Blacktrack Rattlers Vehicle in Numiastra | World Anvil

Blacktrack Rattlers

The legendary locomotives that link the cities of the Iron Empire , hurtling high above the Diesel Fields at supersonic speeds

First time on a Rattler? Why didn't you say so?! It's a downright transcendental experience, my friend.   With nothing but steam, steel, and blackpowder, we're finally able to let the common man experience what those filthy mages have kept for themselves!   By jove, yes - teleportation! Bit by bit, we're doing it...stripping away everything that they used to hide behind magic for, and giving them to the common man!   Ahhh, the feeling of the Blasting Vaults firing, being pressed into your seat...its exhilerating. Come now - I'll buy you a ticket. It's a once in a lifetime experience.
— Conversation Overhead at the Boarding Platform of a Blacktrack Depot

Power Generation

Wholly unique to the Iron Empire, the Blacktrack Rattlers utilize a three-stage Power Generation system - each of which serve a vital role in the function of the blisteringly quick Locomotive.  
  1. Blasting Vaults: The first and last stage of the Blacktrack Rattler's power generation methods, these Vaults are vast, impregnable compartments built into the front and rear of the Rattlers which are filled with the finest and most volatile stores of Numiastran Blackpowder - which is later released in massive, bone-rattling detonations to get the train moving or stopping in sudden bursts. Though many initially assume this to be a gross waste of resources(Even if Blackpowder is a nearly limitless resource), the extreme weight of the Rattler because of its hyper-advanced protection plating designed to endure the rippling shockwaves of breaking such ludicrous speeds means that conventional methods cannot be used to slowly drive it up to speed.
  3. Steam Engines: The thundering heart and soul of the Rattlers, these massive engines generate titanic amounts of steam by working in concert with the Diesel Lines to boil the enormous water storage tanks, creating vast quantities of steam that roar within the Rattler's Iron heart. These Engines, which can number from anywhere between two to six interlocking engines depending on the size of the Rattler in question, are designed primarily to keep the Rattler at the speeds its' Blasting Vaults allow it to reach initially, kicking in after the multi-stage detonations cycle the Rattler's enormous bulk up to speed, shunting into motion to send enormous amounts of steam into the pistonpipes which run the wheels that lock it onto the track.
  5. Diesel Lines: A more recent addition to the propulsion systems of the Blacktrack Rattlers in response to the ever-increasing proficiency of the Gangs of The Diesel Fields constantly seeking to knock the Rattlers off their tracks to slaughter their inhabitants and claim the riches inside as their own, the Diesel Lines are long tubes that run throughout the superstructure of the Rattler along its top, just under the tracks that connect the tops of the Rattler to the rails that they shoot across between the cities. These lines are primarily used to provide more efficient and safe means of heating the boilers for the Steam Engines, and allow for better and tighter grip between the Rattler and the Tracks it travels on, using the expansion and contraction of metal under extreme heat and cold - an important feature that allows the Rattler to "jump" blown sections of rail if they are short enough, or to not immediately compact if part of the track it travels on is warped or damaged, as was a danger in the past.


By far the most complex system on the Blacktrack Rattlers by necessity, their propulsion systems are multistage, complex systems that begin even as the Rattler sits in the Blacktrack Depot that it begins its journey from - in these long, massive metal tubes where the behemoths sit when boarding passengers and cargo, truly titanic quantities of the finest Numiastran Blackpowder is poured from Powder Nozzles in the Depot into the numerous Blasting Vaults built into the Rattler's superstructure at points near the front and back.   Once fully boarded and loaded, the first stage of propulsion begins in earnest after workers on the Rattler ensure all passengers and cargo are securely fastened to prevent injury or death - once the all-clear is given, the first of the Blasting Vaults are sparked by the massive Sparkhammers built into the Blacktrack Rattlers near its Blasting Vaults, detonating the first of its Powder Vaults and rocketing it forward at enormous speeds down the thin barrel of the Depot much like a bullet fired from an enormous gun, the rifling of the depot walls multipling the force of the ignited Blasting Vaults and directing it backwards for maximum propelling force.   By the time the Rattler leaves the Depot Barrel, four of its eight Blasting Vaults will be sparked and detonated(Or less, if the journey is not being made at top speed) to get the crushingly heavy steel behemoth up to its top speed of a blistering 800+ miles per hour(1,287 km/h), as its Diesel Lines begin pumping to tightly anchor it to the overhead tracks as it shoots out of the Depot and into The Diesel Fields, rocketing across the land high above the ground on suspended tracks as its Steam Engines begin thundering to help the beast keep its speed for the journey.   Assuming nothing goes wrong during the journey, the final stage of any Blacktrack Rattler's journey is by far the most dangerous - the braking stage, which involves getting the locomotive back down to speeds low enough to allow it to come a stop in the Blacktrack Braking Depot at its destination. This, however, is no easy task - stopping a screaming metal deathmachine rocketing over the land at such insane speeds when it weighs(For a fully loaded Rattler) potentially over a million pounds(453,600 kg) requires the multi-stage detonations of the Rattler's forward Blasting Vaults, which serve the vital purpose of sharply braking the metal beast and lowering its speeds such that the massive, interlocking Steam Plates in the Braking Depots can "Catch" the Rattler and bring it to a complete stop in suitably violent but otherwise safe fashion. This entire braking process, however, requires masterful control over the Rattler by its Conductor who steers and controls it - the slightest wrong move could easily lead to faulty distribution of the impact weight across the Rattler's Shockplates, resulting in crumpling of the superstructure and the deaths of its passengers in horrifically grisly fashion.

