Wankel & Riobard's

Wankel and Riobard's, prior to being seized by the government, was one of the premiere producers of hydrodynamic power plants and a major innovator in the filed. Design was handled by famous engineer Herbert Wankel while production was overseen by his partner Wilhelm Riobard. The original Wankel and Riobard's factory in Coventry is considered an inspiration for men of applied science and contains some of the early automatons used streamline the creation of power plants, allowing Riobard's to produce the complicated and exacting designs of his partner while getting maximum efficiency from the available space and resources. Wankel once told a friend he designed power plants for the steam ships in his dreams. Many young people presented themselves to be apprenticed to the master designer. All but a few gave up, finding themselves unable to over come his excentricies. Those that did remain for a time were never to be given the position of apprentice. If they didn't stay on to work in the production facilities in Coventry or Leipzig, they were assured an apprenticeship at one of the rival companies, like Hoffman and Stout Hydrodynamics or Bourgan Hydronautics, who were always hoping for a look inside the mind of Herbert Wankel.

The Zephyr series was notable as Herbert Wankel's final series of power plants. before succumbing to old age at 93. While favoring larger more powerful creations earlier in his career, as was the trend, he focused more on efficiency as the war effort wound up. His penultimate design, the Storm Cloud series, was studied and imitated endlessly during the furious production of the early war effort. Combining massive power and high efficiency, banks of Storm Clouds moved many a massive steam castle through the skies. However as the effort wore on, and Europe settled into a prolonged conflict, Wankel's designs moved in differing directions.

The Zephyr series was met with surprise by his contemporaries. The first version was significantly smaller than even the previous Storm Cloud Mk 5 and considerably less powerful. By all indications Herbert Wankel had designed a civilian power plant in a time of war, and popular opinion followed that sentiment. Despite profits plummeting, Riobard continued to produce the new power plant and its revisions and would not hear a word otherwise. Buyers were mainly civilians and small business, and mostly on credit do to rationing. Further trouble was brought on by the Zephyr Mk 4. This design was a significant departure from the original and required a radical change in power plant configuration. Many customers were unwilling to attempt the tricky and expensive upgrade their Zephyrs and further tarnished the Wankel and Riobard's name. Regardless Wankel continued to modify the original Zephyr design while Riobard continued to produce power plants with each revision. By the final version, the Mk. 8, Wankel and Riobard's was a shadow of it's former glory and was forced to sell it's massive Leipzig complex to Bourgan Hyrdonautics at cut rate. While a masterwork of efficiency and clearly years ahead of it's time, the Zephyr Mk. 8 was also the epitaph of the once great Wankel and Riobard's.

Utilizing a twin turbine chamber, and able to handle outrageous pressure stresses, the Mk. 8 put out 150% of the power of comparable power plants it's size. It's small over all size made it ideal for light craft, but it's high price and rarity made it too much of a commodity for most. As a result it is a favorite of pirates and those needing speed over power and more willing to take than pay. This has only gone on to tarnish the reputation of the power plant despite it's almost supernatural efficiency and startlingly elegant design. Riobard's was heard saying his only qualm with the Zephyr series was his speculation that with proper maintenance, and avoiding misadventure, there was no reason the power plant wouldn't continue to function indefinitely.

Herbert Wankel past away on the same day that the final Zephyr Mk. 8 (#055) was rolled out of the factory in Coventry. It was a gray cold day in early November. The crew was sent home with pay, and attended the funeral that evening. When they came back to work the next day, Wankel's office had been taken over by his son Harrison Wankel. Harrison, who had become estranged from his father when he left to apprentice himself to a banker, was determined to see the company return to profitability. To that end he convinced Riobard to return to the older Storm Cloud Mk. 5 and cut prices to angle for a government contract. His plan was realized when a year later the Coventry factory was seized by the government and turned into Ministry of Hydrodynamics Section 1187-a. Harrison Wankel was offered a position in battlefield logistics with the 49th battalion in Turkey but disappeared before recruiters came to collect him. Riobard's was demoted to Head Foreman and the factory was put under the command of Lt. General Simon Hoffman, previously of Hoffman and Stout Hydrodynamics. Despite previously good health, Riobard passed away a week later under unknown circumstances. He was 71.

In the present day Wankel and Riobard's has a mystical quality for aspiring engineers. The musical play "The Madness of Herbert Wankel" toured Europe and was well received. Word that the script was written with assistance from Harrison Wankel added credibility and intrigue to the outrageous claims of the play. Clearly fictional depictions, like Wilhelm Riobard's personally signing every power plant and Wankel's death bed confession of perfecting a Zephyr Mk. 0 or "True Zephyr" design are secretly believed and talked about among the common and untrained. Most people remember Herbert Wankel leaping from his bed to the design table yelling "Zero loss pressure reflow, Wilhelm, I have it!". Engineers remember Wankel and Riobard's for it's contribution to the war effort and the art of Hyrdodynamics.

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