100 Years of the Turgo Turbine

25 April 2019

Gilkes’ Turgo Turbine makes its centenary year in 2019. Here the company looks at the longevity of the original Turgo design and technology.

Gilbert Gilkes and Gordon Ltd, is this year celebrating the centenary of its Turgo Impulse Turbine, which was designed in 1919 by the Grandfather of Gilkes’ current Chairman.

In 1913 young engineer Eric Crewdson graduated with Honours and Distinction in Machine Design and Thermodynamics from McGill University, Montreal, Canada.  Around the time of his graduation his family had become involved with Gilbert Gilkes & Company and on returning from university he worked as a trainee in the company before being called up serve in the First World War.  

Almost immediately after returning from the war Crewdson conceived the idea of a side entry impulse turbine where the unusual shape of the runner allowed one or two water jets to strike at an angle on one side and to discharge from the other side. This turbine would run, typically, at twice the speed of a Pelton turbine when operating on the same head.  Thus the Turgo Impulse Turbine was born and a patent was applied for in 1919, and granted to the young engineer in 1920.

The first ever 30kW Turgo was installed at Invergeldie Lodge near Crieff in Scotland in 1919. The first installations showed the wisdom of Eric’s concept and it was in 1934 that the company (by that date known as Gilbert Gilkes and Gordon(decided to install one of the first hydro turbine test installations in the UK. In 1936 and 1960, using the new test facility, the Turgo underwent successive patented improvements. Very recently R&D work at Gilkes has resulted in further improvements to performance and efficiency. Innovation is congruent with the company’s business strategy and objectives, and over the last five years improvement processes have been driven by significant investment in research and development capabilities with the aim of producing new designs with enhanced efficiency.

To date there are now over 1000 installations worldwide, ranging from 25kW to 7.5MW. Gilkes have supplied Turgo turbines to 65 countries. Installations are located from Grytviken, South Georgia (the most southerly hydro installation in the world) to Alaska and from Japan to Zimbabwe. With hydro installations over 100 years old still generating today the enduring performance of Gilkes turbines is well proven.  Unique benefits of the Turgo design include:

  • Simplicity of construction.
  • Reliability especially when handling silty or abrasive water.
  • High efficiency for a wide range of flows.

Eric Crewdson died in 1967 but his legacy to Gilkes lives on in the modern versions of the Turgo Impulse Turbine which Gilkes believe will continue to make a major contribution to hydropower around the world. 

Charles Crewdson, Chairman of Gilkes said: "During four hard years on the Battlefields of World War One, my grandfather was already thinking to the future, and succeeded in patenting his design and selling the first Turgo within months of leaving the army. It is a truly astounding feat, and has great resonance today as the company attempts to think through the world’s troubles and do what is best. We couldn’t have a better role model."

All of this means the Turgo can quietly look forward to its next 100 years.

Rydal Hall 53.7kW Turgo installed 1920 at Rydal Hall Ambleside
Malaysia 2.3MW Turgo installed 2015, Malaysia
Turgo 2.2MW Turgo installed 2017, Zimbabwe
Eric Crewdson Eric Crewdson

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