Khyrmin Venhorn was staring idly at their kettle when they watched the steam from the spout easily push their kitchen utensils around. The movement inspired the almost bankrupt engineer and in their mania they worked for four days straight without rest. The little prototype was only as high as your knee but it could easily outpace an adult once it got up to speed. That was ten years ago. Ten years of begging, borrowing and bargaining. Ten years of rejection, negotiation and compromise. But now Venhorn is the chief operating officer of the Uskad State Railway Company. The first railway will connect Piabeta the capital, Hazelgulf and Port Obreska.
This adventure seed will work best with games systems that focus on player to player conflict as it heavily relies internal disagreements for narrative instigation.
Venhorn has been able to buy a third of the shares in USRC thanks to the profits from their steamworks. The rest of the investment has come from the guilds and they expect a sizeable return from connecting the cities. Such profits will be after the crown takes its cut for licences and charters. There are no other investors as despite Venhorn’s public appeals, the general populace consider the endeavor to be a pointless folly, an opinion encouraged by the shipping companies.
The project has been severely delayed by the competing demands of its stakeholders. Venhorn has exhausted themselves forging compromises between the various factions. The crown is obsessed with the prestige the railway will bring to Uskad. The light princess herself has joined the discussions, insistent that there be meticulous documentation and quality control. Every decision must have extensive paperwork to support it. Princess Tathlan doesn’t care about the project timeline, only that there be no failures of accidents that could tarnish Uskad’s name.
The guilds, despite a joint buy in are not a unified voice. They are split into three groups with each having a different view on how to best utilise the railway. The express group believe that moving people and packages as quickly as possible is what the markets demands. This group has the support of the military who are already adapting their grand strategy for the railways logistical potential. The freight group want to make money on bulk cargo, in particular the new manufactured goods being produced in Hazelgulf. The landowners group seek to enrich their existing business be moving livestock from their southern ranches to the northern city markets.
All this makes the work of the construction crew that much more complex. Track laying is currently halted 4 miles from Hazelgulf whilst the freight terminal in Hazelgulf is constructed. When it’s complete, teams of oxen will be able to use the rails to bring rail to the work site from the foundries. The crew is made of carpenters, metal workers and mages. Where ancient civilizations would have needed thousands of labourers, modern magic makes earthworks trivial to build and heavy loads easy to precisely place. Progress is faster still with the use of magic items, like heat wands for welding and rods of finishing for smoothing joints. Lines of guiding keep the track on its agreed route and highlight needed gradients.
Oxen are needed to haul the material and supplies because the locomotives are not yet ready. Having to carry the fuel for a fire to heat the steam would make the locomotive too heavy and thus too slow. Venhorn has turned to magic for a solution. Originally the envisaging a flame spell but they couldn’t find a spell that lasted longer than a few minutes. A portal to a place of flame was ruled out when all that came out was ash and flame imps. The current plan is to contain a magma ooze inside a mithril reinforced tungsten box. The company has yet to obtain an ooze small enough to fit in the firebox. Water for the tanks is provided by a sigil of create water that the crew can activate when needed.
The first obstacle along the route is the delta and estuary of the Sennecarres river. A fetid saltwater marsh where the seasonal changes in the distributary paths make finding dry ground to build on very challenging. The construction crew will have to drive posts down to the bedrock and effectively build a low bridge over the bog. The alternative is earthworks but this will involve complex hydro-engineering to prevent the tracks being washed away by the river. The task difficulty is compounded by the sprites and wisps that inhabit the bog. Whilst not a threat to the train itself, they could distract the crew, harm the passengers or damage the cargo.
After climbing out of the Sennecarres valley, the route makes a sharp turn onto the isthmus of Jiaten. At the thinnest point is Port Obreska. Here goods are unloaded from ships and portaged the 2 km to the other side of the isthmus. The alternative is a 1 weeks trip around the Bira peninsula by sea. The location of the station in Port Obreska is still undecided. The express faction want the station in the city centre for proximity to the population. The cargo faction want the line to zig zag between the ports so that the railway can collect goods from both. The crown want a station removed from the town on the shortest and fastest path along the isthmus for minimal track length and reduced risks.
The proposed route from Port Obreska to the capital has the people of Alixo Forest quite upset. It never comes closer than 20 miles and there are no plans for any stations. The Forest Conclave argues that as tax paying citizens of Uskad they are entitled to share in the benefits of infrastructure projects. The railway would give then better access to markets for their produce and people. Only the express faction has any interest in an Alixo Forest stop but argue that the number of passengers would not offset the excessive cost of building the railway through a magical wood. The forest is thick with wild natural power that would reject the artifice of the railway without extensive protection and maintenance. The faction’s offer is to build a parkway station that could perhaps accept a branch line if the forest conclave want to organise their own works.
Finally the railway will arrive at Piabeta. Here the argument over station placement has been avoided by the Crown offering to lease a minor palace to serve as the passenger terminus with a separate freight yard to be placed outside the city walls. Whilst the palace requires little work to convert it into a station the route to it for the city walls is full of private property. The landwovers are calling on the crown to seize the land in the name of the greater good. A tunnel has been suggested but the military opposes any work that weakens the city’s defenses. The rail could be driven along existing roads but few would be happy with how that would look or with the trains having to share the track with pedestrians and carts.