A Steampunk Western

The Karlova

Like all aspirant world-conquerors in the 19th century, Dr. Clay has his own zeppelin. As with everything in Cowboys & Engines, we wanted it to be cool, but also practical and real. Named for the university that began his path toward science, The Karlova isn’t a combat zeppelin per se, but Clay does expect it to occasionally get into some tense situations. We decided his priorities would be speed and maneuverability over the weight and lifting ability required for a heavily-armored, lighter-than-air ship.

These updated designs show the lift engines, more detail being added to the rudder, etc. It’s going to be amazing.


This shows how some concepts work and some don’t; this was the original take on the lift engines. Bryn felt it was a bit too simple and erector-set like.


These very early designs show some of Ryan’s concepts in this vein. The huge rudder allows for a more responsive helm, and having the framework on the outside of the envelope provides a measure of protection against various forms of attack (and also makes the ship look both dangerous, and downright badass.)


7 Responses to The Karlova

  • scantrontb says:

    yes, it DOES look cool, but it is really a bad design choice…

    1) it is MASSIVELY UN-Aerodynamic. every single one of those beams creates drag that will SLOW DOWN the ship, which is directly counter to your statement of “his priorities would be speed and maneuverability”
    2)having only ONE lift-gas bag is inadvisable for redundancy / safety purposes.
    3)also only having one bag prevents him from using differential inflation to help with keeping the ship on an even keel /trim adjustment multiple bags can be inflated /deflated accordingly to move the center-of-gravity fwd/aft and side-to-side allowing it to travel in a level, more streamlined efficient manner.
    4) if this is a craft that is large enough for INTERIOR corridors and such (and there MUST be SOME, in order to reach ALL areas for damage control) you will NOT be able to get INSIDE or move around without going thru an AIRLOCK and having to put on what amounts to basically a spacesuit… because you are moving INSIDE THE GAS BAG ITSELF… which is filled with either Hydrogen or Helium, both of which cannot support human (nor any) life at the concentrations required for use as lifting gas…
    5)unless he has access to super-strong unobtainium, the material strength of the beams and construction method will NOT allow for unsupported volumes such as this, and will require INTERNAL BRACING, and guy wires, etc… all of which must penetrate the gas bag… thus MORE places for the lift-gas to leak out from… and add in the vibrations from normal use, wind, structural deformations, combat damage… you won’t be able to keep it in the air let alone even get it off the ground in the first place due to leaking lift-gas…

    • piercedone says:

      I don’t disagree with anything you’re saying, but my response will probably make you crazy. It’s just lucky for us we aren’t planning on building and flying the thing. The fact is, nothing in steampunk really “works.” All we can aspire to is the best appearance of practical function. I’m a pretty tough cop when it comes to the bullshit beat — ask anyone who knows me how often I’m the guy who spots logical flaws or plot holes or inconsistencies in films — but I’m also aware that those folks (and us as well) are first and foremost trying to make a movie.

      My primary concern has not been coming up with the ultimate combat zeppelin, it has been with achieving a design that looks great, and that 99.9% of the audience will never question. Cinema is filled with iconic, amazing designs that simply would or could never function in our world, from the Nautilus to the X-Wing to the Enterprise herself. As long as the audience is struck by the design, and doesn’t find themselves asking questions, you’ve got a winner.

      BUT I know how unsatisfying that answer is, so I’ll play along. Bear in mind, I’m not building an airframe, just coming up with answers that are good enough to pass muster.

      1: Assuming there’s a single skin lining the inside of the outer ribs, the drag from the structure would be somewhat minimized, but given the slow speeds of lighter-than-air ships, as with early automobiles and boats (above the water), drag is a minimal concern. It’s more an issue of fuel consumption than speed, and since we have our own relatively inexhaustible fuel supply in the Clay-Variant Tesla Coils that power the engines, that’s not a bother. Clay would have been much more interested in a craft that could survive ramming and close-quarter combat at the expense of a small amount of speed.

      2-4: Who said it has one? In my mind, it has upwards of 40; internal gas cylinders that can be even more highly-compressed (because they are smaller), all controlled from a central pressurizing station that allows for filling/draining individual bags to adjust trim, pitch and yaw to a very careful degree. This also allows for the extensive crew and storage areas inside the envelope, as well as the necessary inner structure an skeleton of the vessel, all while minimizing the danger from leaks or punctures in any single given bag.

      5: Ailerons are coming, naturally.

      Now, you might not agree with this approach, but at least you know we’re thinking about it!

      Thanks for writing!


  • scantrontb says:

    oh, yeah… you also need to add a second set of control surfaces… the ones you have right now will only steer the craft left or right. you need a set of ailerons to control the up and down motion.

  • rcfx says:

    I would also like to point out that this is far from finished. In regards to the comments about the control surfaces, while a set of lateral ailerons is certainly an option (I have modeled and discarded several versions already) I have also been considering leaving them off and letting the pitch be controlled by varying the thrust of 4 large lift fans that aren’t shown in these early tests. These 4 fans, besides aiding in lift, could use variable thrust and may be enough (using fictional steampunk logic) to pitch the craft to any angle desired. In the end, it will come down to what looks cooler and not whats most likely to perform well in a wind tunnel.

  • Dave Leigh says:

    It’s not a blimp in any case. A blimp doesn’t have a rigid frame. Since both blimps and airships are “dirigibles”, and “zeppelins” are built by one specific company, “rigid airship” (or just “airship”) is the proper term.

  • photo from Tumblr

    A small gallery of shots from the finished film. Coming soon!

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