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I am working a wild wild west mixed with contemorary fantasy setting. So imagine knights in shining Armor, riding along side a train as a dragon flies over and breathes fire down.

on they have what are called Steam Rails. Big enchanted Engines that run on rails set into the ground. When you add water to the engine, it heats up the the water and turns the water into steam and the steam is then used to push the tires along tracks. Hence my version of trains. The water made for the steam rains on the road are made by Clerics who cast create water for the engines.

Magic is split up into 5 main different groups, wizardry Managerie (Mages), Soul searchers, clerical, and druidic.

Wizardry is the most common but very difficult to use cuz it take YEARS of study to do the simplest of spells. Wizardry is using knowledge to pull Magic out if the Magic world. Even after years of study some students may not even be able to grasp the magical knowledge past a certain level of magic. Enchanting is a school of Wizardy that can be learned.

Managerie magic is MUCH more rare it is people who are born with an ability to bend magic Natturally. It's more of a wild magic more powerful but less controlled like wizardry. Enchanting using Managerie magic could be very dangerous and so is not often done. It may work or it may make the Engine come to LIFE and start eating warm bodied people to power its self.

Soul searching is the ability to find the magic with in ones self, but again this can take years of study and training and learning and still not everyone is able to learn it. To enchant using soul searching magic would be to littural put part of your SOUL into an object which would be less than desirable to most people. There would not be enough of them selves to pass on after death and then you get ghosts powered by Engines.

Clerical is using the power of the gods, to use magic. People are wary to use clerics in stuff and for stuff as most clerics want to spread the word influence of their god and tend to take over where they work. The clerics who do work on the steam engines tend to be clerics to gods of mechanical things and invention so they enjoy working on the Steam Rails as they feel close to their god. The feel no need to take over as they are near their gods feild of influence. The only cleric that would be able to using enchantment magic would be Clerics of gods of machines. Except being a cleric they would most likely feel inclined to dedicate the Steam Rail to there god. Most companies feel inclined to keep there Engines to themselves as then the church and the clererie of that church might feel entitled to use the Steam Rails for missions of there God.

Druidic magic is the use if magic from nature. Most druids do not feel inclined to help upon a Steam rail which they find blasphemy to their way of life.

Enchanting by wizardry magic in my world is long and costly. It is pulling magic out of a parallel universe and putting it into objects. The more powerful the object the longer the enchantment. An enchantment of heat metal to the point of making 10s of gallons of water boil is a high level enchantment. The steam rail engines can take YEARS to make. It can take years as the only way to speed up the process of enchanting is to have MORE people working on the enchantment but then the more people working on the enchantment the more people must be payed.

There are other types of obtaining magic but that are rare and far between and often obscure. One would not not want to employ the type of magic for instance called Borrowers. someone who has traded his soul to a devil as they might afraid of a wrong step they Borrower would bring the wrath of their patron down on the Stean Rail.

My problem is that once steam trains are made someone will eventually stick them onto a carriage and then there are cars.

I do not want cars in my fantasy setting. The steam rails are supposed to be rare and have an magic sense to them. I need a REASON as to why people who not just make smaller steam run carriages.

My ideas was that the size of the magic steam producing engine cannot be made smaller than a certain size or otherwise they explode under the pressure of the steam. But if so why would they not make it out of a thicker or stronger or resistant steel for the engine...

Maybe the weight of the Engines is simply too much for the carriages but then why wouldn't they make stronger carriages to hold the engines...

To sum it up i need a reason why technology does NOT surpass that of trains and into cars. I WANT it to STAY at trains.

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    $\begingroup$ please specify if you need a mechanical, magical, political, and or cultural reason $\endgroup$ – kleer001 Nov 20 at 0:35
  • $\begingroup$ More of a technological advancement problem.. $\endgroup$ – Stupidzombiet Nov 20 at 1:53
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    $\begingroup$ I think a bigger problem here is how do the people not figure out that they can heat the steam up using non-magical means? $\endgroup$ – Llamageddon Nov 20 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe the rails are required to maintain sanity, therefor if you went off the rails you'd be on a Crazy Train. Bards may even write songs warning of this. $\endgroup$ – Glen Yates Nov 20 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ @criggie yes there are animals beasts of burden $\endgroup$ – Stupidzombiet Nov 21 at 4:30

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I've got what I think is a nice easy answer - you NEED the rails.

Yes, you need the fire, you need the water to create the steam, but unless you are running on the enchanted rails, you aren't going anywhere!

