Mo's Gear

Live Steam boats and lever espresso machines

The Turbinia....a steam LEGEND


It was during 1884 that the thirty year old Charles Algernon Parsons (sixth son of the scientifically minded third Earl of Rosse) then a junior partner with the engineering firm of Clarke Chapman & Co, filed his first turbine patent.

The provisional specification for the marine turbine was dated 8 January 1894 and was an extremely comprehensive document. The power available, the hull size necessary and the estimated speed were all co-related. The hull was to be 100ft long and the vessel was named the Turbinia with an intended speed in excess of 30 knots...After the first test run there followed a period of unbending engineering persistence; 31 full speed tests were completed and 7 different propellers were tried, the best results being obtained with three propellers on the one shaft; a disappointing top speed of 19.5 knots was obtained which meant that only about one-fifth of the design power was effective.... All this effort and considerable disappointment, together with the increasing demand for his turbo-generator, appears to have been accepted with quiet confidence.

By September 1896 the modified Turbinia was ready for trials. Numerous test runs were made with correcting modification, several sets of propellers were tested and, finally, with three wire bladed propellers on each shaft, satisfactory speeds were obtained by March 1896...

The Turbinia, (104’ long, 9.5” wide and  44 tons)  although designed to demonstrate the possibility of fast steam turbine marine propulsion was, basically, a private family yacht. As such she could attend the coming great naval review at Spithead in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. The Admiralty was fully aware of the importance of turbine propulsion and senior specialist naval officers had sailed in the Turbinia during her trials and, no doubt, the Admiralty encouraged Parsons to attend the Spithead Review. The result was the historic event of a 32.5 knot demonstration dash among the great ships of the world, to disturb the dignity of a Victorian naval occasion. The steam turbine had arrived with startling assurance.

 A Star was born...

So I have been gazing at this sleek "bullet or dart" of a steam ship for a while now. At one time she was the fastest thing on the water. The Turbinia now resides, intact, in the Tyne and Wear Museum in the UK. Fully restored in all her glory. Take a look at the set of three propeller shafts on the bottom of this model ( not mine)- hosting a total of 9 propellers total!! The real thing must have been the closest thing to a ski boat the world of that time would ever see.


 I have only seen a scattering of models of this boat in my web searches.. which puzzled me a lot . A boat this important to the maritime world would seemed to have spawned a dearly loved model by any of the well known model makers.I should have thought 1in 10 English lads would have built a model of this sleek boat. Alas, it had no armament - it was a show- horse, a sales tool , so maybe it just wasn't "warship" enough. The plans were finally located in a passing article and purchased from Traplet Publications MAR 3355  1:24 scale.

 My dream was developing.

Did I forget to tell you that I have never made a ship model from scratch before? Oh yeah, did I forget to tell you my hope is to build the first steam powered model of the Turbinia? And to add that I hope.. pray ... I can do it with a steam turbine as well ?... Other than those insignificant details...

The scale model will be about 50" long and only 4" inches wide and when weight is scaled should be about 4-5 pounds total.. Since I am a novice, I may scoff a bit in the weight department. This should be fun.. and long.

 Before the actual build scenario starts , here are a few shots I have managed to find from other lovers and builders ( 2 other than me so far) of this small but significant moment in naval history.







 OK, we are off.  Wish me luck. So far the build board is made and center line laid out...  the copies have been made of the plans and are ready for tracing.  The cutting of the bulkheads will commence soon.


Check back on my admittedly deliberate slow pace on this boat.