Brass Tracks

Feel free to groan at the name 😀


Slowly, powerfully, and with a certain indefinable confidence, the gleaming behemoth rolled towards the iron-clad fortress. 30 paces from the pitted wall, a great billow of steam burst forth and the elegant beast slowed to a halt. The unmistakable sound of massive, meshing cogs emanated from the monster’s head as the cannon lowered into place. A thunderous explosion rocked the ground and a barely visible blur shot out from the barrel. In an instant, a second blast was heard as the volatile capsule met its mark.

With a hiss and a hearty clank, a portion of the machine’s body split open–allowing its occupant to step forth with ease. With stately posture he stood, adjusted his tailcoat, and coolly surveyed the land around him. His pawns had done a fine job; clearing the way for his own glorious entrance. The cracked, umber earth that extended around him was littered with bodies—many his own men. “Contrast” can barely describe the relationship between the man’s dress and his surroundings. The entirety of his outfit had been skillfully tailored to the most dapper of fashions, and cut of the finest silks and wools. His clothing would have appeared far more appropriate in an opulent ballroom than the horrific battlefield in which he now stood.

Tendrils of the now-clearing smoke curled around the warlord’s patent leather shoes as he confidently strode towards the iron wall. “Help me, my lord” breathed a voice from ground. The man looked into the pleading eyes of the bleeding mess at his feet and smirked. He deftly drew an intricately decorated flintlock pistol from within his coat and, with a deafening bang, the labored breaths choked into silence.

Preceded by his mahogany walking stick, he stepped gracefully through the smoldering hole his brass-clad war wagon had created moments before. He replaced the gun and looked around slowly. Everything had gone to plan; the waves of troops he sent in had lured the battalion from the fort—clearing the building completely.

He turned on his heel, pointed his cane at his smoke-belching contraption idling outside, and pressed a small gold button on the wooden shaft’s handle. From the hollow end of the staff came a piercing, high-pitched tone. At once, the armored vehicle roared to life–the periscope swiveling around to look directly at its pilot, tens of yards away. Within the bowels of the machine was a series of sensitive mechanical linkages, precisely tuned to the same frequencies as the tuning-forks within the cane. When he pressed a second key, a different tone sounded, a glass orb vibrated, and another set of gears was set into motion—dropping a huge iron cam into place.

Digging its iron cleats into the red clay, the beast turned in place to match the angle of the periscope on its back. The smoke being emitted from the crowned stack thickened as it began to roll towards the small, industrial castle. It plodded forward for several seconds before stopping—inches away from the fort’s wall. The war-machine then spun 180 degrees, so that its rear was facing the fortress’s newly acquired, roughly hewn doorway. It then backed through the hole, coming to a halt half way through. One final signal from the warlord’s walking stick caused the gleaming vehicle to rotate once more, stopping at such an angle that the opening was completely sealed

The smartly dressed man made his way to the stronghold’s control room, and pulled powerfully on one of the many large levers before him. Steam hissed and iron clanked as the fort’s heavily armored entrance rumbled open. His few remaining troops limped out of hiding and made their way painfully through the foot-thick doors. He squeezed the lever’s handle and returned it to its original position. Seconds later, the massive gateway locked shut with a sound that could be heard for miles. The power-hungry gentleman laughed victoriously, for the imposing, iron fortification he now stood within was his.


Greatly inspired by the steam tanks created by the illustrious Crabfu, I really wanted to do something Victorian to the previously-posted R/C mini-tank. I was quite bored one day (class had been canceled, and I was between big projects), so I began to putter about with the parts left over from building the Telecalculograph. Through whatever strange processes my brain typically uses when building my crazy creations, the corner piece from a salvaged steamer trunk struck me as a perfect tank body.

Pretty much everything else on her is made from brass tubing stock. It’s all put together (rather sloppily) with JB Weld, with things like the gun barrels reinforced with wire. The entire body also attaches to the chassis with wire, allowing it to be removed easily and swapped with the bomb robot and other bodies. The periscope/sound-sensor head swivels, though only by hand. The “lens” on the periscope is made from packing tape which, let me tell you, was no fun to cut out (3mm dia.). The pressure gauge in back was drawn on paper with pencil, covered with packing tape, cut out, and framed with brass tubing.

So, why did a super-liberal peacenik like myself build such a violent device? Well, I’ll admit that I had no conscious intentions other than “making something cool” when I started. Retrospectively, however, I see it as representative of my feelings towards weapons and other things. Aesthetically, I really like guns. From Victorian Gatling guns, to modern Glocks, to sci-fi ray-guns, I think they’re gorgeous. I’m also fascinated by military technology as a whole—come on, what’s cooler than a fighter jet, Sidewinder, bazooka, etc? It can get uncomfortable, however, when I let these superficial qualities cloud my true, deeper feelings on the subject. (Heh, read into THAT what you will!) This tank serves as a reminder to me to keep this shallow attraction in check.

Cost: $0.00

Time: 3 hours

Tools: Dremel, drill, tubing cutter, files, JB Weld

Approx. Date of Completion: Nov. 2006

Published in: on February 4, 2007 at 5:03 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Well … nice work

  2. Thanks!

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