Horten Ho IX German flying wing artwork

Strange Aircraft of the Third Reich: Real and Imagined

Did you know many of the strange German warplanes we see in dieselpunk are based on real designs?

As World War II drew to a close in Europe, Nazi Germany rushed the development of advanced bombers and fighter jets in a final effort to stop the Allies. From the world’s first operational turbojet fighter to a flying wing, some of these technologies were so far ahead of their time that Allied commanders speculated the Germans could have turned the tide of the war if only they had managed to prolong it by a few months.

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Airliner Number 4

Norman Bel Geddes’ Fantastical Airliner

Norman Bel Geddes was an American industrial designer and futurist who had a major influence on the streamlined Art Deco design of the 1930s and 40s.

Few of Geddes’ designs came to fruition. A notable exception was the General Motors Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, called Futurama.

One of his unrealized designs was “Airliner Number 4,” a nine-deck amphibian airliner that he sketched in 1929.

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British navy airship

Airships in War: Not So Successful in the Real World

The golden age of the airship began around the turn of the last century, when the first Luftschiff Zeppelin — named after the German Count von Zeppelin who pioneered the construction of rigid airships — was launched.

The possibility that airships might be used in war was quickly recognized. George Griffith’s The Angel of the Revolution (1893, our review here) has airship bombing Russia’s major cities. H.G. Wells’ The War in the Air (1908) describes the obliteration of entire fleets by aerial attack.

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Vickers Company airship

Airships: True Liners of the Skies

Although airships are popular in steampunk, their heydays came during the era that is more typically associated with dieselpunk. They shared the skies with that other novelty, the aeroplane. The two coexist elegantly in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004).

Planes represent adventure and perhaps a tad of recklessness. Airships exhale confidence and grandeur. They represent an era that was characterized by progress and great confidence in it.

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Austro-Hungarian armored train

Railways and War

Probably there is nothing more steampunk than the locomotive — besides the airship, of course. Railways have always represented movement, freedom, human genius, but after their introduction they soon became infected by the germ of war and started serving destructive purposes.

This seems to be the sad destiny of all human inventions, from the ancient chariots to the modern airplanes.

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Canal Defense Light artwork

Scatter! Britain’s Secret Tank Weapon

From a narrow slit in the thick steel hide of the British tank a light burst out. The blinding 13-million candlepower light pierced the darkness when a moment later the solid beam of light changed on the command of “Scatter!”

Reaching into the inky night the shaft of light began to strobe. It dazzled and disoriented the enemy who unwisely tried to take aim at its brilliant flicking beam. With the adversary illuminated and confused, the tank rolled through the countryside ready to finish off their foe. Continue reading “Scatter! Britain’s Secret Tank Weapon”

A7V Sturmpanzerwagen

A7V Sturmpanzerwagen

Whenever a new technology is introduced, whether on the battlefield or at home, there is always a brief period when inventors, unfamiliar with the new concepts, begin experimenting with designs and plans, trying to push innovation to the limit. While these experiments occasionally produce useful results, the great majority end up on the scrap heap of history.

One such forgotten experiment was the A7V Sturmpanzerwagen, an early German attempt at creating a battle-ready tank. Continue reading “A7V Sturmpanzerwagen”

RMS Mauretania

RMS Mauretania

On July 28, 1938, at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead, England, the flagship of the new Cunard White Star Line was launched. In honor of the proud and record-breaking vessel that served Cunard between 1906 and 1934, this ship was christened Mauretania and — like her predecessor — destined to become a favorite among transatlantic travelers because of her speed and luxury.

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