The collection

9th April 1999 at 01:00
Museum and gallery staff put their favourite artefacts on display.

During Queen Victor-ia's Diamond Jubilee Review on June 26, 1897, Turbinia, a small private vessel, very like a torpedo boat, raced into view. Just 100ft long and only 9ft in the beam, it was travelling at the startling speed of more than 30 knots. This was faster than contemporary torpedo boats - and, indeed, faster than any other ship in service at the time.

Turbinia was designed and built in 1884 by one of Tyneside's most famous engineers, Sir Charles Parsons, and became the fastest vessel in the world between 1897 and 1899, achieving a speed of more than 34 knots.

The boiler was the boat's powerhouse, with two miles of water-filled tubing crammed into its drums. This made the Turbinia like a huge kettle, spewing out steam at more than 200lbs to the square inch, around eight times the pressure of the air in a car's tyres.

Turbinia's engine was the prototype of all steam turbine-driven vessels, which for 60 years helped meet a worldwide demand for high-speed warships, passenger vessels and cargo carriers.

The engine design that made Turbinia the fastest vessel 100 years ago was adapted for the racing vessel Cable and Wireless Adventurer. Last year the Adventurer broke the record for a round-the-world voyage, circumnavigating the globe in 74 days, 20 hours and 58 minutes, and proving that Parsons's turbine engine is still the fastest in the world.

Turbinia is on display at the Discovery Museum, Blandford Square, Newcastle upon Tyne. Tel: 0191 232 6789. Also at the Discovery Museum is Science Factory: interactive science for youngsters, Great City: a look at Newcastle's history, Fashion Works, and changing temporary exhibitions. The Museum is open from 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday, and from 2-5pm Sunday. Admission is free. l Cait Read is marketing and press assistant for Tyne and Wear Museums.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today