In my world, law enforcement is dispatched from the capital to places around the island.

The reason for them being dispatched in this fashion is due to there being few officers and the capital being by far the most populous location in the land. Most if not all of the facilities of the law enforcement are located in the capital, crime outside of the capital is rare and often handled by independent organisations.

Let us assume the island is Great Britain, with relatively flat terrain and a fairly large landmass, and that the capital is situated upon a coast near the centre of the island.

My question is how to disperse my officers in the swiftest and most reliable fashion possible using Victorian technology, since I'm not sure what the best solution could be.

Answers containing unusual or exotic modes of transport (such as birds or walkers), or combinations of multiple modes of transport for various situations, are acceptable.

Edit: The nation has essentially hyper-miniaturised mechanics, which would require a good understanding of materials and precision tooling. All the greatest minds are government-employed and are by far the richest legal entity.

My thoughts were as follows:


  • Exceedingly fast (~200km/h as with the Mallard or other streamliners)
  • Well suited for long distances
  • Can transport large amounts of personnel and equipment
  • Overground lines are exposed and can easily be obstructed or damaged
  • Underground lines are expensive, perhaps prone to cave-ins and require ventilation


  • Rather fast (~100km/h based on the land speed records from the late 20th century)
  • I'm assuming not too well suited for long distances, but perhaps possible with additional supplies or supply stations
  • Can transport less than a train
  • Not bound to rails and may even perhaps go cross-country?


  • Slow
  • Suitable for short distances or long, slow travels
  • Can transport little the same as a car
  • Not bound to rails




  • Slow (based on my limited understanding of physics)
  • Well suited for long distances
  • Can transport less than a train but more than a car
  • Direct line of flight
  • Influenced by currents
  • Easily damaged by projectiles

In short, the trains and ships are too limited, the cars and planes are too short-ranged, the horses and dirigibles are too slow.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you want your officers to use (semi-)public transport, or does it have to be something exclusive, like in X-Men? $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Mar 25, 2019 at 15:27
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ You seem to have answered your own question here. I'm not sure what you're looking for that isn't covered by what you've already written. It's not like any one of those options on your list is inherently superior, which one you use depends entirely on whether your destination has rails/roads/rivers that go there from where you are or not. $\endgroup$ Mar 25, 2019 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Erik Ideally private to reduce infrastructure needs and availability. $\endgroup$ Mar 25, 2019 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ @MorrisTheCat None of the options seem satisfactory to me and the knowledgable users of this site tend to have a gift of pointing out things. $\endgroup$ Mar 25, 2019 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ @ALambentEye so you rule out trains, since they rely heavily on public infrastructure. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Mar 25, 2019 at 15:49

8 Answers 8


Pneumatic tube trains with sealed glass and brass canisters; head pressure derived from massive-scale steam engines in the capital; reciprocating tubes for return travel.

Officers wear earplugs during transit, pods are medium pressurised to be resistant to external pressure in transit tubes; in-pod pressure not to exceed equivalent to 20-ft water column (avoid getting the bends on exiting pod).

These can be set apart as only in use for emergency law enforcement, and under such high pressures that any interference with them is tantamount to a death sentence for the uninitiate or nontechnical attempted saboteur.

As the pod is dispatched, there are switches and valves which can be set both remotely in capital and over-ridden via radio control in pods (operational situations may change in transit even when transit is very rapid) either shunt a fractional amount of pressure (0.5 %) at the arriving station through vents overhead, generating 180 + db sirens directed upwards to avoid causing hearing damage, but still generating shock-awe-terror in those nearby and alerting local troupes / constables to arrival of supporting forces.

  • $\begingroup$ What a flashy idea! What sort of speeds might one expect? $\endgroup$ Mar 26, 2019 at 8:52
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Very nice concept. Material use for the tubes would be prohibitive, but this is just steamy hot Victorian fantasy-tech. 6-8m/s for tube post sets a believable precedent for speed. $\endgroup$
    – bukwyrm
    Mar 26, 2019 at 12:27
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I like this, but having it be for the EXCLUSIVE use of the government doesn't quite pass the sniff test. That's an awfully expensive piece of large-scale infrastructure to build that's going to just sit idle 90% of the time. The sensible approach is to build a tube train network that IS publicly available to anyone who can afford it anytime EXCEPT when the government issues an alert, at which point all civilians are summarily ejected at the next available station and the system becomes TEMPORARILY exclusive to government use, only when needed. $\endgroup$ Mar 26, 2019 at 12:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Morris The Cat Mar The Paris Pneumatic Post was right there in the Victorian era. While, in real life, too small for law enforcement personell, let's just assume that famous the Briton Isambard Kingdom Brunel had not died in 1859, but was still alive in 1866...maybe he would have had some ideas on how to improve on that French design? "For the nation", of course! $\endgroup$
    – Klaws
    Aug 6, 2021 at 18:56

For targets on the lines the railway will be the fastest and most efficient method of dispersal, especially if the police have access to specialised light-weight, streamlined trains and private secondary lines to allowing them to bypass public traffic on the rails; off the lines it depends on the infrastructure available.

