Steampunk Old West: Winan’s Steam Gun

This is a series of blog articles, updating and based on my original article on Steampunk Old West. I will be posting a few blog articles on my experiences and thoughts on taking the old west and adding a dash of victorian science fiction. I have painted and have been painting up some Foundry Old West figures for use with the Legends of the Old West Warhammer Historical rules. I liked the concept of a traditional Old West game, however the film Cowboys and Aliens got me thinking about “different” old west backgrounds. I did first start thinking about adding Victorian Science Fiction or Steampunk elements to the games.

Sometimes reality provides the inspiration for ideas for Steampunk Old West. The American Civil War though well known for cavalry, muskets and cannons, as with many other wars, there were lots of ideas and experimental weapons.

One of the more unusual ideas was the Winan’s steam gun. Built by Ohio inventors William Joslin and Charles Dickinson, this huge automatic weapon sat on an armored train carriage and used steam to fire bullets at 200 rounds a minute.

Steampunk Old West: Winan’s steam gun

The press at the time hailed it as a super weapon, but it was never used in an actual combat situation.

Charles Dickinson was on his way to Harper’s Ferry in 1861 in an attempt to sell his new steam gun to the Confederacy, when he encountered Union troops, and they confiscated the steam gun. The Union moved it around for a while, then the steam gun defended the Thomas Viaduct for the remainder of the Civil War after capture. After the war it was scrapped.The Union Army never attempted to deploy the steam gun on the field of battle, which suggests the steam gun probably failed to live up to its deadly reputation.

Steampunk Old West: Winan’s steam gun

On the gaming table, especially in a Steampunk Old West setting, the Winan’s steam gun may have been more successful than in reality, and more of them were made and deployed. Though not as powerful as gunpowder weapons, the fact it relied on steam and did not need gunpowder, would make it a cheaper weapon to deploy and logistically easier to use on the field.

You could use the Winan’s steam gun as an objective to be captured in a raid on the mine which the steam gun in guarding.

The army are transporting a battery of Winan’s steam guns across to the West coast when their steam train breaks down, they are then attacked by outlaws who see the broken down train as loot to be plundered.

A town in the old west is about to be attacked by outlaws supported by a steam tank, their only defence is a Winan’s steam gun.

Reality sometimes can provide real inspiration for science fiction games, especially those set in a steampunk era.