Some things are bound to be forgotten in time. Sometimes these are very important. Part seven of my 2021 Worldbuilding Challenge inspired by this reddit post from a person named Faranesque:
From the memoirs of Luruk Ilfenbain, Techtrader in the great underground capitol between 692 RM till 748 RM
We lost knowledge. We lost a lot of it, no doubt. Over the centuries, we have lost much more than we currently possess. But it is not a sad thing, to lose, for we when something perishes in time, there will be always something left. Many great artifacts are stored in the vaults and treasuries of the Trainwork and we can be proud of them. For even though we do not know how they came to be, we can still thrive on the fact, that we once did.
Nowadays we don’t do it anymore, be it because of regulations or fear of instability, but we once knew how to combine our knowledge with that of the arcane. Grand machines were powered with gas and this unknown magic that our predecessors possessed and worked with. Processes of now unfathomable proportions were initiated and made possible some of our greatest achievements of today. Sadly, these compounds of tech and magic are failing more and more as we speak. And the worst part is, nobody knows how to repair them anymore or build new ones. The schematics maybe rot in some far away bunker down below but it is more plausible, that they are just stuck in some bureaucratic loop, from which they will never come forth again.
Take the nutrient cube dispenser for example. Pocket sized junks of food, made for easy consumption while working. We don’t have a clue how they function anymore. We fill all sorts of stuff in the top and out comes these neat little cubes worth a daily workers complete breakfast or supper. More and more of them are shutting down, getting clocked or sparking bright yellow flame out of pipes and cogs. And we don’t know what to do about it. One of our most important food resource is just slowly crumbling away. And we can’t do one thing about it. A shame really. Even though the little bastards taste like dirt and mud.
A bit worse for the whole Works is the ongoing breakdown of the Transtubular System. Once our pride and joy and meant to replace the Trains and Stations is now a disintegrating and corroding mess of broken junctions and failing pipes. To be fair, I never liked it to begin with, though I could see its improvement over the trainways. Far faster, without manual input or loading times. You would never be late anymore because of rail problems or a sick worker. Sadly, the whole thing was a technical disaster. Without the magic stabilizing the network it was bound to collapse eventually. Though I reckon some parts will still be accessible and usable in the far future, provided that the user is risk averse and not reluctant to gamble with his life.
I recall that the citymachines in the Swampmarshes seem to have a similar problem, though slightly worse. Eons ago, they rebuild those poison wells to house their population, but even the reconstruction plans and fabrications of the remodeling are already lost to time. Some of their kind still possess the trade of technological magic, but those experts are far and few in between and are not known for their friendly helper attitude. Alas so far our own attempts to recruit one of these engineers were fruitless. I also have a slight suspicion their tech differs quite a bit from ours.