From Academic Kids

Turbinia was the first steam turbine powered steamship, built as an experimental vessel in 1894 and demonstrated dramatically at the Spithead Navy Review in 1897, setting the standard for the next generation of steamships. The vessel can still be seen, at the Discovery Museum (http://www.twmuseums.org.uk) in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.



Charles Algernon Parsons invented the steam turbine in 1884, and having foreseen its potential to power ships he set up the Marine Steam Turbine Company with five associates in 1893. To develop this he had the experimental vessel Turbinia built of very light steel by the firm of Brown and Hood, based at Wallsend on Tyne.

The Admiralty were kept informed of developments, and Turbinia was launched on 2 August 1894. Initial trials with one propellor were disappointing, so after experiments with model propellors Parsons had three axial flow turbines fitted linked to three shafts, each shaft in turn driving three propellers. In trials this achieved a top speed of over 34 knots (63 km/h), so that "the passengers aboard would be convinced beyond all doubt Turbinia was Charles Parsons' winning North Sea greyhound".


As an audacious publicity stunt Parsons brought the ship uninvited to the Navy Review for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee at Spithead on 26 June 1897 and in front of the Prince of Wales, Lords of the Admiralty and foreign dignitaries the Turbinia, much faster than any other ships, raced between the two lines of large ships and easily evaded the Navy's patrol boats.

After further high speed trials attended by the Admiralty, Parsons set up the Turbinia Works at Wallsend which then constructed two turbine powered torpedo boats for the Navy, HMS Viper and HMS Cobra which were launched in 1899. Although both these vessels tragically came to grief, the Admiralty was convinced. In 1900 the Turbinia steamed to Paris and was shown to French officials then displayed at the Paris Exhibition.

The first turbine powered merchant vessel, the Clyde steamer TS King Edward, followed in 1901. (Her successor, the TS Queen Mary of 1932, is now a floating restaurant on the River Thames in London) The Admiralty confirmed in 1905 that all future Royal Navy vessels were to be turbine powered, and in 1906 the first turbine powered battleship, HMS Dreadnought was launched.

General characteristics

  • Displacement: 44.5 tons
  • Length (overall): 103 ft 9 in (31.6 m)
  • Beam: 9 ft (2.7 m)
  • Depth of hull: 7 ft (2.1 m)
  • Draught: 3 ft (0.9 m)
  • Maximum speed: 34.5 knots (64 km/h)
  • Powerplant: Three-stage axial-flow Parsons steam turbine driving two 12 ft 6 in (3.8 m) outer shafts, each with three 18 in (457 mm) diameter, 24 in (610 mm) pitch propellers, and one inner shaft with three propellers.
  • Maximum power: 2,000 hp (1.5 MW) three-drum water-tube coal fired boiler with double ended 1,100 ft² (102 m²) heating surface.
  • Working pressure: 200 lbf/in² (1.4 MPa), 170 lbf/in² (1.2 MPa) at the turbine
  • Water req'd at 31 knots (57 km/h): 27,000 lb/h (3.4 L/s)

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