Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,128 pages of information and 245,598 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Co

From Graces Guide
The first geared steam turbine for marine propulsion, on display at the London Science Museum. Made in 1898 for F. Buddle Atkinson's 22ft. launch 'Charmian'. 10 HP, 1400 rpm propeller speed, 1:14 reduction gearing. The reversing turbine blading was on the same shaft as the ahead blading.
JD Sci Mus Marine18.jpg
1900. Turbines for the destroyer Viper.
1900. HMS Viper.
1931. Geared Exhaust Turbine Set for SS Kingswood.
1931. H.M.Destroyer Acheron. Standard Turbine Unit.

Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company of Turbinia Works, Wallsend

See also The Evolution of the Parsons Steam Turbine by Alexander Richardson

Often referred to simply as Parsons, was a marine engineering company which was founded in 1897 by Charles Algernon Parsons. It specialised in building the steam turbine engine that Parsons had invented based on his patent of 1884 which is said to be comparable in importance to that of James Watt in 1769.

1894 Parsons applied for a patent for 'propelling a vessel by means of a steam turbine, which turbine actuates the propeller or paddle shaft directly or through gearing'.

1894 Parsons formed the Marine Steam Turbine Co to exploit the marine applications of his turbine and to construct the Turbinia.

1897 Turbinia was sailed at speed through the Diamond Jubilee fleet review of the Royal Navy in June 1897 off Portsmouth, demonstrating the great potential of the new technology. Today, Turbinia is housed in a purpose-built gallery at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle.

1897 After the success of the Turbinia, Parsons established the Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Co with £500,000 of capital to acquire the assets and licences of the Marine Steam Turbine Co.

1900 HMS Viper, the first turbine powered-destroyer to be tested, was built by Hawthorn Leslie and Co and demonstrated by the Royal Navy off Porstmouth, averaging 31.1 knots over 6 runs at 2/3 maximum power[1]. H.M.S Cobra would have been the first such vessel but had been damaged at the construction dock which delayed her trials. During the next few years a variety of other vessesls were built with turbine propulsion.

1902 Supplied the turbines for the first French turbine-propelled vessel, torpedo boat No.293.[2]

1907 Advert by Hawthorn Leslie and Co for turbine-powered vessels, the turbines manufactured under licence from Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Co[3]. Parsons also constructed turbines for the battleships Dreadnought and St Vincent[4].

1908 Made propulsion turbines for the Mitsubishi-built Japanese ships SS Tenyo Maru and Chiyo Maru.

1910 Considerable expansion of Turbinia Works at Wallsend had taken place in the past 4 years; the waterfrontage was 800 feet and ground area of 23 acres; much up-to-date machinery was in use. 3,600,000 h.p. of Parsons marine turbines had been or were being completed in the U.K. and other countries. All the leading engineering and shipbuilding companies in the U.K. had taken licences to build Parsons turbines[5].

1913 Helical gears used in conjunction with marine propulsion turbines had been produced for some time by Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Co and by the Power Plant Co Ltd. [6]. David Rowan and Co and several shipbuilding companies also were considering taking licences from Parsons to make such gears[7]. William Muir and Co of Manchester had received orders from four companies for gear cutting machinery[8]. The Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Co and C. A. Parsons and Co had each installed two hobbing machines by William Muir & Co in 1910. The gears cut on these machines proved to be rather noisy, and Charles Parsons and his team undertook considerable development work to investigate and resolve the problem. Using a microphone and oscillograph, it was estabished that the dominant frequency of the noise spectrum was 160 times the number of revolutions of the gear wheel. This allowed the cause to be traced to the 160 teeth of the master wormwheel that turned the table on the hobbing machine. To improve running in the interim, springs were interposed to allow slight relative movement between the pinion bearings and the gear casing, while improved machining methods were developed by Parsons. The problems and action taken were described by Charles Parsons in a Paper in 1913[9]. In the interim, Muir & Co had patented machinery incorporating a master gear having a pair of wormwheels connected by planetary gearing. J. H. Melloy of Muir & Co was quick to respond to Parsons' Paper, criticising Parsons' method of reducing errors.[10]. On the other hand, Parsons' approach was complemented by Brown Boveri and Co, who wrote in 1942: The cause of this singing was explained by Sir Charles A. Parsons in a lecture delivered to the Institution of Naval Architects. Parsons also described an ingenious process, namely the "creep process", for avoiding it. This lecture seems to have been generally overlooked and even firms specializing in the manufacture of gear cutting machines appear to have remained ignorant of it, for only so is it possible to explain why again and again, helical gears cut on machines built by first-class machine-tool makers would sing when on load, sometimes to such an extent as to be quite unusable. [11]

1923 (January) Parsons set up Cleveland Shipbuilding Co to acquire the shipbuilding yard of Sir Raylton Dixon and Co and the adjoining yard of William Harkess and Sons; Parsons had a controlling interest in the new company[12].

1924 Advert for marine geared turbines suitable for all classes of vessels

1924 5 new cruisers ordered by the Admiralty; Parsons received the order for one propulsion system with the cruiser constructed at Portsmouth[13]

1926 H.M.S. Suffolk was launched, the first post-war cruiser; Parsons supplied the machinery[14].

1927 See Aberconway for information on the company and its history

1928 The aft-part and the turbine engine of the Turbinia were presented to the London Science Museum, there being insufficient space for the whole vessel. The original turbine (which had been replaced) was also part of the gift[15].

1931 Death of Sir Charles Parsons.

1934 Parsons announced the development of the Simplex engine, producing c.2000 shaft h.p., suitable for small cargo vessels, the first time this had been done[16].

1936 Launch of 2 destroyers ordered from Parsons, the hulls being sub-contracted to Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd, an arrangement used quite often for new constructions[17].

1938 Capitalization of reserves, the first time the issued share capital of the company had been changed since it was formed, required special measures because some of the shares were not fully paid-up[18].

1944 A new research and development organisation was formed by 19 shipbuilding and marine engineering companies; its name would be Parsons and Marine Engineering Turbine Research and Development Association (PAMETRADA)[19].

1956 Acquired by Richardsons, Westgarth and Co[20].

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 17 August 1900
  2. 'The Evolution of the Parsons Steam Turbine' by Alex Richardson, Engineering, 1911, p.125
  3. The Times, 16 October 1907
  4. The Times, 6 May 1908
  5. The Times, 26 January 1910
  6. The Times, 24 September 1913
  7. The Times, 17 September 1913
  8. The Times, 3 December 1913
  9. The Engineer 1913/03/21 The Engineer, 21 March 1913, pp.300-2
  10. The Engineer 1913/03/28 Letter from J. H. Melloy of Muir & Co, p.344, The Engineer, 28 March 1913
  11. [1] The Brown Boveri Review, Vol XXIX, Sept/Oct 1942, No. 9/10
  12. The Times, 3 October 1923
  13. The Times, 28 April 1924
  14. The Times, 16 February 1926
  15. The Times, 18 June 1927
  16. The Times, 17 December 1934
  17. The Times, 11 March 1936
  18. The Times, 12 October 1938
  19. The Times, 31 May 1944
  20. The Times, 9 January 1958