Lister 5/1 Diesel

Lister Restoration & Rebuild

Obtaining & Restoring Your First Engine

Chapter 1 -

Getting Started

Like most beginners, I had little initial knowledge of the hobby side of owning and running an industrial engine. The technical terms used by enthusiasts and the 'secret' sources of information and spares seemed impenetrable at first. I had spent many years as a diesel-electric fitter, and had worked on both truck and stationary engines of the modern kind, usually turbocharged multi-cylinder types. Working in Whitworth /BSF spanner sizes again after years of metric and A/F was a real step backwards in time for me.

Things really started in earnest when we bought an old Bamford chaff cutter (Bamfords were the company from which ultimately the JCB digger company came from) to enable us to cut our own straw and hay for horse feed. The cutter was very old, and like most agricultural machinery had spent most of its life outdoors. The chap that we bought it from gave us a bit of tuition on how to use it, but it did not have any motive power; you had to turn it by hand. Once we got it home, we decided to try to restore it to good running order, as we expected to use it regularly, and it was pointless having to keep it together with 'a bit of string and some chewing gum'.

The stripping and repairing went ahead during the early summer of 1996, and while it was away being shotblasted and powder coated, I thought about a power source. We did not have any electricity at the field where our horses were kept, and we did not see any prospect of operating it by hand as it was going to have to run for fairly long periods to provide the volume of cut feed that we needed.

An engine seemed to be the answer, and I looked round for a small single cylinder petrol unit, that would be large enough to run the cutter at a reasonably slow speed, without stalling when the hay and straw was fed in to be cut.

We had a small BSA petrol engine with a reduction gearbox fitted, but the carburettor was damaged. Other options were looked into, but nothing happened until I saw an advertisement for; 'Lister Stationary Engine - 10' in a local free-ads paper. I rang up and found that someone had beaten me to it, but left my telephone number in case the deal fell through for any reason - always a good idea in these circumstances, as you never know what might happen, and you always kick yourself to find out months later that you could have had that part if only the vendor had the means to contact you. I heard nothing for about six weeks, and then one evening I had a call from the vendor to say that the original buyer had not turned up and was I still interested ? I said that I was, and made arrangements to go over the next week to pick up the bits and pieces.

When I collected the engine it was in three cupboard drawers and some jam jars. It was painted a bright blue, but most importantly it looked as though it was all there, except for the fuel tank. Even better, for an additional 10 I was able to purchase two spare gasket sets, a ring set and a new big-end bearing, so for the princely sum of 20 I had started my engine collection. Once home, the parts were assembled loosely on the floor of the kitchen to see what was missing. As far as I could tell it was really all there, even down to the governor speed adjusting screw and hook.

The engine was a Lister 'D', one of the most popular and prolific industrial petrol engines produced in this country. Production started in 1926 and continued through to 1964, with around a quarter of a million units produced. A phone call to Listers, at Dursley in Gloucestershire, found me talking to Don Asher, who very kindly not only gave me some data on the engine, but also put me in touch with the magazine 'Stationary Engine'. Don also rounded off our conversation by offering to send me a copy of the magazine as he had a spare copy on his desk. This helpful attitude is part of the attraction of the hobby, and many times in the course of the next few months I was to be pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of engine people.

Once the magazine arrived, I was very quickly able to sort out some information from David Edgington on the engine, even down to spares lists and instruction books. David is well-known throughout the hobby as a source of data on early Lister engines. Around this time, a second 'D' was offered to me and I bought it for 50. This was a later unit and was in running order, albeit with a Villiers fuel tank instead of the Lister original. Both the small engines came with starting handles, but the missing fuel tanks seemed to be a common problem with the engines. I had decided that the first engine would stay on the chaff cutter, and the second would be used for water pumping at the field, where we had a static 300 gallon tank and two portable tanks for the carriage of water. A third engine was not envisaged at this stage, as we had covered all our needs for the time being

Having organised a subscription to 'Stationary Engine' , I also ordered twelve back issues to get up to date with the current exhibition scene, and to see what spares and other items we could obtain for the two engines.

We were now in to August, and while looking through the back issues I noticed an advertisement which was quite old by that time. The advert offered a 'Cold-Start' twin, which is a large low-speed diesel engine with a special cold-starting aid which did not require a blowlamp or starting heater to get the engine going. The twin version is a nice looking engine, although rather large, and very heavy.

I phoned up expecting to find the engine sold, but again I was lucky, and after looking at it the following week, bought it for 400 as seen. This engine forms the basis for the restoration detailed in this book, and wherever possible I have included references to other sources of data and items which are common to the rest of the 'Cold-Start' diesels.