Perhaps the rails provide the magical "oomph" to turn a normal fire into something that can provide a high enough steam pressure, perhaps managing that steam into the pistons requires spells that are built into the rails, but without the rails, you have something that produces lots of steam, but isn't going anywhere.

Also, that will help to make your steam rails nice and rare - not only do you need to enchant the engines, the very rails themselves need to be ensorceled!

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    $\begingroup$ fantastic answer ! That's how subways used to work, with a third rail that injected electricity. Enchanted rails full of raw magic power, usable by the engine. Bravo ! $\endgroup$ – Don Pablo Nov 20 at 13:29
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe the rails follow ley lines and the magic flowing through them is needed for the train.. like electric trains. Technically, this could also be expanded to normal roads, but is just a prohibitive investment of enchanting resources? $\endgroup$ – Chieron Nov 20 at 13:59
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    $\begingroup$ Going off of this idea maybe its impossible to control a vehicle with this type of engine so you need the magic rails to stay in control $\endgroup$ – JIMMYPlay Nov 20 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ "That's how subways used to work" - that's how they still do in most places! Subways are size-constrained due to the tunnels they run in, so they don't have space for an overhead caternary like regional rails often use, and diesel power is a no-go because there's nowhere to vent the exhaust in an enclosed tunnel. $\endgroup$ – Skyler Nov 20 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ Rails acting as antenna channeling the magic energy to be focused in the boiler sounds like a reasonable approach. Of course then one has to start asking what happens when someone realizes they could more cheaply get the heat by burning coal. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Nov 20 at 15:08
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The effort to make a magic-engine doesn't have to scale linearly, so to make a small magic-engine still takes a long time to do. You could justify this in many ways. For instance that every engine require certain base enchantments to support the main power generating "burner" and these base enchants aren't affected by size because they're simply the magical framework on which the rest of the magic anchors on and only the "burner" enchantment itself scales with the size of the engine you make.

This way you can have a high fixed cost to create the engine, and then another smaller scaling cost on top to add the power generator depending on engine size. This makes small engines economically nonviable, while still creating limits to the size of the engines on the upper end.

You would probably still have small amount of lesser vehicles (because sometime you just need one and damn the costs), but they would be highly exceptional things.

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    $\begingroup$ "these base enchants aren't affected by size" Or you can make it like electronic components : the smaller the item, the harder it is to place every runes (so longer production time, higher price). You could even have a hard limit after which the item can't be enchanted by this concept. $\endgroup$ – Nahyn - support Monica Cellio Nov 20 at 8:03
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    $\begingroup$ "sometime you just need one and damn the costs"... yup. Some individuals (and governments, especially when we start talking about military use) just won't care (n.b. Weber's Safehold series). Thus, cars will exist, just not as "everyday" things as in our world. That said, this combined with Riddle's answer ought to work nicely. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Nov 20 at 20:46
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That's what happened in 19th century. As soon as there were steam engines, steam buses started to appear.

But they were heavy and amount of damage that car does to road is proportional to 4th power of its weight. It quickly become evident that those buses profits were based on unpaid externality - broken roads so they were shut down.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is what I was thinking too -- if the engines are really expensive, then very few people have them, so who's going to pay for all the infrastructure that cars need? $\endgroup$ – Pyritie Nov 20 at 17:14
  • $\begingroup$ And don't forget that steam road vehicles were exceptionally rare prototypes, they didn't see any widespread use. After the development of rail transportation it took more than 60 years for practical road vehicles to start to appear, and it took another 60 or so years until cars became available for the general public (early-to-mid 20th century cars, while not uncommon, were still a luxury, and the vast majority of the population even in developed countries traveled almost exclusively by rail) $\endgroup$ – vsz Nov 21 at 20:55
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    $\begingroup$ My first thought was "they are to heavy". If you have first-generation steam engines, heavy, bulky, inefficient - you can not even think of bringing them on the road. You need rails. Do not think of last-generation steam engines like the ones used up to the 70ies, think more of 18th century engines. $\endgroup$ – Julian Egner Nov 21 at 22:46
  • $\begingroup$ @JulianEgner : even "last-generation steam engines like the ones used up to the 70ies" are not really suitable for road travel. $\endgroup$ – vsz Nov 25 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ @vsz you are right. But in Steampunk scenarios we often have lightweight minimized steam engines, that are small and light enough for a car. $\endgroup$ – Julian Egner Nov 25 at 13:27
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No assembly lines for magic

It sounds like you've already solved the problem without realizing it.

