The steam-engine plugin detects custom workshops with the string
STEAM_ENGINE in their token, and turns them into real steam engines!
The plugin auto-enables itself when it detects the relevant tags in the world raws. It does not need to be enabled with the enable command.
The vanilla game contains only water wheels and windmills as sources of power, but windmills give relatively little power, and water wheels require flowing water, which must either be a real river and thus immovable and limited in supply, or actually flowing and thus laggy.
Compared to the dwarven water reactor exploit, steam engines make a lot of sense!
The workshop needs water as its input, which it takes via a passable floor tile below it, like usual magma workshops do. The magma version also needs magma.
Due to DF game limits, the workshop will collapse over true open space. However, down stairs are passable but support machines, so you can use them.
After constructing the building itself, machines can be connected to the edge tiles that look like gear boxes. Their exact position is extracted from the workshop raws.
Like with collapse above, due to DF game limits the workshop can only immediately connect to machine components built AFTER it. This also means that engines cannot be chained without intermediate axles built after both engines.
In order to operate the engine, queue the Stoke Boiler job (optionally on repeat). A furnace operator will come, possibly bringing a bar of fuel, and perform it. As a result, a “boiling water” item will appear in the t view of the workshop.
The completion of the job will actually consume one unit of the appropriate liquids from below the workshop. This means that you cannot just raise 7 units of magma with a piston and have infinite power. However, liquid consumption should be slow enough that water can be supplied by a pond zone bucket chain.
Every such item gives 100 power, up to a limit of 300 for coal, or 500 for a magma engine. The building can host twice that amount of items to provide longer autonomous running. When the boiler gets filled to capacity, all queued jobs are suspended. Once it drops back to 3+1 or 5+1 items, they are re-enabled.
While the engine is providing power, steam is being consumed. The consumption speed includes a fixed 10% waste rate, and the remaining 90% is applied proportionally to the actual load in the machine. With the engine at nominal 300 power with 150 load in the system, it will consume steam for actual 300*(10% + 90%*150/300) = 165 power.
A masterpiece mechanism and chain will decrease the mechanical power drawn by the engine itself from 10 to 5. A masterpiece barrel decreases waste rate by 4%. A masterpiece piston and pipe decrease it by further 4%, and also decrease the whole steam use rate by 10%.
The engine must be constructed using barrel, pipe, and piston from fire-safe, or, in the magma version, magma-safe metals.
During operation, weak parts gradually wear out, and eventually the engine explodes. It should also explode if toppled during operation by a building destroyer or a tantruming dwarf.
It should be safe to load and view engine-using fortresses from a DF version without DFHack installed, except that in such case the engines, of course, won’t work. However actually making modifications to them or machines they connect to (including by pulling levers) can easily result in inconsistent state once this plugin is available again. The effects may be as weird as negative power being generated.