Airships and automobiles may actually be roughly similar when it comes to their speed, airships are effected by wind but can often pick an altitude with favourable winds that actually speed the journey, zeppelins usually did a little over 100 land kph. So it'll depend on where the roads run and where there are landing fields as to which is superior.

In the end though a lot of rural policing is going to be done on horse back far from the main transport networks and hubs.


Police are going to need to be able to travel both quickly but also be able to travel "point to point", bypassing congestion and transport "hubs", but also being able to go straight to the scene of the crime.

This suggests small airships that allow the police officer (or perhaps an investigator and a pilot-officer) to go straight from "the Yard" to the scene of the crime and back. While airships are somewhat slower than trains or other forms of transportation, they move in the most direct path to the scene, and are not subject to delays outside the weather.

enter image description here

Sky yacht. A prototype one man airship

Other features the police might appreciate is the ability to see the entirety of the scene from the air, rapid displacement if needed, either to quarter the crime scene, bring in reinforcements or cordon off a district. The downside is, like modern helicopters and fixed wing aircraft they are expensive to own and maintain, require qualified pilots and have issues related to weather when choosing to fly. Still, given the parameter this seems to fulfill the OP's request the best.


I suspect the only workable answer is to have a hybrid scenario; it's perfectly acceptable to place cars and/or horses on trains. You could have the law enforcement travel in disguised carriages on the existing rail network which externally looked like goods wagons. It's easy to then have a number of railway stations in various tunnels and railway cuttings around the nation.

They can use the railway network to get them within striking distance of their destination and then drive / ride / fly to their final destination just a relatively short distance. Don't forget that motorbikes (or to a lesser extent, pushbikes) can give you a mix of the advantage of horses and cars plus they'd be small enough to comfortably fit a number of them within a concealed railway carriage. You could utilise small motorcycle trailers (take a look at Honda Goldwing trailers) or motorcycle and sidecar combinations to cater for the need to transport items.

  • $\begingroup$ Apologies for essentially duplicating your answer. You must have posted after I opened this page and I did not refresh until I posted mine. $\endgroup$ Mar 26, 2019 at 12:27

The practical answer would be mounted police officers that board a train in the capital, travel to the nearest point the train can get to and then ride away. Horses would have been most practical way to get around to large parts of the country at this point but the railways would have been dense enough to cover most of the miles and make up for the speed issues of using horses.

Incidentally rail + horses was still common at the start of world war two. At your time frame practical use of auto-mobiles or aircraft would have been decades away. The vehicles themselves were not good enough to count as practical options and the infrastructure would have been inadequate at best. Maybe you could use cars around the capital?


Giant Monowheels that get their initial speed from rolling down a central spire in the capital. The outer rim of the monowheel is made from massive steel water containers.

To both sides of the monowheels a capsule is fitted to be completely level at all times (actively maintained by a steam powered engine that can also support the Monowheel's cruising speed). The monowheels juggernaut along specially built streets radiating out from the capital - the streets need not incorporate steel, but can be simply paved, as the wheel is too ginormous to care much about unevenness or potholes.

At the end of the travel, the monowheel will veer onto special braking lanes build onto local hills, and there be stopped by gravity and the realase of the water mass from the outer rim (shedding rotational energy by the barrel). The voyage back is much slower than the arrival, as the wheel will be broken up and carried back into the capital by train or ship or airship.

The central spire contains large freight elevators that bring the pieces to the top where they are reassembled and refilled. The kinetic energy of a rolling wheel is higher (given a large mass in the rim) than that of a, say, train of the same mass and velocity, and i would guess the losses to ground are about the same, while the losses to the air are probably slightly higher, so the engine to support the cruising speed would need to have about the same power as for a train of the same mass). The spire is just for overcoming inertia (thereby saving on max-power requirements for the engine) and the rule of cool law. Cylinders along the circumference will be triggered after the corresponding segement just lost contact to the street, powering the wheel along. Cylinders can be driven by steam or explosive gases.

