A Brief Overview

History:

TW Westcoast This timeline diverged somewhere in the 1700's. One of the first major indicators of this divergence was when the U.S. Constitution did not get passed. Instead, a series of modifications to the Articles of Confederation were made. This satisfied some states, but as time goes by, others separated completely from the Union (including a version of the Confederacy). The U.S. thus was far weaker and had to compete with the separate states for resources, land, and power.

Indians were able to fight these weaker states to a draw, creating an Indian Confederation which stretched roughly from the Sierra Nevada to the Mississippi. This cut off any attempts by these states to spread westward.

None of this really affected California much for three decades - being the unfashionable end of the Spanish Empire meant that most world events just passed it by. However, after the Spanish were thrown out of Mexico and Inturbide installed himself as Emperor of Mexico (in this timeline, he hung on to the post long enough to make the Mexican Empire a more permanent polity) he began to do what all those in power do with lands that no one much cares about (like California at the time), he dumped all his undesirables there.

By 1831 over ten-thousand people - and that's a lot compared to California's population - have been moved there. California, which has never been too keen on the officials that were appointed from afar to rule it, "rebels" (a bloodless coup) and declares itself independent. Mexico can't really do much about this because it's having trouble with Indian uprisings, and, after one brief troop landing, California defacto "wins" it's independence. The Californian state includes both Alta and Baja California.

Mexico will still claim it for the next sixty-odd years though.

As a separate nation, California makes a series of close ties with Britain, resulting in several mild waves of immigration from there. East coast Americans, along with those in Mexico that feel moving would be a good...move, also immigrate, but not in any great numbers.

While this is going on, Russia throws more support behind it's Northern California colony than it did on this line. Eventually, this gives them an area of control covering a large chunk of California north of the bay area, and some of what would have been Oregon. Along with their Alaskan territories, this eventually forms what's known as Czarist America.

English speakers, while not as large a percentage here as they were on this line, slowly move into positions of power. However, there is enough of a Spanish speaking population that many, many loan words get absorbed into the local English, along with simplified spelling of some things (Spanish is much more phonetic than English), and some grammar changes. By the 19th century the language has changed enough that it is pretty unintelligible to pure English speakers - though speakers of "Espanglish" can understand English if it's spoken slowly and loudly to them.

California also gets around to formalizing it's government - up till now it's mostly been run by tradition - and writes a constitution, becoming The Republic of California. It should be noted that mostly the same people remain in power. A flirtation with that government building a railroad sours (badly) the people of California from having the government build any transport systems (including roads! Though, it must be admitted, this was sort of an accident of the legislation passed after the S.F. & Monterey Rwy collapsed amidst cries of "embezzlement!" And by the time folk realize this, the railways have enough political clout to keep it unmodified and on the books).

Over three-thousand ex-slaves, fleeing from the failed "Texas Revolt" (The "Free Texas State" isn't, and won't be until the early 20th century) end up in Southern California (or, more correctly in a California that stretches from the Bay Area to the tip of Baja, "Middle" California), eventually starting their own town in the Tujunga Valley.

Mexico finally recognizes California as an independent state during a war with the Indian Nation to the north. This eventually results in the two becoming major trade partners.

A natural flooding, followed by some artificial help, creates a (mostly) freshwater lake in the Salton Sink - the Widney Sea. For a while, the success of this creation makes California a little lake-making crazy. Amongst others, there is a fair sized (if shallow) lake created north-east of the Palos Verdes peninsula created by channeling the L.A. River into it, and a constantly rising and falling lake in the southern San Gabriel Valley created by damming the Whittier Narrows. These lakes suffer from wild variability of area, but between them and the Widney Sea, the local climate is ameliated somewhat. Average rainfall is one to five inches higher than on our line. The planting of several forests (mostly as tree farms) helps, as do worldwide climatic changes (see below).

A sort of Farm Co-op/Nation/Company Town (it really defies description) called the Owen's Incorperacy splits off (though it was never really attached all that much) when California attempts to build an aqueduct from the area. It survives, and flourishes, by farming and an active trade with the Indian Nation to it's east.

The world continues to roll by. California becomes known as a major site for scientific research - and fresh produce. By the time of this story it is, while not one of the major nations on the planet, at least influential in world affairs. It's main products remain agricultural, but an increasingly large export is in electronics, power systems, and various railway engines.

