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Turbinia – An Uninvited Guest (2014) (drewgrant.info)
113 points by herendin2 32 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 21 comments

Yes, that's a well-known story. Probably the best demo of all time.

How did Charles Parsons get away with it? He was a Peer of the Realm, in an era when only the House of Lords could try a peer. The story is that when the Admiralty sent some people over to his offices to chew him out, the Prussian naval attache was just leaving. The Admiralty then decided they had better make a deal rather than let the Prussian Navy get ahead.

Parsons was originally shooting for 45 knots or so. The turbines had the power, but they couldn't couple it into the water effectively. No reduction gears, so the props turned too fast. Turbinia had three prop shafts with three props on each shaft, trying to keep the load per prop under control. If they applied too much power, they just bored a hole in the water. That's cavitation.

Transmissions for turbine ships are a big problem. It's one of those things that gets little public attention and is really hard to get right. High-precision double helical gears work, but are hard to make, and were hard to make through WWII. There was a fad for turboelectric drive, like a Diesel-electric locomotive, in the 1920s. No need for reduction gears. That idea comes and goes; the Zumwalt class destroyers are turboelectric drive.

There was a fad for turboelectric drive, like a Diesel-electric locomotive, in the 1920s. No need for reduction gears. That idea comes and goes; the Zumwalt class destroyers are turboelectric drive.

Lately, I've been wondering about hybrid electric turbochargers. The batteries would be a lot of extra weight, but it might make sense for hybrid cars that have the batteries anyways. Shouldn't that yield turbocharging with very high boost, but zero lag?

Formula 1 already does this. From what I can tell, it requires a really long shaft between the compressor and the expander sections of the turbo, for thermal reasons, so it's a very expensive piece of kit. Also, it requires that your typical driving scenario frequently dumps a lot of flow out the wastegate, which is known as "driving like an idiot" on normal roads.

Might work, but unnecessary - the electric motors coupled to the wheels directly already give you the equivalent of turbo. I have no problem squealing the tires on my Hybrid Camry.

I have no problem squealing the tires on my old french car with its formidable 1.6L naturally aspirated inline-four that produced 109 horespower when new. It's not a very telling metric.

My 1981 Renault couldn't even dream of squealing its tires.

So mine is a 2001 Peugeot, it's "old" but not "veteran". Probably it has twice the low-end torque of the equivalent 80s car, and 50% more power.

In the 80s French cars, 110 horsepower was "high performance" versions like the 205 GTI, which could definitely make some noise.

There's an entertaining LindyBeige video on the subject:


While the popular museums are all down south [1] there's a decent museum in most northern towns focused on their industry, often the birth of that industry [2]. I will go to this if I'm in Newcastle.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_visited_museums_i... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derwent_Valley_Mills

If you're in the area, check out the Ryhope pumping station. http://www.ryhopeengines.org.uk/

I can remember going as a kid, they had the engine fired up and let me shovel coal into the boiler.

An interesting detail frequently overlooked is that the introduction of turbines depended on another recent innovation, namely the switch from fire tube boilers to water tube boilers, enabling higher steam temperature and pressure. Case in point, the quintessential marine three drum boiler: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-drum_boiler

An object moving faster than anything previously known? I'm sure the Unidentified Swimming Object enthusiasts at the time had a field day with that sighting.

  faster than anything previously known?
Turbina went at 40mph in 1897 - but in at that time there were already steam trains going twice as fast [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railway_speed_record#Steam

Trains don't really swim though, at least not very well.

Unidentified Floating Object!

It took a little bit of re-reading because of the peculiar style of the article. But it was an interesting read.

Pretty far off topic, but what would you call a smaller version of the Chevrolet Corvette, if you had to name it?

This sparked my imagination because of the two ships called Viper and Cobra, classic sports car names.

The Corvette started as a smallish roadster sports car (similar to a modern Miata in footprint), but it's footprint has grown over the years. If you kept to the nautical theme, what would you call a baby Corvette?

I would say sloop maybe? Traditionally that was the next size down from corvettes but the corvette is the smallest warship. Maybe PT boat? GM tried to evoke the corvette name with the chevette but that thing was about as far from a sports car as you could get.

I thought of PT boats too! It's not a great name for a car, but it's short for "patrol torpedo boat," so maybe Patrol or Torpedo? I dunno, Torpedo might sound too explodey to be trusted.

Hmm also PT Cruiser... not a great connotation at this point.

We tend to think of disruptive innovations as requiring software and the internet. How refreshing to see a story on HN of another kind.

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