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1636: The Kremlin Games: Chapter Thirty Eight
Last updated: Monday, June 4, 2012 22:32 EDT
“So what else is on the list of impossible demands this week?” Brandy asked.
“Bernie, or rather ‘one of the brain cases,’ wants a computer. The patriarch wants proof of the dangers of lead poisoning and an alternative makeup, because certain women in Moscow are having fits. Also, tons of antibiotics. Apparently they are having trouble with the instructions already sent.”
“That’s not surprising. Chloramphenicol is doable, but not easy.” Brandy said.
Vladimir nodded. “I have one here from the Polish Section demanding a generator ‘if such things really exist.’ We sent one to Bernie a while back; that must be where they heard about it.”
“According to Natasha, they have a group at the Dacha who are hand-making generators and batteries. Why doesn’t the Polish Section get one from them?”
“Ah, that explains it.” Vladimir grinned. “The Polish Section wants a generator all right, but they don’t want to go through the Grantville Section or the Dacha to get it. Russian politics. I’ll direct them to the Dacha. Here’s one . . . they want the precise location of all gold mines in Russia. I already told them that the best we’ve found is general areas. So, make unreasonable demands of me, Brandy. I’m getting used to it.”
“Hmmm.” Brandy considered. “Hmmm. No one has ever suggested that to me before, I don’t think. I’ll hold the unreasonable demand for now and use it when it’s really inconvenient. For now, how about a reasonable demand? Let’s take off early? I want you to tell me about Moscow.”
Vladimir shrugged. “Why not? The demands will still be here tomorrow.”
It was three nights after the car had left for Russia that Vladimir made up his mind. He would ask for permission to marry the girl from the future. He pulled out a pen and began the two letters. One to Natasha informing her that he would be seeking Brandy’s hand and asking for her help in persuading the czar. One to the czar asking his permission to marry a foreigner. He would wait to ask Brandy until he had permission because he didn’t know what he would do if the permission was not forthcoming.
Having written those letters, Vladimir began to write this week’s report to the Embassy Bureau, attention Grantville Section. First he wrote about Hans Richter and the political implications that were already bouncing around central Germany. That was an event that would change the politics of Europe. He included some of the newspaper coverage and turned to the next item.
The steam engines are on order. The younger Herr Schmidt may prove even more suited to the new future that sits before us all than his father. I include fairly extensive notes on the tour of his plant. Herr Adolf Schmidt charged two thousand American dollars for that tour. He said he understands that he can’t prevent others from profiting from his work, but he can at least get them to pay for the privilege if he doesn’t charge too much. It would have cost more to steal the information, so I guess in this case he didn’t charge too much. I think we got our money’s worth, anyway.
In spite of your efforts in Murom, I don’t think the infrastructure is in place to support a steam engine factory in Russia like the one in Magdeburg. Herr Schmidt’s factory doesn’t exist on its own, but is a part of an industrial community. Herr Schmidt gets parts from three different foundries and is looking for more. The machines he uses to finish those parts were produced by other suppliers, mostly from near Grantville. But he is looking into having a tube bender made in Magdeburg. I mention this to emphasize again that what we need more than a steam engine shop or a gun shop — or any other shop — is that community of industry. A place where the parts for machines may be bought and new machines built, not out of raw iron ore but out of parts that are already on a shelf in another shop.
We do need steam engines, yes. Besides the tour and the order for two twelve- and four twenty-horsepower steam engines and the accompanying boilers and condensers, I have included the booklet that Schmidt Steam sells with instructions on how to make the less efficient, but easier to produce, low-pressure steam engines, which it seems every other blacksmith or carpenter in Germany is building. When combined with my notes on the tour it should give our craftsmen a better steam engine.
Rudlinus Nussbaum, who took me through the factory explained it this way. There are two extreme forms of steam engine. The ones like they make in the factory are high-pressure steam engines which use what he calls super-heated steam to produce pressures of hundreds of pounds per square inch. That’s still lower than the pressures and heat in an internal combustion engine, but it’s very hot and very high pressure. Rudy, as he asked that I call him, said that a piston escaping from a high-pressure steam engine would go right through me and the door behind me. He then assured me that I was perfectly safe. Grinning like an idiot the whole time.
In any case, high-pressure steam engines require good quality steel and fairly tight tolerances. We have craftsmen that could handle the tolerances, but it would take a long time to build each cylinder.
However, there are also the low-pressure steam engines I sent you the booklet about. I am enclosing a booklet printed by Schmidt Steam. In general, a low-pressure steam engine uses steam that is not that much above boiling and works at pressures as low as a few pounds per square inch. Rudy said, “To get useful work out of that weak a head of steam, they use large cylinders and large pistons. A piston head with a diameter of one foot has a surface of 113 square inches. At a steam pressure of ten pounds per square inch, that comes to a stroke force of 1130 pounds or half a ton. Say half of that is lost to friction and other factors . . . that’s still 565 pounds of work. Just over a horsepower, assuming a foot-long cylinder and a cycle time of a couple of seconds. Actually, with a one-foot diameter, four-foot cylinder and a decent flywheel, at ten psi you should get about two and half horse power once it gets going.”
I take Rudy at his word and I believe you should as well. What this means to us is that a wooden cylinder three feet long and a foot across — essentially a barrel with the proper attachments — can provide the work of three or even four steppe ponies. According to the booklet and the experiments they did at the Smith Steam engine factory: The low-pressure steam engine can be made mostly of wood and leather with iron reinforcements.” That is not true, as I understand it, of the boiler and the pipes. For one thing the highest pressure is always in the boiler not the engine, since the engine is releasing that pressure to get work. The best boiler is steel tubing. But making steel tubing would be prohibitively expensive. We will probably be forced to use a steel pot or even an iron pot and copper tubing to take the steam from the pot to the engine.
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