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Turbinia was the first steam turbine
Steam turbine
A steam turbine is a mechanical device that extracts thermal energy from pressurized steam, and converts it into rotary motion. Its modern manifestation was invented by Sir Charles Parsons in 1884....

-powered steamship. Built as an experimental vessel in 1894, and easily the fastest ship in the world at that time, Turbinia was demonstrated dramatically at the Spithead Navy Review in 1897 and set the standard for the next generation of steamships, the majority of which were turbine powered. The vessel can still be seen at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne is a city and metropolitan borough of Tyne and Wear, in North East England. Historically a part of Northumberland, it is situated on the north bank of the River Tyne...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, while her original powerplant can be found at the London Science Museum.


Charles Algernon Parsons
Charles Algernon Parsons
Sir Charles Algernon Parsons OM KCB FRS was an Anglo-Irish engineer, best known for his invention of the steam turbine. He worked as an engineer on dynamo and turbine design, and power generation, with great influence on the naval and electrical engineering fields...

 invented the steam turbine in 1884, and having foreseen its potential to power ships he set up the Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company
Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company
Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company was a British engineering company based in Wallsend, North England, on the River Tyne.-History:The company was founded by Charles Algernon Parsons in 1897 with £500,000 of capital, and specialised in building the steam turbine engines that he had invented for...

 with five associates in 1893. To develop this he had the experimental vessel Turbinia built in a light design of steel by the firm of Brown and Hood, based at Wallsend on Tyne
Wallsend is an area in North Tyneside, Tyne and Wear, England. Wallsend derives its name as the location of the end of Hadrian's Wall. It has a population of 42,842.-Romans:...


The Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 was kept informed of developments, and Turbinia was launched on 2 August 1894. Despite the success of the turbine engine, initial trials with one propeller were disappointing. After discovering the problem of cavitation
Cavitation is the formation and then immediate implosion of cavities in a liquidi.e. small liquid-free zones that are the consequence of forces acting upon the liquid...

 and constructing the first cavitation tunnel, Parsons' research led to him fitting three axial-flow turbines to three shafts, each shaft in turn driving three propellers, giving a total of nine propellers. In trials this achieved a top speed of over 34 knots (66.6 km/h), so that "the passengers aboard would be convinced beyond all doubt Turbinia was Charles Parsons' winning North Sea greyhound".


Parsons' ship turned up unannounced at the Navy Review for Queen Victoria's
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....

 Diamond Jubilee
Diamond Jubilee
A Diamond Jubilee is a celebration held to mark a 60th anniversary in the case of a person or a 75th anniversary in the case of an event.- Thailand :...

 at Spithead
Spithead is an area of the Solent and a roadstead off Gilkicker Point in Hampshire, England. It is protected from all winds, except those from the southeast...

, on 26 June 1897, in front of the Prince of Wales
Edward VII of the United Kingdom
Edward VII was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India from 22 January 1901 until his death in 1910...

, Lords of the Admiralty and foreign dignitaries. As an audacious publicity stunt, the Turbinia, which was much faster than all other ships of the time, raced between the two lines of large ships and steamed up and down in front of the crowd and princes with impunity, while easily evading a Navy picket boat that tried to stop her, indeed, almost swamping it with her wake.

From this clear demonstration of her speed and power and after further high speed trials attended by the Admiralty, Parsons set up the Turbinia Works at Wallsend, which then constructed the engines for two turbine-powered destroyers for the Navy, HMS Viper and HMS Cobra
HMS Cobra (1899)
HMS Cobra was a turbine-powered destroyer of the Royal Navy. She was built speculatively by Armstrong Whitworth and then offered for sale to the British Admiralty. She was launched on 28 June 1899, and purchased by the Navy on 8 May 1900 for £70,000....

, which were launched in 1899. Both vessels were later lost but although the loss of these trials ships slowed the introduction of turbines, the Admiralty had been convinced. In 1900 the Turbinia steamed to Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 and was shown to French officials and then displayed at the Paris Exhibition.

The first turbine-powered merchant vessel, the Clyde steamer
Clyde steamer
The era of the Clyde steamer in Scotland began in August 1812 with the very first successful commercial steamboat service in Europe, when Henry Bell's began a passenger service on the River Clyde between Glasgow and Greenock...

 TS King Edward
TS King Edward
TS King Edward was an excursion steamer built at Dumbarton for service down the River Clyde to the Firth of Clyde and associated sea lochs on the west coast of Scotland, as far as Campbeltown...

, followed in 1901. The Admiralty confirmed in 1905 that all future Royal Navy vessels were to be turbine-powered, and in 1906 the first turbine-powered battleship, the revolutionary HMS Dreadnought
HMS Dreadnought (1906)
HMS Dreadnought was a battleship of the British Royal Navy that revolutionised naval power. Her entry into service in 1906 represented such a marked advance in naval technology that her name came to be associated with an entire generation of battleships, the "dreadnoughts", as well as the class of...

, was launched.

Crosby incident

On 11th January 1907, Turbinia was struck and nearly cut in two by the Crosby – a ship being launched across-river from the south bank of the Tyne
River Tyne
The River Tyne is a river in North East England in Great Britain. It is formed by the confluence of two rivers: the North Tyne and the South Tyne. These two rivers converge at Warden Rock near Hexham in Northumberland at a place dubbed 'The Meeting of the Waters'.The North Tyne rises on the...

. She was repaired and steamed alongside RMS Mauretania
RMS Mauretania (1906)
RMS Mauretania was an ocean liner designed by Leonard Peskett and built by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson at Wallsend, Tyne and Wear for the British Cunard Line, and launched on 20 September 1906. At the time, she was the largest and fastest ship in the world. Mauretania became a favourite among...

 after the launch of the great ocean liner. However mechanical problems prevented Turbinia from accompanying the Mauretania down the river Tyne to the sea.

Turbinia's withdrawal and conversion to a museum ship

The company decided to slow down the deterioration of Turbinia by lifting her out of the water and in 1926 the directors of the Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company offered the ship to the London Science Museum. Turbinia was cut in two and the aftersection complete with engines and propellers was put on display in the South Kensington museum in London, which did not have the space to accommodate the full ship. The fore section was presented in 1944 to Newcastle Corporation and placed on display in the city's Exhibition Park. In 1959, the Science Museum took the after section of Turbinia off display and by 1961, using a reconstructed centre section, Turbinia was once more complete and on display in the Newcastle Municipal Museum of Science and Industry. In 1983 a complete reconstruction was undertaken. On 30 October 1994, 100 years after her launch, Turbinia was moved in the Newcastle Discovery Museum and put on display to the public in March 1996 when she was put on display at Newcastle's Museum of Science and Engineering (later renamed The Military Vehicle Museum). Listed as part of the National Historic Fleet, Core Collection
National Historic Fleet, Core Collection
The National Historic Fleet, Core Collection is a list of museum ships located in the United Kingdom, under the National Historic Ships register.The vessels on the National Historic Fleet are distinguished by:...

, in 2000, the vessel was the focal point of a year-long £10.7m redevelopment programme at Newcastle's Discovery Museum. The gallery around Turbinia was the first area to be refurbished, with the main part of the work involving raising the roof by one storey to create viewing galleries on three levels.

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