Excerpt from “Gentlemen of Steampunk II” by Evan Butterfield
Master Aengineer Tobey Fenloque is one of the most little-known of the early Steam Age pioneers, although his work was amongst the most visible at the time, and remains so today. Still, while schoolchildren can cadently recite the Rhyme of the Four Founders (“Thornbrussel, Mayben, and Pembrooke, and Bell/These are the men we remember so well…”), it is to Fenloque’s work that they owe the rhythms of their daily lives. For it was Tobey Fenloque whose insights and invention drove the steamification of Tall Tom himself, and enshrined that massive timepiece as the chronometer by which the world counts its hours.
An honors graduate of the august Rhembleden Academy of Applied Aengineering, Fenloque was employed by the Albans Court Trust as a Mechanickal Clocksman II, and assigned to a variety of menial maintenance activities. At the same time, the second wave of applied steam energy was revolutionizing daily life: what had once been a predominantly industrial power-source was found capable of powering—and improving—a wide variety of domestic and business activities, from banking and shipping to cooking, cleaning, and personal transport. Fenloque saw the potential in the new technology to enhance the accurate operation of Tall Tom’s ancient clockwork mechanisms, and assembled a massive collection of plans, blueprints, bound calculation tables, and a small working model, which he presented to the Trust along with an oration that reportedly lasted over three and a half hours. At the end of Fenloque’s exposition, the Trustees sat in silence for a full minute, after which they rose as a body and applauded the young aengineer’s audacious plan to modernize and improve the very symbol of the nation.
One part of the Chamber’s population most notably did not rise in raucous approval: the thirteen blue-clad representatives of the Guild of Gentlemen Clocksmen maintained a stony silence through much of the uproar, and rose not in jubilation with the Board but rather to march out from the Chamber en masse. Nor was the proposal destined to please the violently anti-technology Bevelists, who proclaimed in a secretly-printed broadside that Tall Tom was “better off scattered to the winds by the mercy of Lady Dynamite, than to be defiled and humiliated, all run-through with canc’rous steampipes!”
For the next three years, the West Tower was entombed in scaffolding as the ancient ‘works were laboriously removed, and new, modern steamworks and steam-driven clockwork mechanismae were installed, tested, adjusted, and approved. On the appointed day, the young Queen herself—whose reign had begun only a year previously—was on hand to personally open the rootvalve that let the empowering energy convey renewed life to the edifice. At precisely 10:00 in the morning, Tall Tom’s gleamingly-cleaned bronze and copper carillon triumphantly pealed the hour.
The then-new technologies installed by Fenloque resulted in an order of magnitude improvement in Tall Tom’s timekeeping. In the nearly two centuries since that noteworthy morning, the clockwork has required manual adjustment only once (following a Bevelist bombing of the nearby Ministry of Vapour Mechanics, the vibrations of which resulted in a three-second mistiming of the clock’s primary chronologicon gears). Although Fenloque’s triumph is commemorated in the form of a bronze plaque near the entrance to the tower’s base, and an Act of Parliament ceremonially renamed the structure “Fenloque Tower” on the occasion of his death, the name never sparked the popular imagination, and the Master Aengineer’s contribution to the timeliness of the Empire is, sadly, largely unknown to the general public.
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