A historic steam turbine rotor has made its penultimate journey from Drax power station near Selby, UK, where it has been generating electricity for Britain’s households for the past 36 years, to Beamish in County Durham where it awaits its final resting place.
Weighing in at 25 tonnes, the HP rotor is part of one of the UK’s first 660 MW steam turbine generating sets and the largest in the UK. It has now come to the end of its working life at the power station and is being replaced with more efficient turbines supplied by Siemens as part of a £100 million power train modernisation project. The turbine goes on show to the public at the Discovery Museum from mid-2010.

Its return to Tyneside, where it was designed and made in 1967, marks the first stage of a collaboration that will celebrate the achievements of Tyneside’s continuing engineering prowess at Newcastle’s Discovery Museum. Until space in the Museum is ready the turbine will be kept at the Regional Museums Store at Beamish. There it will be on view to visitors, in the company of other iconic examples of the North East’s rich scientific and industrial history.

The unique collaboration between Siemens Energy, Drax and Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums to showcase the first steam turbine of this size to the public anywhere in the world has been years in the making.

Dating back to 1967, the 660 MW Parsons turbines are the most powerful high speed (3000 revs/min) turbine-generators which Parsons designed and built in the UK before Siemens acquired the business in 1997. Drax was the first power station to commission 660 MW sets in the UK.

Siemens chief turbine engineer Geoff Horseman worked alongside the original turbine designers from the 1960s and manages the company’s history archive. He commented: “The turbine upgrade programme at Drax presented Siemens with a rare opportunity as none of the Parsons 660 MW turbines have been upgraded to this extent before. We couldn’t think of a better final resting place than the Discovery Museum to showcase the amazing engineering heritage that we have in the North East.”

John Clayson, Keeper of Science and Industry for Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums commented: “Discovery Museum is delighted to be working in partnership with Drax and Siemens on this project. Day in and day out for more than 35 years the huge Newcastle-designed and built turbine generators at Drax have provided the power that keeps our homes, offices and streets lit, and our factories in production. Members of the public generally don’t have the chance to see what a large turbine looks like and appreciate the enormous advances in size, power and efficiency that have taken place in the last 100 years. The Drax turbines are visually impressive, and this project will provide an excellent showcase of large power generation turbine technology alongside the pioneering marine steam turbine powered vessel Turbinia.”

Siemens is working closely with Drax to dismantle, transport, create display rigs, install the turbine parts and provide labour and engineering advice throughout the project. The original design and manufacturing records for the units have also been preserved.