Turbinia was an ocean-going yacht built by the engineer/inventor Charles Parsons in 1894. Parsons had adapted the classic Watt Steam Engine concept to rotating mechanisms, and had produced the first turbines designed to produce electricity through the conversion of steam or water pressure to rotational motion. He realized (in one of those moments that changes an entire industry or craft) that the turbine offered many advantages over the standard piston engine for steamships.

In any case, he built the Turbinia, a 44-ton displacement yacht, to demonstrate turbine powered steamships. After finding that his design didn't perform as expected, he investigated and discovered the phenomenon of cavitation. Redesigning his propeller helped, and he proceeded to 'advertise' turbine-powered ships by sailing 'cheekily' (according to a reporter present) through the formations of the British Royal Navy as it steamed in review for the Fleet Week of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. None of the patrol craft came close to catching him, and turbines now routinely power all modern navy ships.

The Turbinia itself boasted 2,000 shp from three coal-fired boilers. These boilers produced a system pressure upwards of 150 lb/sq in in the turbine through conversion of seawater to steam; using 27,000 lbs. of water per hour, the Turbinia could maintain 31 knots (although she was faster over short sprints). She was 103 ft long, with a beam of 9 ft and a draught of 3 ft. In its final configuration, the three boilers shared the same water/steam flow (making them a 'triple-expansion system') for maximum efficiency.


Warship! the History Channel - 'Big Guns'
  • IASTE Hall of Fame: http://www.iaste.com/hall_of_fame/parsons/parsons5.html