Somewhere around 1965, someone notices that the world's average temperatures have been dropping recently. This starts a loonnng argument in scientific circles about long-term climatic change, but by the 1980's it's pretty much assumed that - if nothing is done - the world will be in a full fledged ice-age soon. "What To Do" becomes the next "loonnng argument in scientific circles" - spreading quickly to political circles as well (especially in the more northern countries). At the current time, no real solution has been decided on - though releasing large quantities of CO2 has a large following (in spite of it being considered economically unfeasible to release sufficient levels to warm the planet).
Technology:

The level of technology on this line can generally be thought of as equivalent to our late 19th, early 20th century levels. The primary reason for this is that on this timeline, the factors that supported the creation of massive assembly lines did not occur. Individual parts (like rails) and other simple objects (like dishes) are mass-produced, but there is a cultural blind-spot obscuring the concept of assembling complex devices mass-productively. For the most part anything people make is made one at a time by craftsman (though it should be noted that this does not mean the lack of shoddy merchandise. It's quite possible to make things one at a time badly - see the stock of the average Pier One Imports, for example). Still, on the average, many things are made better than their equivalents here).

There are a couple of exceptions to this general trend. These are the electronics and power system industries.

Electric traction comes in big in California in the late 1880's, early 1890's - a trifle earlier than on this line. And on this line, electric railways and trolleys lack competition from government built roads. They flourish - and spur on the creation of electrical generation facilities.

In 1892, Tesla gives a radio demo at California's Universidad San Pablo. Impressed, Sierra Foothill Rwy's Electromotive Division hires him (bribe of "all the electricity you can eat" - which will prove expensive in later years) and sets him up in a research facility built on a spur north of Goldfield. Over the next few decades he puts out a string of electrical inventions that make California a leading producer of generating & electronic facilities. And, in 1921, he comes up with his biggest invention (though he doesn't know it at the time) - a high-energy plasma containment system which creates artificial "ball-lightning." Fifteen years later when physicists come up with theories of nuclear fusion to explain the sun - someone at SFR makes the connection and has a brilliant idea.

The first fusion powerplant fires up in 1937.

Due to inherent limitations of the containment system, any single reactor is limited to about thirty-thousand kilowatts output. This is rather small, and results in them being built both in large numbers at a single site and large number of single units built to power small areas. This decentralizes the power grid considerably.

Electronics are spurred on by Tesla as well, and by the time of this story they are in some ways about a decade or so ahead of this timeline. However the vast majority of devices produced are job-specific, specially created chips. The idea of mass-producing large numbers of the same chip - and the concept of the general-purpose chip - is only just catching on. It's anyone's guess whether the concept of mass producing things will cross over from the realm of tiny chips to bigger things (like cars or furniture). This may not be a conceptual leap the residents of "Trolley World" can make yet.

There is little use of plastic on this timeline. Plastic's big advantage is in use in injection molding hundred's of thousands of identical objects on assembly lines - and there aren't any. This lack of wide spread use makes it considerably more expensive than on our line. Still, some specialized uses for it are found in the electronics industry and, recently, their has been a fad for (expensive) plastic jewelry!

Since the mid-sixties, fusion engines have been putting British, German and Greater Japan spacecraft into orbit. The moon, Mars, Venus, and the asteroids have all been explored by manned vehicles. However, there are few unmanned vehicles, so this line's knowledge of the outer planets is far poorer than ours.
Transit:

As should be obvious, the vast majority of transport - both of people and cargo - goes by rail, the largest percentage of that, electrified. Rail transport there carries a larger percentage of shipped materials than the combined total of rail and road here.

There are a small (relative to this Earth) number of passenger and cargo road vehicles out there. The lack of assembly-lines, however, keep them very expensive and the lack of good roads doesn't help promote them either. Most cars would be considered "Off-Road" vehicles here.

One place where there are a lot of cars/trucks is in the emergency services (fire/ambulance/police) and construction vehicle areas, as their need to get to more places than those serviced by rail outweighs the cost. It should be noted that a great many of these vehicles are "duel-mode" - able to travel both on rails and the ground.

There is air transport as well. Large number of cargo and passenger dirigibles are out there. However, they are mainly competing with water transit, or covering routes that are not economical enough for a rail line to be built, as the speed/time advantage of a dirigible over a train is too small in most cases to make up for the additional costs.

Most dirigibles are quite large, to take maximum advantage of the fusion reactor(s) that power them. The smaller are mostly hydrogen burners.

Airplanes have a much smaller role in transit on this world, primarily because being about the only vehicle there that uses petrochemical fuels, the market for such fuels is too small to bring the price down to economical levels (of course, most governments have quite large numbers of military aircraft, as they aren't bound by the same economic factors). Trolley-World has begun experimenting with hydrogen-powered airplanes (hydrogen can be made cheaply), but the problems of cryogenic storage and range are hampering efforts. Still, there are aircraft out there, but their roles (apart from the above mentioned military ones, and sports-craft for the terribly well-to-do) are limited to those packages/people who "absolutely, positively, have to get there overnight", and the numbers of such packages/people on this world are substantially less than on ours.

There is still horse-transit out there (well, there still is some here, too). However, horses have always been expensive, so their role is limited primarily to rural areas, lacking in other options.


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