In subsequent years the steam engine design was refined, firstly in 1854 by John Elder, who later founded the Fairfield shipyard at Govan. He patented the Compound Engine, which improved fuel efficiency by up to one third. Later, Alexander Carnegie Kirk further improved efficiency with his work on the triple expansion steam marine engine, with his vessel the SS Aberdeen, the first major ship to be successfully powered by the engine type.
With the advent of the marine steam engine destinations such as New Zealand and South America were, for the first time, reachable without having to refuel coal. A step-change in technology as profound as the introduction of the jet engine to aviation.
Today, our engineers working on programmes such as the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers and the Type 26 Global Combat Ship take inspiration from their pioneering predecessors and a working model of the first version of the steam engine based in the Fairfield Heritage Centre in Govan.
Indeed, BAE Systems’ work in the maritime sector has grown to be as international in nature as sea travel itself. In Australia, we design, build, integrate and support maritime platforms and naval weapon systems, including the delivery of two 27,000 tonne Landing Helicopter Docks for the Royal Australian Navy. In the US, we are a leading provider of non-nuclear ship repair and modernization for the U.S. Navy and commercial customers.
The Marine Steam Engine DesignThe images on this site are the property of BAE Systems (Copyright © 2016 BAE Systems. All rights reserved)
With thanks to Glasgow Museums, Fairfield Heritage Centre and Govan Workspace Ltd.