Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that takes many Victorian/Industrial Age technologies, and then thrusts it into a futuristic world. In a steampunk world, there might be flying machines, computers, and ray guns - but built from copper, wood, brass, and using steam as a power source. It's a unique blend of the future and the present that makes steampunk unique.
Steampunk wouldn't be steampunk without STEAM! Although you might see other power sources like early forms of electricity (think Tesla), steam is the primary source of power. And steam powers everything from robots, to vehicles, and even weapons.
At the heart of any steam powered contraption, especially vehicles is the steam engine. Here are the basic components that are necessary to utilize steam power:
1) You need heat. In order to heat water to make steam, many sources of fuel are coal, wood, or in the steampunk universe, other kinds of interesting elements like a new form of coal or element. The combustion usually takes place in some sort of chamber, like a firebox.
|Firebox. Can't touch this!|
2) Boiler. These are the special sealed tanks that holds the water to be heated to form steam. From the combustion in the firebox, there's a transfer of heat straight to the boiler, heating up the water.
3) Motor or engine. Just like a regular gas powered car, the engine makes use of cylinders with pistons that move from the steam power transferred from the boiler. This trapped steam inside the cylinder is compressed, pushing the piston.
|Pistons (and not the ones from Detroit)|
4) Exhaust. This can happen through a chimney or smoke stack. Any unused steam escapes from the cylinder and goes out the exhaust system.
|Behold, the power of steam!|