1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 31


It was a few minutes later, back in the barn-cum-garage, that the emperor expressed his will. “Yes, I want a race track and a good one. In the meantime, just to avoid any trouble, I’m going to assign a small troop of soldiers to you out here.”

“Where are these troops going to sleep?” Dana Fortney asked.

“That’s a good question,” Ron Sanderlin agreed. “Your Majesty, we’re already pretty crowded.”

It worked out that they were authorized to use the workers they were hiring to build the track to construct housing for the troops and to expand the garage and houses they had, but the Sanderlins and Fortneys would have to pay for the materials out of their own pocket. Over the next weeks, they bought bricks, stone, and wood, shipped in on the Danube. Using those materials along with the goods they had brought with them and locally done metal work, they expanded their homes and added housing for the squad of soldiers assigned to them. Fifteen men with their wives and children. Also their horses, because it was a cavalry troop commanded by Erwin von Friesen, an imperial knight. The garage gained room for the Sanderlin’s truck and the Fortney’s range rover. All of the construction had to be overseen by someone.

Docks, Vienna, Austria

“What does it look like, Dad?” Hayley asked. The Pfeifer family had a steam barge that they had built from up-time instruction sheets, which were fairly vague and incomplete. That information was filtered through the knowledge and preconceptions of the local smiths and scholars.

“Well, it’s a steam engine,” Sonny Fortney said, wiping his hands on a greasy rag. “Two pistons and it does have rods, but there is a gap of almost a sixteenth of an inch between the cylinders and the cylinder heads. And that is a very good thing, because if that sucker ever built up a good head of steam, it would blow up.” The gap was inconsistent — only that wide in a couple of places.

“What about the boiler?”

Sonny shrugged. “It’s a pot boiler, not a tube boiler.”

“Can you fix it?”

“If I had time. But I don’t. I have the grading of the race track and the digging of the basement for the barracks for Erwin von Friesen and his boys. The expansion of the garage. I can advise your people and they can fix it.”

“Can’t Ron and Bob do that?”

“Part of it, but I’m going to have to do the surveying. I don’t trust the wells. We’re too close to the Danube and the water table is too high. So Dana is going to be busy testing the water. Bob is working out what goes where with the brewery.” One of their neighbors was a brewery in Simmering. “And Gayleen is running the kitchen to feed the workers . . .”

As it happened, Hayley got the job of delivering the instructions on rebuilding the steam engine on the Pfeifer barge.

Peter Krause’s Smithy, Vienna, near the docks

“No. You see that piece of heavy paper there?” Hayley Fortney pointed at the gasket. It was twenty sheets of thick down-time made rag paper, glued together, rolled through a wringer to eliminate any air pockets, and then waxed. It had taken Hayley almost a week to get it made. That was all right, though. It was taking just as long to get the cylinders and the pistons remade. And like Dad had said, it was probably a good thing that they had not had proper gaskets, because the boiler was the real issue. It was a steel pot with the lid welded on, and a hole cut into that, with a copper pipe coming out and going to the engine. It took the thing upwards of thirty minutes to build up a head of steam and there was very little in the way of controlling the steam.

Meanwhile, Peter Krause was looking like he would really like to kill her and she almost didn’t blame him. He was forty-five years old, a master smith and it was understandable that he wasn’t thrilled to be told how to do his job by a teenage girl. Unlike most of the people she had dealt with since the Ring of Fire, Peter Krause had never seen the Ring Wall and wasn’t sure he believed in it. Hayley sighed. “Look, no matter how good you are, no two metal pieces fit so perfectly that gas can’t pass between them. You know that. You know that the steam engine you built leaks. You’ve suffered burns from the escaping steam.”

Herr Krause nodded grudgingly.

“Well, it’s not because you aren’t a good smith. It’s because the tolerances are simply too fine for any smith. That’s why the gasket and flange arrangement. The gasket deforms to fit the minor irregularities that are going to be there. The only thing I have ever seen that didn’t have those irregularities was the Ring Wall itself, and that only right after it happened. The only hand that can cut that smooth is the hand of God. So the rest of us have to accept imperfection and figure out ways around it.”

Herr Krause wasn’t smiling, but the left side of his mouth was twitching up just a little. “Well enough,” he said. “The gasket is because no mortal hand is perfect, but it’s paper. How do you expect paper to withstand the pressure that you claim the good steel of my cylinder won’t withstand? It’s paper!”

“Right, it’s paper. But it is compressed by the bolts. There is a rule about the gaskets. The harder they are pressed, the stronger they are. That is why my dad insisted on so many bolts holding the parts together.”

Hayley hid a sigh. This was taking a long time.

Sanderlin Home, Simmering, Austria

“No, Mrs. Sanderlin, nothing too big or grand. I’d like to hire hundreds of people too. But it would make too much noise.”

“But we can order a hundred sewing machines from Grantville and you know you could get them.”

“No. If I order a hundred I’ll get ten and a polite note from Karl Schmidt telling me that he will get us the rest as soon as he catches up with his back orders. Which ought to be sometime around the year 1700.”

“Well ,then, why don’t we start our own sewing machine factory? You can get the machines, can’t you?”