The capsules are roomy enough for a small detachment of soldiers, some horses, and materièl, and can serve as barracks when lowered to the ground.

A much used curse is 'Sleep on the wheelway', as this is what the prisoner-crews maintaining those streets have to do at night, incurring heavy (and not altogether unplanned-for) losses.

  • $\begingroup$ A wonderful idea, my question would be how to turn corners though, since the island isn't a perfect circle. $\endgroup$ Mar 26, 2019 at 13:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The streets would have to be largely radial from the spire by the nature of the juggernauts, so a place like Kingston upon Hull in Britain would not be reachable, or a local geographic feature would have to be used to build a high curve able to take the punishment of one of those monowheels changing direction. Reports of statistical correlation between civil unrest and failure of nearby high curves are, of course, balderdash. $\endgroup$
    – bukwyrm
    Mar 26, 2019 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ I highly doubt the momentum would last for that long though. How about using fuel instead of plain water and having the 'barrel' motorised? Because, after all, we can trust our engineers to construct these things in the safest manner possible. $\endgroup$ Mar 26, 2019 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ The steam engine i mention is supposed to keep things rolling (by the usual excentric-weight-'climbing'-in-monowheel technique); But you are right, it probably would fit better into the whole if the wheel would keep rolling by use of vast cylinders that get triggered along the circumference, timed to hit just after the containing segment touched down, thereby propelling the wheel. $\endgroup$
    – bukwyrm
    Mar 26, 2019 at 13:39

I figure you are going to have a hybrid solution, a little Plane, a little Train, and a lot of Automobile.

OK, you are going to have a use for everything, but it's a specific use in each case.

Your faster modes of transport are going to be for getting to the scene of the crime as rapidly as possible. Local flunkies can act as a sort of local police force, their job will be to preserve the crime scene as much as possible. This is where the time in transit becomes critical. For things like property crimes, your Inspector from the city will take reasonable transport out. A train to the nearest station then hire a horse or automobile for the proverbial last mile. Or an automobile directly from the city if the scene is a middle distance out. Property crimes are a bit less urgent and so the Inspector can take a little more time getting there in order to save some expense.

For violent crimes, like Murder, the Inspector will take the fastest mode available. A Plane comes to mind as it can fly direct, so road conditions, traffic, etc don't matter. The goal is to get him out there as fast as possible.

For the return trip, time is not as much of the essence. The prisoner can wait a day or two in a local lockup while Inspector numbers 2 and 3 trundles up in a car with seating for 4. Inspectors 2 and 3 take the prisoner back by car and the Primary inspector flies back. Or they tow the plane along with the prisoner to the train, where the plane is partially broken down and put on the train for a 3 to 1 guard rotation for the prisoner.

You will need some minor infrastructure in each village or town and on the railways. Each village or town has to maintain a stout small building to be used as a jail. It should have a cell, a cot for the Inspector and at least some clean straw for the prisoner. The town can use it for other things as well, but must be able to clear it out for government use on a moments notice. Right next to the local jail there will be a grass airstrip suitable for use by plane or zepplin. Each town should have at least 2 horses or a car for government use. Again, other uses most of the time, but if the inspector comes the car or horses are the inspectors to use. On the railway, all trains will be required to have 1 extra car. This will have storage for planes, cars, horses. It will also have a prisoner cell.

Here is your typical flow. Lord AutumnBottom is murdered. The town telegraphs London and Inspector Flimflam is dispatched. He flies directly to the village, lands on the grass strip, takes one of the horses and rides to the AutumnBottom Manor, and arrests the Butler. The Butler its taken to the local jail. Other agents arrive by train then car. car tows plane to train, everybody piles on the train and makes their way back to London.


In keeping with Victorian era bureaucratic infrastructure the local agents would probably be fire chiefs. Fire fighters would have to be indigenous, either professionals or volunteers but the fire chief would have to have some governmental authority. Who would call the central police in the first place?

With hyper-miniaturized mechanics, and precision tooling. I would rely on a favorite Steampunk mode of travel, the mechanical horse. Either steam powered or electric.

enter image description here

It has the advantage of being transportable either as a horse equivalent or stored in a crate. It would have excellent performance on cobblestone, dirt road or even cross-country. It could perform continuously for long distances and even have gyroscopically stabilized seat for the rider's comfort.

Horses worked well for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who had to be dispatched to the wilds of the Canadian frontier where there was little to no infrastructure.

Steam-powered versions could also be designed to burn collected wood and use unfiltered water found locally. Thus there would not be much need for any infrastructure between the central city and the destination of the inspector.


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