It says much that when the TrSS (Turbine Steam Ship) King Edward was built by William Denny and Son at Dumbarton in 1901, she was built with additional fittings on the sides of the hull to allow her to be converted to become a conventional paddle steamer if her revolutionary steam turbine engines turned out to be a technical or commercial failure. The world's first steam powered ship, Turbinia, had made a dramatic impression four years earlier, but she was only very small. Installing the new technology into a full size ship, the King Edward, intended for commercial service, was a huge leap of faith by the shipbuilder, the engine designer, and the shipping company. In the event, they need not have worried. TrSS King Edward served successfully and with distinction for half a century until 1951, and paved the way for an entirely new class of commercial vessel.
"Turbine Excursion Steamers: A History", compiled by Alistair Deayton & Iain Quinn, recounts the history of these ships. Steam turbine engines tended to result in vessels that were fast, and this in turn led to vessels with streamlined hulls that looked very good indeed. Steam turbine powered vessels were not, however, particularly economical to run, and this had the effect of restricting the numbers built or used for excursions, and it led to the phasing out of commercial service of most of those still afloat during the third quarter of the 1900s.
The compilers have set out to tell the story of the ships in some depth, drawing together individual chapters on particular ships written by many different contributors. The book is nicely illustrated with black and white photos and advertising handbills throughout, and the end result has a high quality and authoritative feel. The first eleven chapters look at steam turbine ships that operated in the Clyde Estuary. The reader then moves on to look at turbines south of the border, operating between Liverpool and North Wales, in the Thames Estuary, and in the Channel Islands. Part 3 of the book has chapters about excursions by Cross-Channel and Stranraer to Larne turbine steamers; and looks at Isle of Man turbines. We conclude with a chapter about German turbine excursion steamers, and with coverage of two preserved US ships which still undertake excursions.