Engines of Change A Few Kroner More-banner

Copenhagen, September 1636


The shop was humming. All around the room, large twelve-cylinder engines sat in various levels of completion. Lars Holgersen, shop supervisor, walked from position to position, inspecting the engines in process. The men knew exactly what they were doing; after all, they had already completed six engines for the Royal Anne. Several replacement engines were being made, plus the engines for another standard size airship, and engines for a larger airship, specifically designed for travel to the Far East.

EoCAFCM-fndrOutside the hangar, in the foundry, preparations were being made for casting more cylinders. Everything was in place. Engines could be made on demand. Lars was gazing through the foundry when his foreman, Jens Dalgaard, found him. “Any orders before we call it a day, sir?”

Lars said, “It’s kind of sad, really. All this organization, standardized production, and soon we will have to close the factory because there will be no more need for big engines.”

Jens shook his head. “It’s worse than sad. Building engines is good money. If we have to stop, we will all need new jobs. Lars, you have created the finest group of steam aircraft engine-makers in the world.”

Lars just laughed. “I think we have the only group of steam aircraft engine-makers in the world, Jens. I haven’t heard of anybody else making them from scratch like this. Although I could be wrong—the world is big, and we’ve been busy.”

They stood reflecting for a moment. Then Lars blinked and looked excited. “Jens, what do you think the future will bring? I don’t think that steam engines are going to disappear any time soon. I’m sure we will need engines sometime, and then we should be ready.”

Jens was rubbing his chin. “I will have to think about that, Lars. As it is, we are on schedule and ahead of the order. What you think about calling a break and giving everybody the rest of the day off?”

Lars sighed. “Why not? It will lift the spirits of the workers. Make sure everything is shut down safely. Have they started the pours on the castings yet?”

Jens shook his head. “No, they haven’t even started the furnace. We were going to wait till late this evening when it was not so hot. The molten metal by itself is enough travail for most of us.”

Lars turned around and headed for his office, and Jens followed by his side. “Jens, have you heard about that new place down on the docks? I was talking to someone yesterday, and they said it was opened by Herr Pridmore’s wife. She is serving something called chocolate. Have you heard anything about it?”

Jens shrugged. “Not that I remember. Oh, wait, I heard our American machinist, Matt Lawler, mention it. He said he liked it. It’s called the Mermaid and Tiger. Why do you ask?”

Lars smiled. “We’re letting the men go home. How about we all go round to this place first. It sounds interesting, and I’m feeling generous. I’ll buy the first round for everyone.”


            When preparations were completed, the working men fell in together. Singing, they all made their way down to the harbor and into the Mermaid and Tiger. As Lars stepped through the door he could see that they were not the first ones to arrive. In the back sat Magnus and his partner Niels. These two, friends of Lars, had a machine shop up and running. The Danish Airship company had even contracted some tools from them.

Lars waved, and said to Jens and Matt, “Go grab the table next to Magnus and Niels. That will put us next to the window, and maybe we will get a little bit of a breeze. It has been hot today.”

EoCAFCM-chcltSo the workmen from the engine factory sat, and Lars ordered all his men one cup of chocolate. They started to relax and sip chocolate. Lars noticed that Matt Lawler was carrying a very large wooden box. But he didn’t want to question him now. It was nice to relax.

Magnus came to Lars, and they sat and visited for a moment. Magnus said, “Did you hear of our trouble? Yesterday, while we were working, the power shaft that runs our lathe and mill ripped right off the ceiling. We are lucky that nobody was hurt, but all that damage. We lost the rest of the day, and today have been unable to do anything.”

Lars frowned. “Nobody was killed? I am shocked. What do you think accounts for that?”

Magnus laughed and put his hand on Matt’s shoulder. “I thought sure somebody would be severely maimed. I guess the safety training that our American machinist friend here insisted on paid off.”

As more and more people arrived to the Mermaid and Tiger, it grew warmer than was comfortable, even with the open window. Finally the Matt Lawler wiped his forehead. “Bonecrusher! Bring that chest over here.”

Lars always liked Bonecrusher. The nickname had been given to the youngest member of the crew because when he first arrived in the shop, he spent a lot of time shaking hands. This was not unusual, but this young man had a strong grip.

Lars asked Matt, “I saw you come in with that box. What’s in it?”

Lawler grinned. “Just you watch, Lars. I brought it along because it’s been so hot.” Then he stood up and called across the room, “Reva! I need a bucket of water.”

The lady behind the counter frowned. “Matt, can’t you see I’m busy? You know I’m short-handed tonight, don’t you? Now what it is you wanted?”

Matt took off his cap and sort of rolled it up in his hand, then put a woeful look on his face. “Please, Miz Reva, can I have a bucket of water? Pretty please? I even have a bucket with me. I just need it full of water.”

Frau Pridmore laughed. “All right, you scalawag. Hand me your bucket. I can never resist your sad puppy eyes.” Matt handed her the bucket, grinning like an imp. Then Matt turned and started digging in his wooden chest.

Matt talked as he pulled pieces out of the chest. “This one is important. It needs to go on the sill. Point the door of the firebox in here, and put the smokestack out the window.”

