short introductory video with a screen that blends into the Victorian era props around it. Afterwards you get to move into the tower and enjoy the historical and artistic exhibits on the East and West Walkways. I can’t say that the walkway exhibits were the highlight, but there was some interesting information about the history of bridge construction for “how does it work?” types. (You should go to their website for more info on what exhibits are currently on view.)

They recently installed glass floors on the West Walkway, but this was shortly after my visit in September 2014 so I didn’t get a chance to experience this aspect of the bridge. I can only imagine the incredible view onto the bustling street below, but I can vouch for the panoramic views of the city from the top of the towers!

But for me, the best was yet to come. As part of your exhibition admission, you also get to visit the engine room that used to power the raising of the bridge. So check out The Tower Bridge Part 3: The Inner Workings next time!


The Tower Bridge Part 1: The Outside

Tower Bridge 1Due to increased commercial activity along the Thames in the 19th century, the city of London needed to create bridges to allow access to both sides of the river without hindering the approach of tallships like the Cutty Sark (see above). To accomplish this goal, a committee was formed in 1877 to decide on a design for either a tunnel below the river or a bridge that allow traffic to cross over the water. More than 50 designs were considered before Sir Horace Jones’ hydraulic drawbridge was chosen in 1884, which took 10 years to complete. You can see some of the design submissions here.

Though the bridge has two towers built on foundations sunk deep in the river bottom, the name Tower Bridge comes from the nearby Tower of London. The bridge gets its strength from a steel skeleton, but the designers also used Portland stone across the facade to add a cosmetic touch.


The Leadenhall Market

IMG_1754The site of this market has been a trade center in London dating back to the Roman period, but its current visage was constructed in 1881. Like the Hay’s Gallery, it is enclosed by an amazing wrought iron and glass ceiling, which shelters the various shops and bars within. The Victorian redesign of the original stone marketplace was by none other than Horace Jones, the Architect and Surveyor of the City of London from 1864 to 1887. Though he is best known for the Tower Bridge, Jones was responsible for several markets around the city. Unfortunately most of them have been destroyed, damaged or moved in the century that followed.

I passed through the Leandenhall Market complex on a weekday at happy hour, and many of the city’s well-dressed businessmen were enjoying an after-work cocktail near the main intersection of this pedestrian area. I wandered around some of the side streets and also found an incredible hanging sculpture made out of books that look like they are flying around the halls. On a side note, The Leadenhall Market has appeared in several films, including as the access point for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Like what you see? Check out my posts about The Sherlock Holmes Museum, The London Museum of Water and Steam, and The Tower Bridge!


And, We’re Back…

Hello friends, family and fans!

Most of the zine is into the final draft stage and with my relaxing holiday trip behind me I am ready to get back to blogging. During my hiatus I reached another milestone, 30,000 views and I couldn’t be happier 🙂

Here are a few things to look forward to this year:

1. A 12-part series on “How to Punk Your Steam” starting in January

2. More pictures and articles from my time in London

3. Book reviews galore!

4. Sourcebooks on H. G. Wells, Jack the Ripper, Murdoch Mysteries and more

5. My 3-D paper illustrations for Steampunk Alchemy, a new project by Penny Blake

6. Reviews of RPG games Hive Queen and Country and Everyday Extraordinaries

Have a wonderful New Year’s celebration and I am looking forward to lots of posts, comments and sharing in 2015!


Some More Great Gift Ideas From Airship Flamel

I am almost finished with the first draft of Steam Tour: An American Steampunk in London and my editor has been a busy little elf so many sections are ready to move onto the second draft today. Speaking of busy, my friend over at Airship Flamel has also been busy over the last couple weeks compiling his 12 Days of Steampunk Christmas series. Enjoy!

On the Twelfth Day of Steampunk Christmas…

On the Eleventh Day of Steampunk Christmas…

On the Tenth Day of Steampunk Christmas…

On the Ninth Day of Steampunk Christmas…

On the Eighth Day of Steampunk Christmas…

On the Seventh Day of Steampunk Christmas…

On the Sixth Day of Steampunk Christmas…

On the Fifth Day of Steampunk Christmas…

On the Fourth Day of Steampunk Christmas…

On the Third Day of Steampunk Christmas…

On the Second Day of Steampunk Christmas…

On the First Day of Steampunk Christmas…


Midwest BSFA Presents: The Cocoa Cabaret

Here’s one for my fellow Midwesterners, this sounds like a great hootenanny. Wish I could be there!