You said that magic requires individual enchanters building the object. You can also make it that the entire enchantment must be done by the same person or group of people - you cannot have one person create one part and another person create another part.

Let's say it takes a team of ten mages five years to create an engine. This means that, at a minimum, the total cost of the automobile engine must be more than the total wages a single magic-engineer earns in 50 years. (Plus all the additional expenses, like material costs). There will be no way for a typical wage-worker to ever afford a car of their own.

While the automobile was invented in the 1800s, it didn't reach widespread use until the 1900s, when the creation of the assembly line made their mass-production significantly more efficient. If the nature of magic precludes the use of assembly lines, there is no economy of scale - that is, the production cannot be made cheaper or more efficient by building additional equipment or hiring more workers. While cars may exist in your world, they will forever remain toys for the extremely wealthy and will never reach the widespread use they have today.

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    $\begingroup$ It does speed up with more mages, though. Enough mages can make it cheaper? $\endgroup$ – Malady Nov 20 at 9:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Malady: What if mages are rare, highly paid experts? If we are talking years of work for a single engine it will always be expensive, even with cheap labor. $\endgroup$ – Michael Nov 20 at 12:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael - Well, if that, then I agree. So we need more info from the OP... $\endgroup$ – Malady Nov 20 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Malady If it speeds up linearly, it won't help - If ten mages can create an engine in five years and fifty mages can create it in one year, you're ultimately paying the same total amount for an engine either way. Economy of scale means that each individual worker becomes more efficient as you add workers or other expensive assets like equipment, which is the core of the Industrial Revolution. If magic can't scale this way, there will be no magical Henry Ford and cars will never hit the mass-market. $\endgroup$ – IndigoFenix Nov 20 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ @malady I added an explanation of my magics in my world. ^_^ $\endgroup$ – Stupidzombiet Nov 20 at 19:01
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The International Association of Horse Breeders and Carters is very politically powerful. They object to paving roads because of the extra wear on horses' hooves. The rather heavy steam cars get stuck in the ruts in the unpaved roads, and have to be pulled out by teams of horses, for a not-so-small fee.

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    $\begingroup$ This is actually what happened in reality when cars started to become a thing. At its most ridiculous they passed a Locomotive Act that stated that each car should be preceded by a man waving a red flag and a speed limit of 4 miles per hour. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… $\endgroup$ – Mara Nov 20 at 7:15
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    $\begingroup$ That's hilarious. I can maintain a walking pace of 4mi/hour (granted, I've yet to find someone that can match my pace), so why bother with a car unless I'm showing off? I wouldn't be surprised if people back then were at least that fast or faster, considering they had to walk way more than I do. $\endgroup$ – Hosch250 Nov 20 at 14:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Hosch250 early machines were extravagantly expensive toys, not banal working objects. They were for showing off the latest curiosity or experimenting in technological development, not effective transport. Even when they finally started being useful it was for power, not speed, in being able to haul extremely heavy objects which would otherwise need large teams of many horses to move at all. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Nov 20 at 15:13
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Make it so that an engine requires a magic person to be there to steer it. Perhaps a priest is needed at all times to refill the water. Perhaps a magic person is needed to maintain the enchantments, or they need to make minute to minute changes?

Perhaps in the future they can innovate this need away, but right now every engine needs a skeleton crew of 'engineers' to keep it operating. And this is simply not feasible for an automobile. It would also make the trains even more special as every new engine needs a skeleton crew assigned to it at all times.

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    $\begingroup$ I came here to give a very similar answer to this. It simply takes several people to operate a steam engine, like two mages and an engineer, so having that many people focused on a small carriage just doesn't make sense. Maybe a private train, but it would still have to be on the tracks. $\endgroup$ – thanby - reinstate Monica Nov 20 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ So perhaps royalty and nobility will have magic carriages, but they'll be rare. It might even be illegal for someone without a registered patent of nobility to have them, just as certain arms were reserved to the noble class. $\endgroup$ – Monty Harder Nov 21 at 23:32
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The rails are the key.

Magic requires the flow of the energies from the air to the earth. Iron rails, and the iron wheels that ride on them, and the safe conduit for that flow.

Many times before, people had build engines atop wooden or rubber wheels. They even tried iron tyres around wooden wheels.

In every case the energies were blocked, resulting in an inevitable buildup and violent discharge. It was only through the use of the iron energy conduit that magic could be safely applied.

Many powerful magicians died to learn this truth.

