In the world I'm building, there is a steam-powered train, but it's a steam turbine locomotive, not a steam piston locomotive. Otherwise, the desired technological level of the world is (more or less) generally that of Medieval Europe, plus magic.

My question is: what are the larger implications of a steam engine in the world? Is it possible for there to be a steam turbine locomotive without a larger industrial revolution, so as to maintain the otherwise-Medieval setting?

Edit: I've been asked to make this question more specific, so let me rephrase it: Would it be plausible for the steam engine in my world to be applied in transportation (trains, steamboats, etc) but not in the production of goods (triggering larger factories, mass production, etc)?

Edit 2: Based on the responses, it seems more realistic that the train in question would be piston-powered, not turbine powered, so we'll go with that. Going back to the question though, if not for technological reasons, Could there be some plausible cultural reason preventing steam-powered factories? Perhaps an extremely strong guild of artisans that has similar objections to steam-powered industry as some modern labor unions have to automation? Or some other reason?

Edit 3: This thread can be closed. My solve is that while the steam engine exists in my world, coal does not (based on some of the explanations in this thread), and there are cultural and economic reasons why wood can not be supplied in sufficient quantities to power steam engines on a wide scale. Therefore, heating the steam engine relies on magic, which is is less reliably accessible, and thus while the technology exists, steam engines are relatively rare.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding. Please note that "what is effect of X on the world/society?" is a broad question. Please take the tour and visit the help center to get familiar with this community and the kind of question suitable for this site. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Aug 29, 2018 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ Is my current edit acceptable? $\endgroup$
    – Yex
    Aug 29, 2018 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ One steam locomotive (piston-powered, not turbine-powered) might have been built by a very rich person with a love for gadgets. Maybe even a few kilometers of track. Many locomotives and many kilometers of track are not possible before the industrial revolution. Steam turbines, even less; not even one. Remember that the industrial revolution began with hydropower, not steam power; they built power distribution systems, hydraulic accumulators, canals.... Steam engines came one century after the beginning of the industrial revolution, and were built in factories powered by water wheels. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 29, 2018 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ Modern turbines require extremely high quality of metal, and precision of shapes. If you got the technology to build a turbine, you can also build automatic firearms and airplanes. Piston steam engine requires slightly less advanced tech, but again, same tech can make bolt-action firearms, cannons and battleships. If you really want steam-powered vehicle, make steam blow out of a pipe to onto a waterwheel or windmill. But I am pretty sure you will get better power/weight ration from a team of horses. $\endgroup$
    – Bald Bear
    Aug 29, 2018 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ response to edit: you cannot have locomotive but no factories. engine will turn whatever you attach to it: wheels of a locomotive, or machines in a factory. In fact, stationary engine (in a factory) is easier to build and maintain, since it does not have to move its own weight (like on a locomotive). If you want the social implications of easy transportation, use magic (e.g. permanent portals between major cities), or this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yam_(route) (all you need is a strong empire or alliance along the entire route) $\endgroup$
    – Bald Bear
    Aug 29, 2018 at 20:06


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