If people of the medieval age or 14th century had knowledge over steam engines and decided to make tanks out of it, how would it work and how effective would it be? Since they would be big and heavy, i imagined they'd operate like a train but with armor and guns, this seems possible in a way in my opinion. But could they make them operate without tracks like a modern tank would? Also, how would these tanks look like in terms of appearance?


closed as primarily opinion-based by StephenG, bilbo_pingouin, L.Dutch Dec 2 '18 at 22:13

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    $\begingroup$ Seems entirely opinion based. There's not enough information about the tech level (and their metallurgy skills) to answer IMO, and what they would look like is purely opinion based. A modern main battle tank evolved from battlefield requirement of the 20th and 21st century and available tech. These will bare no resemblance to your steampunk tank's medieval era (actually it's an industrial era if you have steam engines and metallurgy for tanks). $\endgroup$ – StephenG Dec 2 '18 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ FYI, "trains but with armor and guns" were absolutely a thing, albeit not in the middle ages. They acted more like artillery and mobile headquarters units than tanks, though, for obvious reasons. $\endgroup$ – Cadence Dec 2 '18 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ You'd probably need to understand the idea of the Permanent Way to get a feel for the industrial/technological requirements for railways, particularly armored railways. Early steam engines were static because they were large and extremely inefficient at less than 1% - essentially they needed to be fed coal continuously and the fuel could not be carried with them and were limited to low pressure. Again it takes a lot of tech to get beyond basic steam engines to railway engines. It requires an industrial revolution, in fact. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Dec 2 '18 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ As a player of AC, I need to reference Da Vinci's "tank": youtu.be/IgaRpfRvgTA?t=2243 $\endgroup$ – Alberto Yagos Dec 2 '18 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ I would like to point out that if you give 1800s tech to people in the 1400s, then what you have are 1800s people in an arbitrary timeline. Said another way - it isn't the date that's the magic, it's the tech. Steam in the 1800s or the 1400s, the time is irrelevant - it's still steam. So, to answer your question, look at the 1800s. That's what you'd have. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 3 '18 at 10:56

That is not possible.

Even with a crude steam engine, a vehicle would require countless improvements in materials science and precision manufacturing to make it move -- so many that one cannot speak of a medieval level of technology any more.

  • The steam engine would have to resist shocks and vibration as the vehicle moves.
  • One of the first steam cars was supposed to carry four tons cargo. According to reports, it managed four passengers. The power-to-weight ratio of your design should be worse.
  • Even if an armored train was possible (which I don't believe), taking it off the rails would require either wire tires or wide tracks, which increases rolling resistance and friction in the gearboxes.
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    $\begingroup$ In other words, if your 14th century people pull this off, they will be completely unlike the real 14th century people in every way. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Dec 2 '18 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon, every way puts it a bit strong. Science and engineering, and some follow-on effects. "What do you mean, you need 30 tons of steel? Do you know how much coal we'll need?" $\endgroup$ – o.m. Dec 3 '18 at 5:17
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    $\begingroup$ I think the associated agricultural revolutions that would follow the steam engine would quickly change 14th century life. Cultural revolutions are sure to follow. Depending on how careful the bishops and cardinals are with their words, there might even be religious revolutions. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Dec 3 '18 at 5:19
  • $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon, any revolutions following from the steam engine could be delayed if the entire production goes to the military. But the revolutions to make the steam tank possible are unavoidable. Boilers which do not leak or explode. Coaling stations on key roads. Nobles who collect taxes in cash and not in kind so they can hire engineers. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Dec 3 '18 at 5:27

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