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  • $\begingroup$ Is this answer different from Riddles' earlier answer above? $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN Nov 20 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ I upvoted the other answer, but I took a different tack. It is not only that rails are costly to make -- they could be cheap and not "magical" at all. In some systems of magic, iron, being of the earth, is essential to some elemental spells. Rails and iron wheels preclude the easy, whimful transportation afforded by automobiles. A car is not only a means of propulsion, but also includes the suspension and soft tires that allowed cars to replace draft animals on the existing roadways. If magic engines explode and kill their users (or worse because magic) then they will not be popular $\endgroup$ – cmm Nov 21 at 0:44
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Sheer Size.

Steam engines simply do not work at a small scale. You can get big, beefy engines that pull heavy loads, but if you try to shrink them down too small, you get the this bit of the magic too close to the that bit of the magic and the warding scheme can't hold and the entire thing explodes.

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There are no rubber trees in your world. Tires are metal or wood. Nothing else is possible with the materials on hand.

Metal wheels must stay on reinforced tracks. Taking metal wheels on cobblestones or dirt roads tears up the roads and renders them unusable. Metal wheels have a difficult time stopping on wet or frosty cobblestones. Therefore, metal wheels must be confined to metal-reinforced surfaces such as rails.

Wooden wheels are technically possible. They work for carts and carriages. But they are prone to breaking. The weight of the engine requires a massive amount of power to move. The power produced by the engine makes it very easy for the car to move faster and generate more force than wooden wheels can withstand. The first time you hit a rock or a pothole, that wheel will shatter. Wooden wheels also don’t have much stopping power on wet or icy surfaces. Wooden wheels don’t have the traction to go up cobbled inclines. They work for carts because the horse is digging in with hooves to provide the traction, and even then it’s hard to go uphill in the rain. A wooden-wheeled contraption on its own has no chance of making it up a slick hill. Also, they are overly efficient at making it down slick hills.

Thus, no cars.

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  • $\begingroup$ And what about tracks, like tanks and bulldozers? Metal wheels damage the road because they are stronger than the rocks that cover the road and the force is applied in a small area. Wide tracks would distribute the force over a larger area reducing the damage. $\endgroup$ – Geronimo Nov 21 at 18:34
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This magic has a strange requirement to work, so that it can be used only on a mass transit vehicle

We know that one of the main features of magic is that sometimes it works in unintelligible and irrational ways.
Basically, the magic somehow can sense the number of people carried by the object it is casted upon. If it contains less than - say - 50 people, the magic has no effects and the vehicle can't move.
So, you need to cast it on a mass transit vehicle, like a train, and trains themselves need a minimum number of passengers to be able to travel.
It could also make for some plot devices (like, the fiftieth passenger jumps away from the train, so that it stops in the middle of nowhere...)

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  • $\begingroup$ that is a GREAT idea. FANTASTIC idea, good one. $\endgroup$ – Fattie Nov 21 at 0:31
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To make cars you need more than a steam engine.

For Otto cycle motors you need to understand how to create a spark, and that requires understanding electromagnetism.

For Diesel cycle motors you need suitable fuels.

As long as neither of the two things above are available in your world, cars are out of the picture.

Since in your world enchanting is time and money consuming, it makes also sense that no effort is put into using it of a small vehicle like a car: it's more efficient to enchant a train, since it would carry more people/goods.

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    $\begingroup$ The first cars were steam powered though I've heard. $\endgroup$ – Stupidzombiet Nov 19 at 22:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Stupidzombiet but in your world making a steam engine takes years, way longer than buying a couple of horses. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Nov 19 at 23:01
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    $\begingroup$ Not sure what point 'L. Dutch - Reinstate Monica' is making as you need neither Otto Cycle or Diesel cycle engines to make a car. Stanley were quite happy making steam cars for 30 years or so... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Motor_Carriage_Company $\endgroup$ – houninym Nov 20 at 8:40
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    $\begingroup$ For Diesel cycle, the timing when you start and stop injecting the fuel is much more critical than in Otto cycle engines. $\endgroup$ – raubvogel Nov 20 at 15:45
  • $\begingroup$ @raubvogel Only if you care about efficiency. There was only 14 years between the first commercial use of liquid-fuel otto cycle engines and the first diesels. (The first internal combustion engines were the gas-fueled, not liquid-fueled). $\endgroup$ – alephzero Nov 21 at 2:00
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Cars, as we know them, require paved roads. So prevent paved roads from becoming common.

