Turbines in the orangery

Today, in the orangery in the grounds of Finspång Manor, a little gem of a museum was opened. A website is in its infancy. It records the quite remarkable, more than 100 year old, history of the manufacture of steam and gas turbines in this little town. Finspång town has a population of a little over 15,000 today but has an industrial tradition dating back to 1641 and was for 200 years at the forefront of cannon manufacturing (before the advent of the rifled barrel). They had a reputation for usually supplying cannons to both sides of many European wars of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Stal Laval logo

Turbines have been manufactured in Finspång since 1913 but the technology also has a thread going back to Gustaf de Laval who invented his steam  turbine in 1883 and put it into production in 1893 in Stockholm. (In the UK, CA Parsons invented his steam turbine in 1899). The Finspång manufacture of turbines by the STAL company built on the ingenious inventions of the brothers Ljungström, Birger and Fredrik. The two strands of the de Laval and Ljungström technologies came together later in 1959 and STAL became STAL-Laval. Ownership of the factory in due course shifted to ASEA and then to ABB and for a short while was with Alstom and then eventually moved to Siemens who are the current owners. Gas turbines came into the picture in 1945 with the development of a jet engine (the Dovern) for the Swedish Air Force. That engine flew only once (under another aircraft for a test) and never “in anger”. The Swedish Air Force chose Rolls Royce for their engines and STAL converted the development for industrial use. The engine morphed into an industrial gas turbine, the GT35, which first went into operation in 1957 and this engine – with a further development or two – is still around in the Siemens stable. In 1959, STAL delivered a 40MW gas turbine, the GT120, which at the time, was the world’s largest.

STAL Dovern.jpg

“STAL Dovern”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Finspång Orangery (built in 1832) in the grounds of Finspång Manor is, at first sight, a most unlikely place for a Museum of Turbine History. But even with its wall frescoes and painted ceilings which evoke a long-gone age of gracious living, the turbines do not seem at all out of place. An older Orangery burnt down in 1830 and the current building was designed by Lars Jakob von Röök.  On two of the back, north-facing walls are frescoes said to be by the Italian painter Guido Reni. (But since Reni was born in 1575 and died in 1642, that is either wrong or the walls are much older and survived the fire of 1830. Since the manor was only built between 1668 and 1685, it is more likely that the artist was someone other than Guido Reni).

Finspångs Orangery juli_2005 (wikipedia)

Finspångs Orangery juli 2005 (wikipedia)

Orangery frescoes (image khaladsphotoblog)

Siemens has provided the Orangery as a home for the Museum, which has been put together by volunteers. They are still working to organise the wealth of material and drawings and pictures and films and models that are gathering dust in the catacombs under Finspong Manor.

Through the summer it is hoped to be able to have the museum open on Wednesdays and Thursdays. In any event the Finspong Manor grounds are well worth a visit and for anyone interested in rotating machinery, the museum should prove fascinating. (The manor itself is used as offices and is closed to the public. However the chapel – now run by the Swedish Church – is a little jewel of a chapel).

Finspång Manor from the SE. (image http://www.skyscrapercity.com)

Chapel in Finspång Manor (photo credit Per Svensson http://www.sfoto.se)

Currently the Finspång facility is the main centre for Siemens’ range of industrial gas turbines and ceased manufacturing steam turbines earlier this year. But the turbine tradition is now into a 6th generation.

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