Weapons & Armament

On average, Blacktrack Rattlers carry little to no weaponry - its enormous bulk is weapon enough, and it relies on speed and weight to clear the path of any obstacles of beasts.   However, there are specialized "Milspec"(Military-Grade) Rattlers that are used by the military of the Iron Empire that trundle slowly across the tracks - these beasts are typically deployed as supermassive support units for ground-based infantry, supporting them from the air on suspended railtracks as they rain ignited fire and superheated steam from specialized Steam Cannons and massive Slugthrowers or Blistershot Ports designed to hurl razor-sharp grapeshot downwards. These weapons are typically designed to target ground based targets, but these specialized carriages are often equipped with a number of oversized mounted musket-rifles to aid in air-defense.

Armor and defense

Universally, all Blacktrack Rattlers' place the greatest emphasis on armor and defense after the propulsion - making its defenses the second most critical and important feature of its construction and, if rumors are to be believed, the main reason why it took the finest minds of the Iron Empire under Tavross, The Iron Emperor such a mind-bogglingly long century to bring the Rattlers out of their prototype stages and into mass production.   Sporting massively thick composite armor plating all across its massive length, the armor of a Blacktrack Rattler is perhaps the best out of any city or vehicle in the entire Iron Empire - however, this is done not for the purpose of protecting it from attacks(Though as a side effect it is nearly impervious to most physical assault), but to protect its occupants and passengers from the lethal shockwaves that ripple down the Rattler's superstructure when it crashes through the sound barrier during its multi-stage launch out of the Depot Barrel. Designed to "crumple" and expertly disperse impact energy across the frame, the armor of the Rattler is reinforced in such a way as to provide a flawlessly secure interior that is not only airtight and pressurized, but completely isolated from the lethal conditions outside the Rattler during its operation - without them, the passengers would likely be pulped to their seats, their organs instantly pulverized before they ever left the Depot Barrel.   As a nice side effect, these defenses also make them nearly invulnerable - leading many to jokingly claim that one is safer inside a Rattler than they are inside one of the cities of the Empire.

Communication Tools & Systems

Communication is handled within the various cars of the Rattlers by means of a simple tubing system that carries sound through the vessel, but for longer-range communiction the unique machines known as Aethergraphs are utilized - advanced steam-bellow and hand-crank machines that, through unknown means, transmit sound across vast distances without any magical assistance. However, they are known to be delicate, and only utilized by the Rattler's conductor in short bursts when absolutely neccesary. Otherwise, the rule of thumb is a communication blackout during transit.


Blacktrack Rattlers have no windows(As such fragile materials would shatter instantly when the beast got up to speed), and instead utilize strange transparent steel to allow the Conductor to see where the Rattler is headed. Otherwise, part of the legendary craft of Conducting is being able to operate the legendary Blacktrack Rattlers for the simple fact that there are no sensors built into the Rattler's structure - the immense speeds of the beast means that no sensor on the market could endure such strain; as such, Conductors must master the art of "feeling" their Rattler until they can feel its words and cries in the vibrations of its deckplates.   As one might expect, then, Conductors are some of the most prized and respected individuals in the Empire - often just as beloved as the Inquisitors or Warriors who serve its militaries.