Midwest Black Speculative Fiction Alliance

cocoa cabaret

Calling all Afrofuturists, steampunks and dieselpunks…get yo @ss to the past that never was at the Cocoa Cabaret! DJ Apryl Reign, 2010 Red Bull Thre3Style regional winner, will spin a set of electroswing/house music and there will be a costume contest for the best-dressed attendees. Tarot card reader, jewelry vendors and more. Don’t forget to dress in steampunk/dieselpunk/Roaring ’20s attire! Admission: $5. 8-11 p.m., The Greenwich. 2442 Gilbert Ave., Walnut Hills (Cincinnati, Ohio 45206)

For the uninitiated, steampunk is “a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery and is often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American ‘Wild West’ in which steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power” (think movies like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Steamboy, Howl’s Moving Castle and Hugo). In recent years, more people of color who…

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The Christmas Tree in Victorian England: a Steampunk Perspective

A nice little piece of history to tide you over while I work on Steam Tour 🙂

Cogpunk Steamscribe

Art by Brian Kesinger Art by Brian Kesinger

 I must now seek in the children an echo of what Ernest and I were in the old time, of what we felt and thought; and their delight in the Christmas-trees is not less than ours used to be.

Prince Albert, 1847

The decorated Christmas tree came into fashion in England during the Victorian era, and the practice was spreading to the rest of Europe … but the Christmas tree was originally a German tradition. In the early 19th century, the Christmas tree was taken to be an expression of the finer aspects of German Culture, especially among emigrants overseas. Queen Victoria had some familiarity with the tradition as a child, but it was really the German Prince Albert who embraced celebrating Christmas with a tree.

You can follow the popularity of the Christmas tree by its appearance in literature and the media. There was no mention of a tree in the poem, A Visit from…

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Let Slip Those Magnificent Gasbags Of The Air!

This is a great look at dirigibles and other airships in literature.

COLD CLIPS

There are lots of technologies out there that sound wonderful on paper, but never make it commercially. They work, but don’t get adopted widely. One of them is airships or dirigibles, as they were once known.

But one place where they still do ply is in steampunk literature, a science-fiction genre, set in the past. “A Nomad of the Time Streams” is a magnificent trilogy by Michael Moorcock in which a British army officer named Oswald Bastable is forever lost in time, getting shunted from one version of 20th century Western history to another.

“The Warlord of the Air,” the first volume of the series, is packed from stem to stern, with stately, behemoth airships.

When he’s flung into the future from his own time, 1902—the year Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square, New York, opened its doors—into 1973 A.D., he’s rescued by a silver, cigar-shaped balloon, of the Royal…

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Hay’s Gallery and “The Navigators”

IMG_1734The Tower Bridge is worth visiting all on its own, but when I spent a day exploring the area I also found some other great things to tickle your Steampunk fancy. I could see on the map that St. Katherine’s Marina was nearby, and on my way I found a hidden treasure tucked away inside a Hay’s Gallery. In it’s heyday in the 19th century, the then-named Hay’s Wharf received 80% of the tea shipments bound for the Pool of London. Today the amazing glass ceiling provides shelter to restaurants, homes and shops in Victorian-era buildings, as well as an amazing sculpture called “The Navigators.”

The combination fountain and sculpture by David Kemp was installed in 1987 and has a decidedly Steampunk feel. The 60-foot homage to the shipping history of the area is made of bronze which has been pleasantly oxidizing. Some parts of the piece have been selectively polished, and the pool has been painted blue which detracts somewhat from the artist’s original intention to combine “Gothic fantasy, sea monsters, man & machine in this Kinetic Sculpture”, but it is still a lovely piece installed in a historic setting that reflects the Steampunk aesthetic from around the time the term was coined. (http://www.davidkemp.uk.com/the-navigatorslondon-bridge/)


The London Museum of Water and Steam

IMG_0763This is my pick for the best place on my entire Steam Tour to take your littlest Steampunks. There are fun, hands-on exhibits about the water cycle and great info about the history of harnessing the Thames and combatting the Cholera outbreaks through London’s history. But the most exciting parts of the museum complex is room after room of real, working steam engines. They don’t run every engine every day, but I was lucky enough to visit on a bank holiday when they did run every engine for at least 15 minutes at some point during their open hours.

In the courtyard there are some smaller engines as well as a station to make giant bubbles in the afternoon, so that is another plus for kids. There is also a replica of a Victorian-era workshop where all the machines run on the same belt system (the original workshop was destroyed during the Blitz) and they offer tours.


Spotlight on Traders: Island of Dr. Geof

The HindenBOOB by Dr. GeoffWhile I was in Lincoln for Weekend at the Asylum in September I got a chance to meet several of the Steampunk world’s writers and traders. During the run of Longitude Punk’d at the Royal Observatory, the Cutty Sark was also featuring a tea-riffic exhibit of Dr. Geoff’s printwork. And then at the markets for Asylum, I got a chance to meet that man himself selling his wares. We traded stickers and had a nice little chat, and I got to see more of his whimsical work. Most of his work has a military bent, while other pieces dabble in the risque, but for me that is the fun!

The good Doctor also offers a variety of Steampunk-inspired pins and patches to compliment his work on paper, and you can see what he has to offer on his website.