Paved roads grew to solve three problems:

  • Dust control from dirt surfaces
  • Sanitation issues caused by large numbers of horses and oxen mixed with storm runoff
  • Smooth travel surfaces needed for bicycles.

So your cities must remain small towns: Low density of horses and cows. More vegetation and roadside ditches instead of streets and curbs. And no bicycles.

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    $\begingroup$ No, cars don't require paved roads. They're nice if you want to drive at high speeds, but I regularly drive on unpaved ones. There were also a number of large cities before automobiles came into general use. In 1900, New York City had a population of about 3.5 million, London was around 5 million, Paris around 2 million... $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Nov 20 at 2:12
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Indeed, the quick adoption of autos in those cities 1915-1925 was primarily due to the factors cited above. Cities lead directly to demand for cars. I also regularly drive on unpaved roads...but they are still designed and maintained for auto travel. They are not rutted wagon trails or endlessly-bumpy cobblestone, corduroy, or plank roads. Sure, you can drive on most of those, but it's not a pleaseant experience...for you or for the car. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Nov 20 at 2:27
  • $\begingroup$ I'd disagree about cities being the reason for the adoption of cars. London had its Underground, NYC had elevated railways, both had horse-drawn busses and other ways to get around, while the streets were even then congested enough to make private carriages or cars a slower means of getting around. (And it hasn't changed much: London in the 1990s was easier to navigate by Underground, bike, or foot than by car. Even in the few US cities I've worked in, my car was mainly for getting to and from the city. Driving in the cities was a major pain.) $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Nov 20 at 17:29
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf The history seems clear about what actually happened - automobile adoption occurred earlier in places with paved roads. Early automakers launched expensive political efforts in favor of publicly-funded road-paving projects, and openly complained that the lack of paved roads was a major hindrance to automotive market growth. The transition from horse-drawn to motorized vehicles took only about 10 years in (for example) NYC, and occurred fastest in the places with higher congestion. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Nov 20 at 17:45
  • $\begingroup$ Cars were adopted in major cities as a way to reduce the massive pollution problem caused by horses. In New York City alone, horses were producing about 3 million pounds of manure and 40,000 gallons of urine every day. There was so much horse waste in the cities, it was causing a health crisis. They couldn’t cart it away fast enough, and adding more carts meant more horses...which made the problem worse. When cars came along, people were overjoyed. They thought their pollution problem was solved. See “the Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894.” $\endgroup$ – Snapdragon Nov 21 at 3:23
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Don't go down the steam path at all, unless the steam-magic-punk aesthetic is crucial. Have an enchanted rail with an enchanted thingamajig on the train that acts as a https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_induction_motor. That way you don't even have to explain away why people haven't tried putting 2+2 together and tried heating water with wood to create steam if magic is so expensive, since the trains are so good that no competing technology can get off the ground.

It would also explain why it can't be scaled down into a smaller engine, if the enchanted rail slowly sucks in the relatively diffuse natural magic of the world over the course of the day and over a very large area, since the rails are 100s of km long and discharges it into the passing train's thingamajig.

High traffic rail-roads may be limited to ley-lines for interesting story conflicts, e.g. druids can't plant their magic grove, because that would shift the land's ley-lines and leave a Class-A railroad without power.

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  • $\begingroup$ Its cuz I wanted a wild wild west fantasy feel to the setting $\endgroup$ – Stupidzombiet Nov 21 at 4:34
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    $\begingroup$ This solution is not incompatible with your goal. You can still have e.g. horse-mounted bandits pulling off a train-heist, without said train necessarily going choo-choo, but sliding silently along on 2 rails with a center drive rail. IMHO it would be different enough not to be cliche. $\endgroup$ – Eugene Nov 21 at 9:17
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Your world is but a single supercontinent with zero biodiversity, geologically homogeneous, and inhabited by peaceful people who are generally self-sufficient.

That's the only real reason that the 'shipping industry', which wouldn't exist, hasn't invented the automobile. No spices, no exotic lands or peoples, no war : no reason to bother your neighbor other than to borrow a cup of sugar. Kinda lame, but lame is the only thing that will get in the way of progress.

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Cost.

As you state in the question, these engines are expensive. A car engine transports four people. A train engine transports several hundred people. If they cost the same, there won't be very many cars. Maybe a few buses. (Many people have mentioned this, just repeating it for completeness)

Public safety.

These things are dangerous! After a few accidents where wayward buses run over innocent pedestrians, they are forbidden.

