TALES OF A WITCHER - Season 10 Episode 21
The North Slope Mine of Neverwinter was going to witness a great event.
A new railway linking the ore stacking yard and the furnace area was being cleaned for the last time.
Different from the iron coated wooden rails in the mine, the new railway was wider and could support heavier cargo loads. It was made of pure steel and looked very heavy. The amount of steel used to build it was enough to make the armor and swords for a regular knightage, but now it was fixed on the ground and exposed to wind and rain. Any lord of this era would think of this construction as an enormous waste of iron and believe that only a spendthrift would leave metal to rot like this.
When Roland led the conference participants to the ore stacking yard, most of the officials were astonished by the railway and begun to stir since not every department in City Hall knew the details of what it was. The officials from the Longsong Area stood agape while fixing their eyes on it. It impressed everyone with its imposing size and its aura of strength, even if most of them had no idea what it was used for.
They would never believe that their king who had greatly surprised them so many times during the past years was a spendthrift, but they could hardly recover from their shock. In their view, laying cast steel bars on the ground was no different from using gold royals to pave a road.
This was cast steel which could be sold at a high price in any city.
However, Neverwinter could afford to build such a railway.
After the blast furnace for ironmaking and the converter for steelmaking were completed, Neverwinter’s industrial foundation no longer relied so heavily on the witches’ power. The converter still needed Anna to heat and melt the iron for the first step, but it was much more advanced than the “Star of Steel”. It could be called a miracle in this era.
The smelting industry of the North Slope Mine had also been significantly upgraded due to the reconstruction efforts made by the Ministry of Construction. With the help of Lotus, they had taken bold actions to blast away the ceiling of the mine. By doing so, they had made part of the mining area a huge open pit and most of it was an iron mine.
Neverwinter’s steelmaking industry had stepped on a brand new stage in the last year. In Graycastle, its monthly steel output was greater than all the other cities’ combined.
This result was within Roland’s expectation. He took it for granted that modern factories would be far more efficient than blacksmiths. Otherwise, he would not have worked so hard to create the industrial equipment.
As for the railway here, it was part of his experiment of using a railway to connect the mining area, the smelting area, and the wharf.
As the narrow-gauge rail did not differ from the broad-gauge rail in terms of material usage and load-carrying capacity, he made 1.5 meters the standard railroad width. The number was easy to remember and building roadbeds for this width of railroad was within the reach of Lotus’ ability. The sleepers were cut out of wood logs and the ballast was from rubble collected during the mine reconstruction. The railway looked exactly like a railroad in modern times.
But it was still a half done project. Because no factory had been involved in this project yet, Anna had used her Blackfire to process and install the railway for the experiment by herself. Since the Graycastle unification war, the construction of the other half of the railway had remained suspended.
To further satisfy the officials’ curiosity, Roland instructed the workers to unveil something that was placed at the end of the railway. When the canvas, which was dusty and covered with fallen leaves was removed, the people saw a black steel vehicle standing right in front of them.
“Your Majesty, is it a… steamer carriage?” Petrov, the governor of the Longsong Area, stuttered in amazement.
Roland was not at all surprised by Petrov’s thought. With more and more steam engines being put into use in Neverwinter, the officials were getting familiar with these cumbersome, but powerful machines and even actively adopted them in some traditional fields, such as irrigating the farmlands and loading and unloading cargo on the wharf. Given that, they immediately recognized the steam engine which was shaped like a barrel and installed in a steel frame in the main part of the vehicle.
In the beginning, the factories producing steam engines and the accessory equipment had only been able to handle orders from Roland, but now they could also handle some requests from City Hall. City Hall’s orders usually had special demands, but the factories could easily meet them by changing the combination of gears, shafts and engine holders.
Roland considered this change to be a good start. The people of this era were becoming more proactive in creating things.
He thought that the reason why Petrov called the vehicle a steamer carriage was that the concrete boats driven by steam engines were called paddle steamers.
It sounded like an acceptable name but Roland did not want to give up the naming rights.
After all, it was a vehicle of era-making significance.
From its birth, it had a profound influence on the world, even though its first prototype was slower than a horse-drawn carriage. It had many different shapes and engines during its development, but its name remained unchanged.
“It’s a train.” Roland corrected Petrov. “It’s the key to solving the transportation problem.”
“Do you mean that you want to build a railroad like this one across the grassland for a… train?” Barov had a hard time getting his tongue around the new word. “What if the demons suddenly attack the workers and cause trouble for the railway construction project?”
“First of all, I want to build two railways side by side to ensure a smooth flow of traffic. Secondly, I’m not proposing building a railroad across the grassland. I intend to build one that starts from the Misty Forest and then turns to the east at a spot near the Taquila ruins.” Roland told everyone his plan. “By doing so, Leaf can protect our railroad system from the demonic beasts during the Months of Demons every year. As for the demons… it’s a close contest between us. Any place we can get to by train can be our battleground since the train can transport enough cannons and shells for us. Even if the demons manage to destroy some sections of our railroad system under heavy shellfire, we can still solve the traffic problem by building and repairing the railways at a higher speed.”
He had discussed the construction speed problem with the Advisery Department. They found that they could build the railway sections between the Misty Forest and the Taquila ruins faster than the sections on the grassland, despite the former being longer than the latter. This was because the former sections were located in the forest controlled by Leaf. With her help, the weed and vines would clear the ground for the construction workers, saving them the trouble of doing it themselves, which was tremendously helpful to them. She could also create slopes for water drainage and structure the forest to help Hummingbird transport the construction materials.
Lotus would be in charge of building the roadbed for the railways. The Ministry of Construction would send workers to pave the ballast, install the crossties and railways, and Anna would seamlessly weld the metal parts together. With everyone working together, they would be able to complete the railway sections between the forest and the Taquila ruins before the end of the winter. When that happened, the Taquila ruins would be within the range of the Longsong Cannons.