ASME-Landmark:Curtis 500-kW Vertical Turbine


In 1896, Charles G. Curtis (1860-1953) patented two turbine concepts that led to the commercial production of low-cost, single-cylinder turbines to provide the electricity so much in demand in the United States during the early 1900s.

The first Curtis vertical steam turbine built, now an ASME landmark, was constructed in 1903 by the General Electric Co. for the Newport & Fall River Street Railway Co. Because there is no record of a prototype machine being built for shop testing, this may have been the first vertical turbine completed, in addition to being the first machine shipped for commercial use.

Early designs of the Curtis turbine used velocity compounding and pressure compounding in the same machine. The 500-kW Newport engine has two stages of pressure compounding, each consisting of three velocity compounded stages. Six rows of blades rotate on the periphery of turbine wheels when operating. In its final form, the Curtis turbine used up to six stages of pressure compounding with two stages of velocity compounding in each pressure stage. To reduce friction between the rotating wheel and the seam, the two rows of rotating blades forming a single velocity-compounded stage were attached to the periphery of a single wheel.

This Curtis turbine operated in the Newport, R.I., generating station until June 1927. It was transferred to the Harding Street Station of the Indianapolis Power & Light Co. for display and later moved to the company's E.W. Stout Station (now the Harding Street Generating Station). See ASME website for more information