So although I've hashed out a lot of my historical timeline, it's more of a flow of ideas than a set timeline--ie no dates.
Part of the problem is that I'm not sure when to place my story.
Aesthetically it will be similar to the Victorian era at mid-point of Industrialization. But it is set in a fictional world [at least that's the current plan] with the main country having similarities to America [melting pot of cultures, land of prosperity, etc], but with Victorian/English manners and politics. There will be other influences as well, but that's the basics.
The issue is that 1895 in this world might not be anything like 1895 is in our own or at least the dates no longer have the same relevance assuming this world is more than just a slight alteration to the time-line.
For now I think I might use placeholder dates and then either omit the dates in the story [I've seen it done before with a very simple "5 years ago"..or "It was a new decade"] or pick dates I'll be happy with.
In fact, the only time I've seen dates used in some steampunk novels is to reference something that really happened in our own history or a variation of that event. Or to state factual dates for the reader to understand the world.
After all, if the date has no real significance to the reader, do they really need a number?