Trains are allowed as they stay on their tracks. The railroad owns the land these tracks are on and forbid entry to others. (Enforced by fences and/or spells)

This has its own problems. The railway station is in the middle of town and the tracks cut the town in two. People will want to get from one half to the other. Tunnels and bridges are the expensive but safe solutions. Single-level crossings are cheap and dangerous. You might want to have magical warning bells or barriers.

The military

The military has a different view on dangerous things. And money. If your country is at risk, no price is too high. It is up to you how important the military is in your world.

They will have trucks to transport both soldiers and materiel. Since they are so expensive, they will probably stay some distance back from the front. They will still be immensely useful.

They will probably not have mobile weapon platforms, i.e. "tanks". These would be too expensive and too short lived to be useful. Note the old saying: "If the enemy is in range, so are you."

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Efficiency of building large or small engines (different than the already mentioned answers).

You build a magic steam engine for a train. Its large, its powerful and useful. The runes and incantations are numerous and require space to make. If you scale this down then you dont cut down on man hours but increase them as now they have to make the runes smaller and more intricate to still function, on top of that fewer people can work on the same engine at the same time.

As a bonus the smaller engine design could also mean less powerful incantations and enchantments, meaning it doesnt provide the necessary power to drive a car especially in a pre-aluminium era. So you'd bring a horse instead.

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Here's an idea from me:

Maintenance

The steam engines require regular tuning up to maintan efficiency and safety to prevent violent disasters, to a point where either the nation or the association responsible for their creation refuses to invest manpower and take on the risks inherent in the existence of personal carriages.

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1) Scale: the technofantasy engine doesn't scale well when miniaturized, with the power it generates becoming smaller faster then the volume. Below a certain size it can't generate enough power to propel itself. With this you also get rid of planes (cars and planes go hand to hand), so no me109 killing your dragons.

2) Weak industrialization: your society is not industrialized. It lacks large scale ironworks, lacks interchangeable parts, lacks standard measurement units. That increases the costs of the engines.

But there is something else you have to take into account: huge, armored, locomotives with tracks instead of railroad wheels, the thing that in our world we call tanks. How to avoid tanks? First, no good gunpowder. Without good gunpowder you can't create artillery and with no artillery there is nothing to mount on the tanks, lowering their appeal. They will be glorified armored troop transports. How to avoid even the armored mobile infantry? If you have no guns you can't protect your APC from the enemy infantry. They will approach your APC, break your tracks and your APC became just a prison to those inside it. An oven, should the enemy infantry bring with them some flameable liquid to torch the APC. So, the armored locomotive on tracks is useless. Maybe it will see action in sieges as way to help sappers approach the wall without getting hit. Smart fortification engeneering like moats, pits, fortresses on swamps or mountains and inclined walls might solve that

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Their are already some nice answers here, but to me they seem to miss the most obvious/important thing:

  • Time

Settings should not be static, things change over time in the real world and in any fantasy world their has to be actual change for it to be convincing. In real life their was about 80 years between the invention of the train and the car, so even without any kind of magical stipulations/rules that stop people inventing cars you could easily claim a 100 year window where the setting is exactly as you describe it, and tell your story at that time. This is the simplest solution.

If you are writing a book I don't think you really need to waste the readers time explaining why their are no cars. The Lord of The Rings doesn't sit me down and tell me why the people of middle earth have not invented guns, electricity or spaceships yet, nor does it need too.

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The train is needed to transport the large amount of water that is used.
A lot water is used, because the train is not driven by a steam engine as we know it.

It uses a steam jet!

It uses so much water that it needs extra tank cars.
Also, a jet drive can not be used on a street, because the exhaust is dangerous to people on the street.

The jet could be created in two ways:

It could be just a stream of steam or water pointing backwards, with an extremely high speed. Just heat the steam enough.

Or

It works similar to a jet engine, but instead of using oil based fuel, it uses water. In the part or the engine where normally the fuel is burned to create pressure, the water is heated to steam instead, creating pressure too.

You can even make the steam jet engine stronger than engines used today, because engines burning fuel are limited by too much heat for the best materials!

And if you want to get fancy, build a high bypass turboprop from it.

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If you REALLY want to mess everyone up, it is because a greater god saw the havoc it would wreak on the ecosystem, and he called the gods together and showed them. They came to an agreement that the technology (as well as any other technologies you do not wish in-game) can simply NOT be thought of or dreamed about by the populace. In essence, the gods, who control existence, do not wish this tech to exist.

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