Imagine a world where steampunk has been taken to a highly advanced level. Gears and cogs and all that fun stuff, on both massive and minuscule scales. Now destroy that civilization. Earth split asunder, fire falling from the sky. Needless to say very few survived and all knowledge of the technology was lost.

However, those who rebuilt were surrounded by the ruins of that past civilization. Only the toughest artifacts survived, and much of it is broken parts. But from them the people of this world reborn gained two major things, a source of high quality materials, especially metal; and a basic understanding of technology. The civilization would have grown with the basic ideas of steam tech, gear and cogs and all that.

Now given that this world has artisans capable of handcrafting parts and adapting those they can scavenge, what would the tech of this world look like? Think feudal government, swords and arrows, large class of people toiling in the fields with a few specialists and elite on top. What would be some of the first advancements and what would be the ramifications.

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    $\begingroup$ They'd realize how much more effective other technology is and not be steampunk? Eh? Eh? Anyone? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 2:53
  • $\begingroup$ Just wondering how exactly did the apocalypse happen? Is it by fire or water or... $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 2:54
  • $\begingroup$ @XandarTheZenon lol good timing $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 2:56
  • $\begingroup$ I'm reminded of the character Jean-Paul (Beanpole) in The Tripods series, finding "modern" artifacts and trying to figure out what they were and how to recreate them. $\endgroup$
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 20:12

3 Answers 3


Couple of possibilities - while your powersources are gone, most machines would work with a suitable power source. I'd suggest several different technologies - which I'll term 'greenpunk' cause I'm unimaginative

Wind power might work for farm equipment, which would need to work inside a specific area.

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Regard the strandbeest

Might be complicated to steer but you might be able to powered wheeled vehicles off of this, or simple walkers. A vertical wind turbine might work. Fixed wind turbines would also be handy.

Solarpunk. But not solar panels - great big reflectors or massive fresnel lenses heating a tank of water (or salt) powering static devices. Depending on your 'flavour' of steampunk a fresnel lens or a large array of reflectors could work to direct light at a boiler. Course, machines that only work at daylight arn't that useful.

Energy storage would probably help with many of the issues. A flywheel would be very steampunky, or you could take a page from the wind up girl and and store energy in springs. You might also power machines off of compressed air


Steampunk will fall when they run out of things to burn. On the whole it's a massively inefficient technological dead end. Depending on how thoroughly they've managed to burn everything and how bad the runaway global warming is in their wake, it's going to be a while before anything resembling a technological civilisation recovers from the ashes.

Main requirement: Something new to burn

Unfortunately they've gone through the wood and coal. If you're taking it to the limit, the oil and gas as well. Solar power is outside the steampunk scope, it's too sleek and clean, so if you want to rush into a new high tech society then they're going to have to learn solar power generation and centralised electricity distribution. Otherwise you're going to have to regrow the forests by some act of government, wood being crucial, leaving you with a deadzone of 20 years before anything can happen.

When I say anything I mean you're going to have great difficulty working metals. Half your population might even struggle with cooking food. Swords and bows will have to wait, it's going to be rocks and scrap until you can make charcoal again.

  • $\begingroup$ It depends on how the apocalypse happened. If somehow the trees remained alive then they might be able to do it. Your question is built on the assumption that the apocalypse came from steampunks' reliance on burning things. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ @AarthewIII, it's the simplest form of self-destruction for an empire. Running out of trees is thought to be one of the reasons the Roman empire collapsed and is one of the triggers for the industrial revolution in Britain. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Apr 3, 2016 at 8:16
  • $\begingroup$ you can use solar power to generate steam - just point a bunch of mirrors at the water tank: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concentrated_solar_power mirrors need to move during the day, and you can achieve this with gears and clockwork $\endgroup$
    – Bald Bear
    Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 3:56

Steam engine requires high quality metals, and precise parts, so they will not be able to make new engines until they rebuild the entire tech tree.

But they can fix old engines with salvaged parts.

If they really cannot rebuild steam engines, they can still use windmills, or waterwheels, or horse mills, or stick serfs into human-sized hamster wheels. Most steam-powered factories had single huge steam engine, and a system of shafts and belts to distribute the torque to actual machines.


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