Napier Turbochargers

Napiers had been involved with turbochargers since the 1920’s when, for example the E79 Napier Lion VS was turbo-blown for high altitude operation.  Interest in turbo-supercharging of both petrol and diesel engines returned and was actively pursued once more at the request from the Napier and English Electric Group Chairman, Sir George Nelson.  His interest in turbocharging came from E.E. Co’s expanding diesel-electric railway locomotive business and the British Railways modernisation plan requiring higher powered locomotives.  Napiers were charged with developing suitable centrifugal impeller turbo blowers under the leadership  of the Chief Engineer of the Napier Aero Gas Turbine Department, AJ Penn with Lionel Elford as aerodynamic designer.  BT (Bertie) Bayne, the Chief Gas Turbine Performance Engineer, was responsible for engine mass-flow requirements and finding methods of matching turbo-blowers to engine exhaust requirements.  A range of turbo-blowers was created giving a predicted increase of between 25% and 35% in engine power output.

The early TS200 blowers were fitted in pairs to the EE 12SV engine and used in early trial locomotives.  In March 1947 the LMS announced its intention to construct two 1600 HP diesel-electric express locomotives in conjunction with English Electric. The engines fitted in the Twins aka locomotives 10000 and 10001 were initially fitted with four Brown Boveri turbochargers and later TS100 later turbo-blowers from D. Napier & Son Ltd.  These increased the engine power output to 2,000 HP once a suitably sized EE Co. generator was fitted.  This increased the weight of the locomotives adding the requirement for an extra supporting axle as featured in many standard BR “Type 4 ” locomotives.

From these humble beginnings a dedicated Turbo-Blower department was set up in 1950 relieving the DNS Aero GAs Turbine department to work on the new Napier Eland engine.  Blower production was transferred from Acton to DNS Liverpool and by 1966 the department employed 670 personnel and was producing over 2,000 turbo-blowers per annum.

Turbocharger development also extended to the Napier Deltic engine first in the T9-29 fitted in the “Baby Deltic” locomotives and later in the T18-37K engines extensively fitted in Norwegian Navy “Nasty” and US Navy Osprey MTBs.  The range of turbo-blowers increased steadily to 12 including the largest “TS610” for the largest merchant ships.  The Napier Research Station at Liverpool was used for testing these blowers and for helping keep Napier at the forefront of the technology.  By the end of 1966 Napiers had manufactured 18,774 units since production commenced in 1948.

GEC bought English Electric in the late 1960s. The GEC operation, now part of Ruston Gas Turbines, later moved to GEC-Alsthom and then Alstom, before being sold to Siemens in March 2003.

Napier Turbochargers was bought from Siemens in June 2008 in a management buyout. The buyout was funded by the private equity company Primary Capital for around £100 million.[26][27]

Early in 2013 Napier Turbochargers became part of Wabtec. Napier Turbochargers currently produces turbochargers for the marine, power, and rail industries, employing around 150 people.

In 1968 EE Co. Ltd was absorbed into the GEC Group led by Arnold Weinstock and the various Napier divisions split.  The turbocharger business was transferred to a Ruston Gas Turbines in Lincoln allowing Napier turbo-blowers to be produced alongside the Ruston gas turbine products.
In 1974 the Company name D. Napier & Son Ltd ceased to exist when the company name changed to Napier Turbochargers Ltd.  In October 1991 GEC-Alsthom formed European Gas Turbines (EGT) at which point the Napier Company name was temporarily dropped however the Napier brand name was still fitted to its products.  In 1998 EGT was replaced by Alsthom Power-Napier Turbochargers who continued under the name Alstom Power UK Ltd until 2002 when it was purchased by Siemens becoming Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery Ltd in 2005.  In 2008 there was a management buyout creating Napier Turbochargers once more before being purchased by the Wabtec Corporation in 2013 who kept the business name. Today Napier Turbochargers is still in business and owned by the Wabtec Group.  Further information about the company’s current activities can be seen at their website HERE.

In the fifty years since the demise of the D Napier & Son name Napier turbocharger products have been attached to large engines across the globe and despite the various acquisitions over the years the name Napier is still a well known industrial brand.

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