The manufactory overseer clapped Tarvo on the shoulder. "You're really doing all of us here a favor, taking Wendel's shift. Wanted to make sure you knew we appreciated it."
"It's not a big deal." Tarvo gave the overseer a smile. It was more the emergency pay than anything else; 70F a day to monitor a manufactory's powered presses was a great pay rate. Wendel himself was unhappy about losing his shifts, but his fever kept him in bed.
The overseer gave Tarvo a quick tour of the manufactory floor. "I'm sure you've seen all of this before. It's a standard Power-loom setup. Raw cotton goes in on one side, bolts of cloth come out the other. The only thing we've added is a secondary thread injector to permit adulteration of the cotton, in case we get an order to weave in Resonance Mineral for a wizard or making shimmercloth for a couturier. We're the only shop that can do that without needing a master weaver on staff."
Tarvo nodded solemnly. The overseer was not up to date, every new-generation textile manufactory had this capability. "Seems pretty straightforward."
"We've made improvements to some of the flows to minimze jams. Your shift should be uneventful, just make sure that you keep the line running." At that, a massive *bang* was heard, somewhere distant in the city, and the Power-looms came to a shuddering halt.
The overseer cursed as all the manufactory workers sprang into action. "Damned power outage again. The main grid disconnect is up on the catwalk near the rod-head, go flip it. We'll get the boiler running." He sprinted off towards a side room as Tarvo ran towards the ladder to the catwalk overhang.
The disconnect was easy enough to find on the far side of the catwalk, and Tarvo pulled the clutch gear out roughly. This was the only thing that connected the manufactory to grid power, but if they were to start the boiler with the clutch gear in place, they'd be attempting to power the whole of the Capital from a single boiler.
A call from below. "Are we disconnected?" The boiler room was visible from Tarvo's perch on the catwalk, as its room was not roofed in.
"Yeah." Tarvo waved the clutch gear at the manufactory overseer, who nodded and turned to the others in the boiler room. They lit the boiler off, and the wood smoke began to pour out, an acrid, unpleasant smell. The manufactory was not built with the boiler in mind, and was insufficiently ventilated. Tarvo coughed into his elbow.
"Oy! Tarvo, there's a door to the roof farther down the catwalk. Get yourself into fresh air and prop the door, we'll do the same after we make sure the line's running." The boiler was at full steam now, and the Power-looms were slowly getting back into action.
During the development of Power
in 610, it was noted by several researchers that a power-wheel could be rotated by anything - flowing rivers, windy valleys, animal power, and steam. Experiments with using boiled water to drive a power-wheel were promising, as a way to generate power anywhere, unchained from geographic limits. An experimental boiler apparatus was built in 612 and was used to deliver power to a small town in Nasse that was distant from any conventional Power source.
Unfortunately, the limitations of this technology became immediately apparent - the only readily available fuel was wood and rendered animal fats. The amount of wood it took to drive a reasonably-sized flatrod power grid was colossal, and mathematical calculations indicated that a city the size of the Etoile Capital City
proper would consume its area-footage in forest every season. As a result, the boilers were dismantled, and the town went unpowered until a nearby river was redirected in 624. While the technology remains available and known to every power-engineer, it is considered non-viable for mass use, only being deployed in emergencies and as back-up for other Power sources.
Two general limitations restrict the widespread use of boilers - the cost of the boiler apparatus itself (a pressure vessel requiring specialized metalworking to not burst under heat), and the cost of wood to fuel the boiler, in addition to the standard flywheel charging systems. As a result, the only organization to use steamwork boilers at scale are the armored cavalry forces of the Principality of Etoile
. Massive boilers mounted on the back of enormous power-wagons can be fueled by local forests, and their presence in a formation are required for the deployment of cavalry assault prows and launcher wagons. Without the ability to recharge their flywheels in the field, the cavalry would be restricted to only operating within range of the closest Power recharge wheel.
Notably, boilers are not used by the Principality Navy; Siege-sails
do not have ready access to burnable fuel on the seas, and carrying wood in the quantities required turned out to be counterproductive, as the encumbrance of the fuel outweighed any additional range advantage.
Other than the aforementioned military use of boilers, certain manufactories maintain a boiler apparatus on-site in the event of Power failure. This can be a failure of the main city power-generation wheel or a failure of the transmission flatrods; in either circumstance, manufactories that deem it worthwhile can disconnect from the mains power grid and start their boilers in order to maintain production in the short-term. The high cost of the fuel makes this only tenable for the most valuable of manufactured goods.
As boilers are hundred-year-old technology, they are simple in concept. A traditional power generation wheel is mated to a pressure system composed of two parts; the boiling chamber itself, and the steam recapture pipes. Water boiled in the chamber sends steam directly upwards, driving the wheel and producing power. The steam then condenses into water again in the recapture pipes and is boiled again once it returns to the boil chamber. Other than the skill required to rivet a sealed heat chamber, any power-engineer can readily construct the apparatus from common parts.
The heat of the steam, however, creates temperature stresses on the pressure chamber and the generation wheel, necessitating even more frequent maintenance and upkeep cycles.