My experiences show that old restorable engines are still available, and while the magazine which caters for the hobby ('Stationary Engine') is undoubtedly the best source of information on engines for sale, two of my three engines came from sources not connected with the hobby at all. Prices in 1996 seemed to me to be quite reasonable for what are effectively scrapped engines in most cases. Care has to be taken when buying from any individual or organisation, but generally I had no real problems with any of my three transactions, and I stayed in touch with them all to let them know how the restorations proceeded.

In the following chapters I will take the reader through the steps that I took to bring the engine back into full working order, together with photographs to show processes etc. I have tried to put myself in the position of a relative beginner during the writing of this book, but inevitably there will be some processes or techniques which may be a bit oblique to the newcomer at first reading. If this happens, go back a page or two and read it through again; this will normally help with understanding the passage concerned.

Photographs were taken with a Contax 139 and 137MD. Lenses were 28mm, 50mm and 135mm, film was standard colour print and black and white transparency. The photographs were scanned onto disk and set in the book on our computer at home. A list of suppliers has been given in appendix D at the back of the book; most are commercial organisations who will do the work listed as part of their normal business. Note that small batches of shotblasting or painting will normally attract minimum charges. Where possible, get together with other enthusiasts and take a larger amount down as one job.

Colour for the engine is Middle Brunswick Green to BS381C shade 226. Mine was painted in two-pack paint, but most good paint suppliers will mix brushing or spraying air-drying paint, and supply thinners on request.

Diesel injector and pump repairs were subcontracted out to a local firm for repair and setting up, but copies of the Bryce repair and service books are available from various sources if you want to do your own nozzle cleaning etc.

While some 5/1 and 10/2 spares are still available from Lister, older engine spares are getting few and far between (and expensive) so it is either a case of make new ones or repair old ones where possible. Some Lister 5/1 parts are common to the 10/2 (which is basically two 5/1 cylinders on a common crankcase) and spares are regularly advertised in 'Stationary Engine'. Some suppliers are starting to remanufacture replacement parts for some engines, and most basic 'nuts and bolts' parts such as exhaust pipe bends are still available commercially.

The restorer must have a decent set of tools to use on the project, and while I have a large and comprehensive set of hand tools collected over thirty years, only a very small number were used on the Lister engine. The following list gives a bare minimum of required tools, and readers should note that the larger socket and spanner sizes are not needed if you are going to tackle a smaller engine. A word on tool quality would not be out of place here: too many would-be mechanics buy the cheapest tools and expect to carry out quality work with them. Too often you see nuts with rounded off corners, screws with damaged slots and similar atrocities. Good tools are never cheap, but if you buy Britool or Snap-On you will rarely see a tool failure in normal usage. Second-tier makes such as Draper, Gedore, Ceka and some of the Japanese makes such as Kamasa are OK for less regular use, and are probably 60% or less of the cost.

1) Socket set 1/2" drive up to 3/4" BSW.
2) Combination spanner set up to 3/4" BSW.
3) Torque wrench up to 300 lb ft 1/2" drive.
4) Copper/Rawhide mallet, 2 or 3lb.
5) Selection of good flat blade screwdrivers.
6) Impact wrench 1/2" drive.
7) A couple of good quality pry bars (Levers)
8) Selection of pliers, engineers and snipe nose.
9) A couple of good quality parallel jaw adjustables.
10) Sharp knife.
11) Boxes to put parts in.
12) Plastic box for leaking and oily parts.
13) Two pieces of tool steel 1/2" square or larger.
14) A decent bench which will carry 10 CWT weight.
15) A small trolley or skate to move heavy parts on.
16) A clean, light and warm workshop.

Other bits and pieces can be added as required, such as a proper injector pipe nut spanner in the correct size, and a face scraper for cleaning off gaskets etc. There is no limit to how much you can spend on tools, but there is no point in buying things which look good but you are never going to need. Like some other hobbyists, tool fanatics take more pleasure from showing their tool collection than actually using them. As I had to provide my own tools in all my jobs over the years, and as it was my money I had to buy them with, it was always a case of 'do I really need this' when the tool van came to call.

The last really essential item is the approval of the rest of the household, especially your wife, fiancee or girl friend. They do not always have the same love of dirty greasy machinery as you do, and many a marriage/romance has foundered on the block of a favourite engine. Behind every successful engine restoration there is a lot of domestic backup which is largely taken for granted. I have been very fortunate over the years in having a very understanding wife, Rita, who has put up with a lot; both when I was on 24-hour callout on trucks, and later when I was away from home in India and Australia for 13 weeks, over Christmas, and she had to look after our two young sons by herself. After I left those industries, we started our own electronics business together, and we have managed to spend more time together, both at work and at home, which has made up in some small way for the time I was away. It was her love of horses which started off the initial requirement for an engine, so this is all her fault really.


