Holy trains!

Yay, animated google logo. Isaac Newton was a pretty cool guy. Not as cool as Tesla, but probably more influential.

So, I’ve been seeing a lot of trains in things lately. In the book that I’m reading, the author/main characters father is a train station manager, and he recounts living in a train station near the border between countries, and in a game I just played, LoZ: Spirit Tracks, the player character is a train engineer.

Anyways, I got to thinking. What would have happened if the Catholic Church had deemed the steam engine holy?


The world would be an incredibly different place. First, large steam engine based vehicles, such as trains, would be counted as vehicles of god, and their movement would require a priest on board. This serves two purposes, it makes people less likely to believe that the trains will crash, and it would bring the priests to many people and places. This follows easily from the general idea of sending missionaries out to attempt to convert other people.

Second, the world wouldn’t have been so quick to phase steam engines out of service. Steam itself is a clean resource, and although most early ways of “creating” it cause the emission of carbon and other greenhouse substances(IE:Burning wood), it can be created in other more advanced ways.

For example, Nuclear Power Plants use the heat from their reactions to heat water into steam and then use that steam to turn turbines to generate electricity.

With a few(Anywhere from 50-200) more years of the steam engine being used as the MAIN source of transportation, instead of petrol burning vehicles, we would have refined the technology into a much refined sort of technology than we have now.

As a guess, I’d say that “personal” transportation would work more to the effect of small steam powered bikes, with larger transportation being done by public transportation in the form of trains within and between cities.

After a while,  cities would become taller, with population density rising, taking as much advantage of the steam within their cities for electrical power and kinetic movement within the city. Steel would be used less for vehicles, and more for building and managing steam.

All the while, the Church would continue to grow, instead of shrinking. With their control over steam power, they would get a sort of assumed control over the rail lines, and the boundaries of the church would be set to wherever is connected by those rail lines. They wouldn’t be able to shrink, and would just keep expanding.

To use the railroads, people would have to acknowledge the church, and so many places and people would convert solely for the use of their holy engine.

At around “modern” times in this alternate timeline, I can see trains being pulled my massive nuclear power plants, churning out more steam than any coal burning furnace every could possibly produce. Trains that didn’t pull large loads, such as small passenger trains within cities, would be smaller, enclosed engines, using insulated bodies to hold the heat more efficiently. They could use electric power through the rail lines to heat their metal through magnetic induction and therefore not release any sort of exhaust other than water, which they could even get rid of by fully recycling their steam systems. This electricity could be generated through a plethora of systems, including the earlier mentioned nuclear power, or even solar.

Imagine, an age of steam and brass leading directly into an age of Green Power. Coal burning could turn directly into solar and nuclear power, all quickly and efficiently. The change would not even be noticed by the average citizen, and could be done within 5 to 10 years. Instead of having to change out 600,000,000(1997 stat) cars from petroleum based fuel to electric and hydrogen fuel, you would change out a few aging locomotives (Probably somewhere around a few hundred thousand) that would already have been phased out by more efficient ones, and the major production in cities of electricity and steam from coal and oil burning plants to solar panels and nuclear power plants.

All of this, theoretically brought upon by one of the largest cults in the world endorsing a specific new technology instead of ignoring it.

Anyways, just this idea is cool. And typing this was much much more interesting than crunching numbers in my chemistry class. From a simple idea, I wrote a 750 word blog post.



~ by Atlas Rune on January 4, 2010.

3 Responses to “Holy trains!”

  1. If the Steam engine were to be deemed holy, VALVe would be the richest company on the planet, and you would have your crazed steam-punk world you want to be in so badly. :D

    • Valve wouldn’t have been able to use steam.

      They’d probably end up with something like “pipeline” or “canals” for their distribution program.

  2. TL;DR*gets shot*

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