Release that Witch Chapter 922
"In just half a year... Will it really be possible for us to extend the railway deep into the Barbarian Land?" Hearing Roland's plan, Barov, who had already witnessed many "miracles", still widened his eyes in disbelief. "It took the Ministry of Construction more than half a year to complete an ordinary road linking the Border Area and the Longsong Area, and this Kingdom Main Street was less than one-fifth of the distance between the forest and Taquila. Are you sure that Mr. Karl will be able to complete such a task?"
The officials began to whisper among themselves. The Kingdom Main Street was the first large-scale construction project Roland had initiated after Longsong Stronghold merged with Border Town. It had employed about 2,000 workers and had been considered a waste of resources by many people back then. Now this new railroad project was even more unbelievable. Considering its limited construction period, many officials believed that it would be an impossible mission, even if all the workers in Neverwinter were to be hired for this project.
Karl Van Bate, the Minister of Construction, remained silent and seemed to be racking his brain for a proper solution.
Roland was clear about their concern. At present, there were many ongoing construction projects in the city. They were justifiably worried that the expense of this railway project would be too enormous for the city's limited resources. However, in fact, as compared to the road's cement pavements which needed high-quality materials and roller compaction, the railway's roadbed building and ballast pavement were much easier.
As for the final step of installing the rails, it only looked complicated, but it was actually the fastest step of the entire construction process.
Roland had watched Anna's demo of welding the metal parts with Blackfire. She could weld a bar to two tracks at once, and the average time for welding each joint was less than 10 seconds. In comparison to the traditional bolts or the hot-melting connections used in the modern world, her ability not only substantially improved the wielding quality but also saved a lot of manpower and material. Roland felt that her work couldn't be any more perfect.
The experimental railway in front of everyone was an almost seamless rail made by Anna. To compensate for the distortions that could be caused by thermal expansion, there were still invisible gaps left in between the tracks, but on the surface, they were seamless. This meant that when the train was running on these tracks, the passengers inside it would not experience the frequent shaking or hear the constant clatter that were part of modern trains.
Ana had finished welding this section of the tracks in just half a day.
This was why Roland made the construction period for the railroad project so short.
Leaf probably needed only five days to place the crossties and rails in a section of a given length, while the workers used to take 10 days to build and pave a roadbed of an equal length. Meanwhile, Anna needed just one day to weld the same section of railroad. She had ample time and was able to take it slow. Maggie could take her to work in the morning and bring her back to the castle in time for lunch.
Roland did not want to explain the details of the witches' abilities to the officials, since not everyone knew the witches well. Meanwhile, he predicted that the construction period could be even shorter if he could find some relevant witches from Sleeping Island who were willing to offer help for the project. However, he had not yet had a chance to ask Tilly about her witches' abilities, since he had gone straight to the wolf girl and then to the meeting immediately after he had arrived at Neverwinter.
Seeing Roland ignore Barov's question, the officials turned their eyes to the train.
In contrast to the seamless rail, which appeared very futuristic, the train itself seemed to be an antique. Its steam locomotive was divided into two parts. The front part consisted of a fourth generation steam engine and a transmission device, and the rear part was a coal car. A driver's cabin was located between these two parts, from where the drivers could control the speed of the train, add coal to the boiler, and blow the steam whistle.
Due to the interruption caused by the Gyaycastle unification war, this steam locomotive was still just an unfinished prototype, yet it was already much better than the first generation steam locomotives of the world where Roland had lived before. Its steam engine adopted crankshafts instead of flywheels and drive belts. Instead of gears, which could easily get stuck, a mechanical linkage which moved seamlessly was utilized to connect the wheels on both sides of the locomotive to the engine.
Roland had simplified his design for the locomotive as much as possible. As a result, it looked as if he had just patched all the main components together. When compared to a modern train, it had numerous defects. It had no mechanical brake and needed manpower to turn the capstan to stop the train. As the drivers' cabin was on the connecting beam that linked the front and rear parts of the locomotive engine, the drivers would be disturbed by the constant shaking and vibrations caused by the steam engine when driving the train. It was not equipped with any electrical device, so the drivers and the other workers on the train had to blow the steam whistle or shout to each other to communicate. However, it was already the best design possible based on the current technological capabilities of Neverwinter.
He had to build this prototype first, and then gradually improve it, just like what he had done with the first generation steam engine.
"Your Majesty, what's the carrying capacity of this thing?" Kyle Sichi, the Minister of Chemical Industry, asked with curiosity. "Is it any higher than that of a concrete boat?"
"I think its cargo capacity should be almost five or six times that of a concrete boat." Roland was satisfied seeing the surprised looks on the officials' faces. "But this is just the beginning. With technical progress, it'll be able to carry cargo which needs 100 concrete boats to transport at once."
"A, A hundred?" Barov swallowed hard. As the City Hall Director, he was well aware of the meaning of the number.
"So... what about its speed?" Petrov asked in a trembling voice.
"I'm not sure. I'm still waiting for the test results, but it definitely won't be slower than a concrete boat."
In this era, horse-drawn carriages and some other pack animals were the principal forms of transportation on land. On the bumpy and soft ground, their transportation efficiency was low. Besides, carriages did not have any rubber tires or any other kind of shock absorption measures, so their wooden wheels often got shattered by the repeated shaking on the road. Under such circumstances, the Kingdom of Graycastle used ships as the main mode of transportation. In the inland rivers, the steam-powered boats, which did not need to move with the help of the wind, quickly outshone the traditional sailing ships. Given that, in the view of the officials, the concrete boats were already extremely fast and efficient carriers.
Hearing that a train would be able to travel faster and carry more cargo than a concrete boat, they fell into silence.
They instinctually wanted to deny such a possibility but felt reluctant to do so, since they were afraid that it might turn out to be true. Seeing the bewildered officials, Roland could not help but feel proud. If he had told them such a thing two years ago, he would have been regarded as a lunatic. As the war was fast approaching now, and he had failed to improve the boats, he wanted to use this new invention he built to boost his subjects' morale.
After all, he had not exaggerated the strength of the train.
After all, the steam engine was only the first generation of industrial power sources.
Once the trains could be equipped with internal combustion engines, they would become the dominant mode of transportation on land.
"Your Majesty, could you please show us how it works?" Barov asked after a while.
"Yes, but not now. It still lacks some key components. We need another week to complete it." Roland shook his head.
"According to the plan you gave to the Ministry of Construction before the unification war, you intend to use the railway to connect the mine to the wharf, right?" Barov asked.
"Yes." Roland sensed that Barov had something else to say.
"Such a powerful vehicle will boost our people's morale and greatly help the City Hall in our war propaganda work," Barov spoke out his idea. "Is it alright to let all your subjects witness this incredible scene on the day of the train's test run?"
Roland immediately understood what kind of propaganda effect Barov wanted to achieve and was pleased to see that his City Hall Director had learned to guide the people's opinion during these years.
"As you wish," he smiled and said.