Hangars & docked vessels

When not in operation, Blacktrack Rattlers are shunted through winding tracks deep into the labyrinthine bowels of the cities of the Iron Empire into massive underground Rattler Yards, where they are operated on and maintained by massive teams of specialized engineers who give them the lavish attention, love, and care that they require to continue to serve The Iron Empire at peak efficiency. The exact locations of these Rattler Yards are known only to a certain few in the Engineering Corps to protect the Rattlers themselves from vandalism and such, but on the rare occasion when a Rattler is deemed obsolete or otherwise unfit for continued service, it is common practice in the empire to donate stripped-down versions of said Rattler to large "Blacktrack Museums" for the general populace to come and tour, that the aging behemoths might earn a nice, steady retirement rather than being melted for scrap - as was initially the case until the Yardworkers Unionized and successfully lobbied Tavross, The Iron Emperor to allow them to donate the old Rattlers to Museums, "To protect the old boys and give them a nice retirement".   Though many Blacktrack Rattlers have come and gone over the centuries of their operation, below is a short(But not complete) list of some notable Rattlers and their exploits:  
  • Old Toby: The very first Blacktrack Rattler ever constructed nearly 345 years ago, Old Toby is the oldest and most beloved Rattler in the entire Blacktrack Fleet which, despite its old age and increasingly obsolete systems, still serves in active transit - though Old Toby's days of traveling at his top speeds are long over, he now functions as a high end, slower-traveling luxury liner which offers the unique experience of sleeping and living within a Blacktrack Rattler for days a time as it slowly trundles to its destination. Though it was called for decommissioning once thirty years ago, its engineers and conductor nearly rioted and convinced the executives of Kenward & Bicker Heavy Industries to allow their 'Old Boy' to continue his twilight years unimpeded. A cantankerous old engine whose quirks are numerous, whose hull bears the scars of a thousand battles, and whose faults are as myriad as the stars in the sky, he is said to refuse all but the most similarly cantakerous Conductors, favoring old and wizened men over any other sorts.
  • The Iron Star: The Pride of the up and coming Western Line railway company, the Iron Star is seemingly proof of Kenward & Bicker Heavy Industries' seemingly lessening monopoly over the Rattler industry. Built with state of the art steam technology and completely eschewing the Diesel-Line propulsion systems of the Kenward & Bicker Rattlers, it utilizes high-density steam-pressure clamps to secure it to the track. Widely considered the most high-tech Rattler on the tracks, The Iron Star is the elite of the elite - with tickets so expensive only the most well-off can afford them.
  • Golden Hind: A legacy of unbridaled opulence fallen to the wayside, the Golden Hind is a relic of a bygone era of Rattler Development that attempted to market itself as "The Poor Man's Luxury Liner" - a notoriously ill-fated and terribly conceived marketing ploy by Kenward & Bicker Heavy Industries that failed so utterly spectacularly that the Golden Hind stands as the single functioning prototype of what was to become an entire fleet of "Peasant Rattlers" designed to make them more affordable for the common man. Built in gilded gold and silver with gorgeous interiors, the Golden Hind has all the opulence of a palatial mansion with countless accessories and addons designed to make it a "beautiful weekend getaway for the common man". Now, however, it is simply a faded relic of this ancient time, and has been retired from active service after scandals rocked Kenward & Bicker Heavy Industries over reported "corner-cutting" on many of the Hind's critical systems to help support its extremely low ticket prices.
  • Endeavor: Perhaps the most most-talked about Rattler on the tracks, the Endeavor has a terrible history of disaster, and has been renamed no less than thirty times - a terribly ill omen for most Rattlers which is not helped by its record of jumping its tracks and falling to The Diesel Fields no less than eight times, each of which has brought it under fire by the gangs that roam the fields. Each time, however, the Endeavor has been found, salvaged, and put back into service sturdier than before - hardened, battle-scarred, and impregnable, it is one of the only civilian-model Blacktrack Rattlers to sport extremely advanced offensive capabilities, and has boasted zero casualties during the last three of its malfunctions and falls to the surface of the Fields. Many assume it cursed, by just as many seek out tickets for this Rattler as a test of courage. Rumors abound that the Conductor's Guild uses the Endeavor to haze new recruits, but this has never been confirmed.
The Bullet Trains, The Rattlers, The 805
The Blacktrack Rattlers often lack designations, as their Conductors are given free reign to name their machines personally, as each tends to develop a unique bond to their vehicle over decades of operation.
No safer way to ride - and we'll get you there on time.
Creation Date
The first prototypes of the Rattlers were developed around 400 years ago, though they did not see widespread use until around 300 years ago as the prototypes were plagued with critical issues.
Decommission Date
The Rattlers are only rarely decommissioned, as their carriages are built to last and are extremely hard to produce. They are reused and recycled where possible, or reclaimed zealously if they fall from the tracks.
Destruction Date
The Rattlers are almost impossible to destroy because of their hyper-durable construction, but on the rare occasions when Diesel Gangs knock them from the tracks outside the cities they are reclaimed by special hunter squads.
The exact price of the Blacktrack Rattlers is not public knowledge, but is believed to be in excess of 100,000 GP per Locomotive sold to the Iron Empire - the selling of which has made Kenward & Bicker Heavy Industries, the original makers, very rich.
The Blacktrack Rattlers are extremely expense to create, and are thus not incredibly common - there are a decent number in circulation but never more than 2 or 3 per city in the Empire.
The length of the Blacktrack Rattlers can vary wildly depending on how many cars they drag behind them - but typically they range from 0.5 to 2 miles long (0.8 to 3.2 km)
The exact weight of the Blacktrack Rattlers isn't known, but their hyper-durable construction with an emphasis on security and protection means they are likely each well over 700,000 lbs (317,500 kg) heavy in the "engine" locomotive alone.
Though the exact speed of the Blacktrack Rattlers depends on the class of ticket purchased to travel within one, at their top speeds they reach a blistering 800+mph(1,287 km/h).
Complement / Crew
Despite all their power, the Blacktrack Rattlers operate with surprisingly few crew - only around a dozen is needed at the busiest of times, with a skeleton crew of barely 5 capable of running it during down times or emergencies.
Cargo & Passenger Capacity
Varies wildly depending on the number of cars attached - but typically they ferry vast warehouses worth of cargo and can often carry hundreds depending on the given Rattler's specialization(Cargo or Passenger).