As already mentioned, we first bought two Lister 'D' type engines, one made in 1932, the other in 1955. The older engine was in the process of being restored when we looked at the much larger 10/2 twin. The 10/2 Lister is a 1944 10/2 twin cylinder cold start diesel, serial no CS48698 spec 10/2/30. The engine was manufactured on the 17th July 1944, and supplied to Frederick Parker of Leicester on the 25th July the same year. It was originally fitted to a rock crusher, after which its history is unknown up to the time we bought it on the 2nd September 1996.

While this book was being written, we acquired a fourth engine as part of a Start-O-Matic generator. This was a 6/1 Cold Start single-cylinder diesel, with which we were able to confirm some of the assembly details for the book. The generator will have to earn its living at the field with the horses, as well as being used for rallies. As it is incomplete electrically, a supplement to this book may be considered, covering the renovation of the control circuitry and wiring.

Following that, a Bamford 1-1/2 HP petrol engine was acquired, as an alternative to the Lister D for running the chaff cutter, as the general feeling was that the D would be too small to run the cutter at full throughput. A centrifugal pump was then sought to go with the D, leaving one unrestored D for swapping or whatever.

We had not intended to gather quite so many engines so quickly, but it was all very much circumstance, and we had no idea, for example, that we would buy the Start-O-Matic unit at the auction; it just happened to come to us at the right price. The Bamford was found at a bring and buy sale, the vendor having just bought a 1949 Ruston 8HP diesel, and needed the space! It had been stripped and cleaned up, and just needed repainting - 65.

Following all that activity, we then had an engine gantry made to our design, so that we could handle the weight of the engines without seriously straining ourselves in the process. This was made in the couple of weeks after we bought the Start-O-Matic set, as we were unable to offload it from the trailer once we got it home ! The gantry was made to take at least one ton in weight, and we already had a Yale chain hoist rated at 15 CWT which we reckoned would cover both the larger engine types.

It is difficult to know how a hobby will run, particularly when you are first starting out. Neither of us expected to have the start of a decent collection of engines in so short a time, but as I have said elsewhere, you tend to run with events, and with a bit of luck things will go your way.

Going to autojumbles and bring-and-buy sales produced some interesting results; the Beds & Bucks Society bring-and-buy resulted in the Bamford being purchased, while a similar event in the West Country produced solid rain for most of the day, no spares or bits of interest, but a windscreen sticker in the car park sent us off into Gloucester, and resulted in three new injection pumps for the Listers at 8 each ! You have to look around and take opportunities as they arise; lucky people are not lucky in the sense of the word, but they make their luck by being opportunist and chasing up leads wherever they exist.

A lot of junk is touted around at these sales, and you really need to know what you are looking at. The Peterborough auction where we bought the Start-O-Matic generator for 250 (plus buyers premium etc) had a selection of auto-jumble stands, where one hopeful was asking 225 for an old JAP model 55 twin cylinder petrol engine on a trolley; ex-MOD and part of a compressor set. The two engines are incomparable, both in size and content, but you must remember that a JAP enthusiast may well feel that 225 was a good price for the engine in view of the comparative rarity of that model. I felt that 50 was probably a better price for the JAP, and it remained unsold as we left the site, but someone, somewhere may have been only too pleased to pay the higher price if they were JAP fans and restorers.

Another aspect is the ongoing costs of running this new hobby. We spent about a thousand pounds on the engines, plus another thousand on the trailer and fittings. Restoration costs are largely made up of time (free) and materials. Most parts are relatively inexpensive as long as you avoid normal retail sources. Once finished, we will have expended about three thousand pounds, and will (hopefully) have a set of engines which we can take to shows and exhibit. Taken on a yearly basis, three thousand pounds is a lot of money. You can pay off a sizeable loan or mortgage with that kind of money, or buy a crate of decent wine every week for a year, smoke endless cigarettes, tax and insure and run your car for a year, etc. etc.

If you want to cost your hobby, you need to know what you can spend out of your disposable income without missing it, and also how much the other hidden costs will come to, such as car costs for running about, heat and light for a workshop and so on. We do not have any large outgoings, both our sons are grown up and our living costs are moderate, so we can put a fair bit into our two hobbies (Horses and engines) without too much financial strain. We are not in a high salary bracket, so we do not have large disposable sums, yet we can accomodate the initial outlay on the engines as a once-off cost. Running the engines after restoration will be less interesting mechanically, but much more interesting socially, particularly for Rita, who enjoys the get togethers and events.

© Peter & Rita Forbes 2000 - 2003

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7

Appendices Index Main