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Our Gallery: Diesel Era Giants

28 Jan

When we talk dieselpunk, ‘megalomania’ doesn’t sound like an obscenity or a diagnosis. The genre is inspired by the Interbellum aesthetics, and no one can argue that between two world wars size did matter, the bigger the better. In this gallery there are no abandoned projects and paper designs. Only real giants.

Let us begin with an undisputed dieselpunk icon, the airship. Not just a dirigible but a flying aircraft carrier:

Flying aircraft carrier (PopMech, May 1942)

Flying aircraft carrier (PopMech, May 1942)

The concept was already obsolete when this picture was published but carrier airships existed a few years before – see USS Macon and Akron.

Another nice try to increase the operating range of piston-engine aircraft: the Mayo project:

Short S20 Mayo 'Mercury' & Short Empire 'Maia' flying boat

Short S20 Mayo 'Mercury' & Short Empire 'Maia' flying boat

The Short Empire Class S.21 Maia was not the largest flying boat of the period – but large and powerful enough to carry a four-engine floatplane.

And speaking of flying boats, one cannot ignore the Dornier Do X:

Dornier Do X

Dornier Do X

World’s largest landplane of mid-1930s, the unlucky Maxim Gorky:

Maxim Gorky ANT-20 1934 (from a painting by Vassily Kuptsov, 1934)

Maxim Gorky ANT-20 (from a painting by Vassily Kuptsov, 1934)

Big birds require a big nest, and such a nest was constructed in Berlin in 1936-1941:

Tempelhof (Berlin Central) Airport, aerial view

Tempelhof (Berlin Central) Airport, aerial view

What about railway stations? New York Grand Central is the champion in ‘number of platforms’ nomination (44 platforms), Cleveland Union Terminal boasts the highest tower (708 ft), but the largest station building, designed in the wake of automotive revolution and slowly decaying in Detroit the Motor City, is nothing to be proud of:

Michigan Central Station, Detroit

Michigan Central Station, Detroit

This grandiose 18-story structure, a victim of short-sightedness and bad planning, reminds us that size can be counter-productive.

1920s and 1930s were the period when ‘white fuel’ (i.e. electric power) was almost as popular as diesel propulsion. Giant dams were built all on different continents, and this is only one of the many. Impressive, isn’t it?

Hoover Dam. Construction nears completion

Hoover Dam. Construction nears completion

Steam power was fully legitimate, too. Until 1940s, no fast full-size passenger train could be successfully hauled by a diesel-electric locomotive (electric locos are  another story). Hence the need for streamline steam monsters, and the Pennsylvania Railroad T1 duplex drive engines were not only the largest – they cried out loud: “Tomorrow is already here!”

PRR T1 locomotive #5533 (streamline cowling designed by Raymond Loewy)

PRR T1 locomotive #5533 (streamline cowling designed by Raymond Loewy)

Bridges! Names like ‘Golden Gate’, ‘Ambassador’, ‘Ben Franklin’ and ‘Bay Bridge’ instantly spring in mind. Each one is an icon. For a change, here is somewhat less famous structure – Pulaski Skyway in New Jersey, three and a half miles long, opened in 1932:

Pulaski Skyway (LOC Archive)

Pulaski Skyway (LOC Archive)

Unsafe and unreliable, they say. But isn’t it huge?

New construction technologies, Art Deco, shattered dreams of economic prosperity and airship terminal in the heart of Manhattan – they are all here, 1,454 ft including antenna:

Let’s go for a ride! Ettore Bugatti designed the world’s longest passenger car, the 21-ft Royale powered by a 12.7-litre 275 hp engine.

Bugatti T41 Royale

Bugatti T41 Royale

Only six were built. But six is too many compared to the Normandie – the one and only beauty of the seas, the largest, fastest and most luxurious transatlantic liner, a ship of incomparable grace:

SS Normandie entering New York Harbor

SS Normandie entering New York Harbor

Warships. Well, the Japanese are holding three world records, constructing the largest battleship, aircraft carrier and submarine of WWII:

IJN Yamato battleship

IJN Yamato battleship

 IJN Shinano aircraft carrier

IJN Shinano aircraft carrier

IJN I-400 submarine

IJN I-400 submarine

Back to the rails. Beware of railway guns, German Schwerer Gustav and Dora 80 cm K (E) being the absolute champions with their 106-ft 800mm barrels and 7.1-ton projectiles:

Dora 800mm railway gun

Dora 800mm railway gun

Finally, super-heavy tanks. There are quite a lot of these beasts around, ranging from French Char 2C to German Maus. If you really need a tank to inspire you – why not a British 78-ton assault machine:

A39 'Tortoise'  heavy assault tank

A39 'Tortoise' heavy assault tank

Have a nice weekend!

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3 responses to “Our Gallery: Diesel Era Giants

  1. bikeal

    January 28, 2012 at 4:37 pm

     

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