Bonecrusher nodded and picked up a strange piece of equipment. Apparently, he was part of the conspiracy.

Matt pulled the largest piece out of the box. “Now this is the fun part. It goes right here on the edge of the table. Hand me those C-clamps.”

Now Lars was curious.  Some of the things pulled out looked familiar. The one he was clamping to the table was about two spans tall and a little longer than that. There was a shaft coming out the front and flanges to hold it to the table.

Matt stood up and admired his handiwork for a second, then turned to Bonecrusher. “Okay, it’s clamped down. Now hand me the impeller. While I hook this up, Bonecrusher, make sure that all the connections are tight. Not so tight that someone else can’t move them, though.  We don’t want to frighten the public.”

That was when Lars recognized Matt’s work.  He leaned back and grinned. This was going to be fun.

The last piece of the apparatus was pulled from the chest. It looked like an oar or paddle, but with a hole in the middle. That was what Matt attached so that it stood out from the shaft at ninety degrees. Bonecrusher attached copper pipes between the machinery on the table and the device in the window. Frau Pridmore returned with the bucket of water, and Matt took it and poured water in the small tank in the window. Then he reached into his pocket and came out with a little silvery squarish object. He opened the top, flicked the wheel, and produced a flame. Lars and the crew from the engine factory didn’t even flinch. This was not new to them. But the rest of the people in the tavern blinked at that small wonder.

EoCAFCM-zppMatt walked his little flame over to the device in the window. He opened the small door and thrust the fire within. Everyone heard a whooshing sound, and Lars could see heat waves from the chimney outside the window shimmering in the summer heat.

Now, Matt Lawler stood back and shouted, “Hey Reva! Hold my chocolate and watch this!”

Lars turned when he heard a woman laughing. It was Frau Pridmore. Apparently the phrase meant something to her. Now Matt pulled the lever on a valve, and gave the wooden paddle a spin. With a low clatter and a putt, putt, putt noise the paddle, or what Lars could see now was a propeller, began to spin. Matt made a small adjustment and the propeller picked up speed. Lars noticed that the propeller was pulling air from the room, and felt a cool breeze from the open door on the other side of the tavern. It was all being blown out the window with the chimney.

Lars stepped over to Matt and whispered like a conspirator. “Does Marlon know you have his engine model?”

Matt grinned. “Of course not. I’ll just tell Reva that I brought it to cool off her tavern. So then, even if Marlon has a tantrum, he won’t stand a chance.”

The engine settled down to solid smooth operation. The propeller made a good solid buzz, but it was not so loud as to disturb conversation.

Only one man was seriously inconvenienced, and that was the one from the engine shop, sitting where Lawler had clamped the engine. And even he leaned back into the corner and was intently studying the machinery.

Jens walked over to where Lars and Matt were standing, sipping chocolate. “I knew Marlon was building a model of the prototype, but I didn’t know he got it done already.”

Lars said, “He had most of it finished before the Royal Anne left. And you should have seen the day he first tested it. When it didn’t work the first time, Marlon used some colorful language that I had never heard before.”

Jens frowned. “What was the problem?”

Lars shrugged. “I think mostly it was because it didn’t work the first time. Marlon can get impatient that way. It turned out that we had the valves open too wide as the shaft rotated. That meant the timing of the device was incorrect, and like any draft horse being mistreated, it decided not to work.”

The words ‘draft horse’ seemed to resonate through the crowd. Several people nodded, and a tall man near Lars asked, “Draft horse? Can this be made bigger?”

Matt turned, his grin still evident. “Of course. We already have a standard size. This little one is a model, and it has only six cylinders but the shop standard engine has twelve cylinders and is as strong as a thousand horses pulling together.”

The man said, “I am Eric. They call me Eric Lange. A thousand horses are far and away too many. Do you have anything not quite as strong?”

Matt grinned. “Well, I think so. As long as there are at least three cylinders, we can make engines in almost any configuration you want. As you can see the cylinders just bolt onto the wooden beam, then everything else is made to match.”

Lars and Jens pulled out some paper from a pocket and got busy scribbling calculations. After a moment, Lars stood up and nodded. “Matt, the formulas are quite clear. With no changes except for the number of cylinders, the smallest engine, the one with three cylinders, would produce about two hundred fifty horsepower. However, if we change the amount of pressure from the steam generator, or the number of revolutions per minute, it will produce more or less power as we desire.”

Jens stood up as well. “It’s as if we can make anything we want.” Lars felt the same wonder as Jens. And others in the tavern must have felt the same thing—several of the men started to talk excitedly. The hubbub was intense. By the end of the evening Lars and his engine shop had several orders. The next few days could prove to be very interesting, and more than that, there was money involved.


            The shop was even busier than before the flight of the Royal Anne. A whole new line had been set up. Lars and Jens walked down the line, observing the work and doing a spot inspection.

Lars slapped Jens on the back and said, “It looks like we will have plenty of work after all. Concentrated power, it has changed everything.”

Jens grinned. “As long as there is work, it can change all it wants.”