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 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 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.

Metropolitan-Vickers: Gas Turbines

From Graces Guide
The B.10 compressor on display at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry
1947 G.1 marine gas turbine and gearbox from MGB 2009, on display in the Science Museum in 2010
1952. G2 Marine Gas Turbine Engine

This is a subsection of Metropolitan-Vickers

See also Metropolitan-Vickers: Jet Engines and AEI: Jet Engines.

1937 Hayne Constant of the Royal Aircraft Establishment started discussions with the steam turbine department of Metropolitan-Vickers to produce a new design of gas turbine, which Alan Arnold Griffith had started researching in 1926. This led to development of a type of jet aircraft engine which differed from that designed by Frank Whittle, being an axial-flow type. See also Metropolitan-Vickers: Jet Engines.

1938 The Air Ministry gave Metropolitan-Vickers a contract for development work on the engine, designated B.10, and named 'Betty'. This was not envisaged as a jet engine. The B.10 compressor was built and tested in December 1939, but the complete compressor/turbine unit did not run until December 1940.

Note: Subsequently the B.10 compressor was harnessed for use in the company's turbine development laboratories on Barton Dock Road, driven by an electric motor, to provide the air flow for a wind tunnel used for cascade testing of turbine blading. It remained in use until 1995, in connection with the development of GEC-Alsthom's high-effiency steam turbine blading. The compressor is now on display at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry (see photo).

Metropolitan-Vickers and BTH were both part of Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) but their relationship was more competitive than collaborative. BTH were working to develop the jet engine patented by Frank Whittle, which used a centrifugal compressor. This was simpler, but less efficient than the multi-stage axial flow type, and was of larger diameter.

In 1939 the RAE asked M-V to design, manufacture and test a 2000 HP aero engine to drive a propeller. However, with the outbreak of war this project lapsed, and work was concentrated on the Metrovick F2/1 engine. See Metropolitan-Vickers: Jet Engines.

M-V's aero engine development work culminated in the promising Sapphire engine, but in 1947 they decided to drop out of the aero engine business. At the behest of the Ministry of Supply, in 1948 Metropolitan-Vickers passed the Sapphire project to Armstrong Siddeley Motors. M-V completed the first ten development engines and the worked closely with Armstrong Siddeley Motors. The Sapphire went on to be highly successful.

M-V continued to develop and manufacture gas turbines for marine, industrial, and power generation applications.

Marine Gas Turbines

The Royal Navy were quick to see the potential value of the gas turbine. In 1943 M-V received an order to produce a gas turbine propulsion plant to replace one of the three Packard petrol engines in Motor Gun Boat M.G.B. 2009. The petrol engines would provide (relatively) economical propulsion for cruising, while the gas turbine would provide a considerable boost in power on the limited occasions when high speed was needed.

The Gatric engine, commissioned in 1947, was designated the Metrovick G.1, and used a 'third batch' F2/3 engine as the gas generator, driving a new four-stage power turbine. Its output was transmitted through a gearbox and free-wheeling device to drive the propeller. The vessel was modified by Camper and Nicholsons. The engine and gearbox unit is (or was) on display at the Science Museum.

More powerful gas turbines were subsequently produced, designated the G.2 and G.6. The G.2 type was based on the Beryl jet engine, and produced 4800 HP at the propeller. The G.2 was first applied to the Bold Pathfinder and the Bold Pioneer, in conjunction with a pair of Napier Deltic diesel engines. The G.2 was first tested at Barton Works in April 1951.

The G.6 engine was first ordered in 1955, to develop 7500 HP, supplementing the steam turbine cruising engines in the new Tribal class frigates. M-V also produced the sophisticated gearbox which combined the output from the steam and gas turbines. 53 units were produced.

Power Generation

M-V produced an experimental gas turbine-generator, based on the Beryl jet engine, to produce 2 MW in the Trafford Park works power plant. It first delivered power to the National Grid on 7 October 1948, and ran for several years.

In 1949 the British Electricity Authority decided to order a gas turbine generator, to be installed at Stretford Power Station. M-V confidently proposed a 5 MW unit, but the B.E.A. demanded 15 MW. M-V designed a complex compound set, and this proved unsuccessful.

In 1952 M-V supplied a 1750 kW L21 unit to run on natural gas at Shell's Pernis refinery in Holland.

Gas Turbine Locomotive No. 18100

After the war, development work also started on gas turbines for locomotive application. These engines were specially designed for the application.

This gas turbine-electric locomotive was powered by an M-V L20 industrial turbine. It was a poor application for a gas turbine, since there was little demand for full power on the selected route. The complex equipment proved unreliable, and the experiment was short-lived.

Later Developments

The Metropolitan-Vickers name was dropped, and the constituent companies mostly traded under the AEI banner, before becoming English Electric-AEI. Gas turbines continued to be produced for industrial and power generation applications, using Avon and Olympus aero-derivative engines as the gas generators.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • 'Engineering Progress Through Development' by R. R. Whyte, MEP, 1978