Objects | Industry


Turbinia, 1894

Discovery Museum, Tyne and Wear

Shipbuilding, Maritime, Firsts

1800 – 1899

Turbinia was the world’s first turbine powered ship. She was launched into the Tyne at Wallsend on 2 August 1894.

Turbinia was built by Charles Parsons to test and demonstrate the advantages of using the steam turbine to drive ships through water.

In 1897, after three years of trials, Turbinia was the fastest ship in the world. She could travel at speeds of up to 34½ knots, or 40 mph.

Parsons took Turbinia to the Spithead Naval review of that year. It was a great opportunity to demonstrate her abilities to a huge gathering of people with naval interests. Turbinia steamed up and down in front of Royalty, easily dodging a navy boat sent to intercept her. It was a daring publicity stunt that propelled (!) Turbinia into world history.

Her success sparked a revolution in ship propulsion which led to faster warships, passenger liners and cargo ships.

Today’s nuclear-powered ships and submarines are still turbine-driven, but, instead of boilers, they use the heat of their nuclear reactors to raise steam.

Length: 103 ft 9 ins (31.62m)
Beam: 9 ft (2.74m)
Draught: 3 ft (0.91m)

By Sir Charles Parsons (1854 – 1931)
On display at Discovery Museum by the main entrance, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

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