A steampunk society managed to develop functioning airships filled with helium, powered by a steam engine. They mine this helium from an underground reservoir along with other natural gas. What else can be assumed this society managed to develop?

Let's assume that steam power is what the society decided to invest everything into, along with clockwork technology.

Can we expect electric lamps on the streets? Steam-powered guns, cars, airplanes, submarines, trains? Would this society manage to develop an airship without ever investing in combustion engines and gunpowder?

Please excuse my poor knowledge of engineering. The society should mainly be steampunk since that's what I'm going for, so I would prefer everything to be powered by either steam or clockwork, we can thus assume that the society would naturally invest in that technology over combustion engines for example. But are there some inventions that are inevitable in a society so advanced it can make a helium-powered airship?


closed as primarily opinion-based by Ryan_L, AlexP, L.Dutch May 27 at 19:57

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ You are just asking for a list, with no criteria to pick a good from a bad answer. As such this question doesn't fit our standards. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch May 27 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ There is no such thing as a helium powered airship. Helium is a lifting gas, in provides buoyancy not propulsion, just like air in a water ship. A helium-powered airship is like an air-powered water ship. And anyway in real history airships came after the invention of the telegraph, telephone, electric batteries, electric motors and generators, internal combustion engines, photography, locomotives and railways, sound recording etc. Also see the question about realistic airships on this site. $\endgroup$ – AlexP May 27 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ To the OP though, why helium? Hydrogen airships worked just fine for years before the various disasters like the Hindenburg or R101 made it seem a bit too risky, and in many ways its a lot better as a lifting gas, especially if you're carting around big heavy steam engines. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime May 27 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ You're asking what we call a high concept question, which isn't a good fit for our site. We need to convert this from an off-topic infinite list of things to an on-topic finite list of things. You do that by providing limitations, restrictions, goals, and avoiding being primarily opinion-based (which is a bit different on this site). Thanks! $\endgroup$ – JBH May 27 at 23:31


Airships need lightweight metal to get off the ground at all. That's going to be aluminum...which needs to be electrolyzed from ore. Electrolysis requires a developed electrical infrastructure.

  • $\begingroup$ You could use magnesium instead of aluminium. Just in case, y'know, the hindenburg disaster wasn't exciting enough. I think (though I am not sure) that the Pidgeon Process for refining magnesium can be done without electricity, though it is still very energy intensive. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime May 27 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ To my astonishment, the Giffard Dirigible turns out to have been steam powered. It was hella slow, and couldn't make headway against the wind and had a miniscule payload but, y'know, it was in fact a steam driven airship. So I withdraw my comment about steam power being totally impractical. It is merely mostly impractical ;-) $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime May 27 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime an excellent reference! $\endgroup$ – user535733 May 27 at 20:09

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