The Silverback Rattler

While the Blacktrack Rattlers serve as the vital arteries and supply lines of the Iron Empire, ferrying citizens, supplies, and more across the Diesel Fields at supersonic speeds, there is an even greater version of those legendary machines in existence - a singular, legendary engine of such unbridaled power and ferocity that rumors tell of its maiden voyage being so unfathomably successful that the legendary Super-Rattler(Said to be designed out of the invincible silver shell of the Skycity that caused of the Skyfall calamity) shattered through the normally impregnable Blacktrack Braking Depot and cored a hole a mile long through its destination, the Fortress-Port of Umbergarde, after its strange silver-metal shell proved completely invulnerable and nearly immune to the normal braking methods of the Blacktracks.   Forged from the legendary silver metal once(and still) thought to be unforgeable and unrecoverable, the legendary Silverback Rattler was said to have been forged in absolute secrecy in the now-defunct underwater railyards of Praxes Prime by a team of no more than two dozen over the course of four decades, its construction kept under absolute secrecy with each of the workers and scientists being siloed off to ensure none truly knew the behemoth they were building. Over twice as large as the mightiest of its Blacktrack cousins yet barely half as heavy, the Silverback Rattler is said to be the only one of its kind, capable of moving almost twice as fast as the Blacktrack Rattlers at its top speeds such that, were a rail-line capable of supporting it, it could cross the entire mainland Iron Empire from Aldenbarrow to Longate in barely two or three hours - a feat as near to Teleportation as has ever been achieved with mortal hands.   Supposedly powered by hyper-advanced direct-injection diesel systems alongside the finest Numiastran Steam Engines, the key to the power of the Silverback Rattler lies in its prototype LUMINOS Reactor deep within its silvery shell - a mighty engine supposed powered by a fragment of the radiant heart of Tavross, The Iron Emperor himself. Though the mighty Silverback Rattler rarely leaves its berth deep in the bowels of the Iron Empire's Capital of Lumisterra, it has become the stuff of absolute legend to the people of the empire - a symbol of the absolute power and authority of their Iron Emperor, who deploys the legendary machine only sparingly, for the exorbitant costs to ensure the machine can actually be brought to a full stop is said to require considerable time, effort, and investments such that it is only given clearance to depart its berth for Vital Military and Governmental Matters. If rumors are to be believed, however, it also serves as a mobile command-and-control headquarters for Tavross, The Iron Emperor himself in times of emergency - as well as a fantastically brutal execution method for otherwise invincible servants of Kali, The Broodqueen, who are rumored to be tied to the Braking Depots the Silverback relies on to come to a stop, their bodies serving as an impact barrier for the legendary machine.


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Jan 21, 2023 09:02 by Joshua

I don't want to ignore the greater design and world mechanics of this vehicle but I love the Conversation snippet about the common man experiencing the privileged power of mages but have the focus be on transportation. A lot of Science Overtaking Magic tropes use destruction as the measure of power. Mages hate gunpowder because it lets an idiot be as dangerous in a few seconds as a mage has to train their whole life for. In this worldbuilding though, the connection is built between Trains and Teleportation. It's the same trope but it fleshes out something that the average man actually cares more about: Opportunity.

Jan 22, 2023 00:09 by Jacob

Yeah i've always enjoyed the destruction focus of that theme personally, but found it a bit droll nonetheless. Thanks for the kind words, they mean alot!