Ray Hooley's - Ruston-Hornsby - Engine Pages

Company History - Page 1

1997 marked 140 years of the Ruston & Hornsby engineering company - and 100 years since the death of its founder, Joseph Ruston. The following pages are a copy of a paper written by Ray Hooley to trace the evolution of the company that grew in size from 25 men producing a small range of agricultural implements, to an engineering factory covering 20 acres and employing 2350 people. Even after his death in 1897 the Company continued to flourish, with a world-wide market for its steam, gas, petrol and oil engines, threshers, excavators, pumps, mills, locomotives etc. The Company achieved a peak of 10000 employees during World War II.

Through various mergers and takeovers the Company has flourished into the present highly successful European gas Turbines Ltd. - an Anglo-French company in the GEC Alsthom Group. Since the paper was written in 1997 the GEC Alsthom companies have been reorganised and are now known simply as The Alstom Group.

Joseph Ruston

Joseph Ruston (1835-1897) The founder
of Ruston, Proctor & Co. in 1857.

Burton & Proctor

Joseph Ruston was born at Chatteris, Cambridgeshire, in 1835. His father, Robert, farmed 600 acres (2.4sq km) and employed 28 men. On leaving school, Joseph became an apprentice at the Sheffield cutlery firm of George Wostenholme. He came out of his time 1856 with a good commercial training and a modest inheritance from his father's estate. His eqnuiries for a suitable business led to negotiations with Messrs Burton & Proctor of Lincoln. They were in business as Millwrights and General Smiths, builders and repairers of all manner of agricultural machines and implements.

Ruston, Burton & Proctor

Burton and Proctor were known for the quality of their work, but were in need of a good business head and more capital, to enable them to engage in larger projects. This was an ideal situation for the ambitious Joseph Ruston. An agreement was made in January 1857 and Ruston entered an equal partneship to be known as Ruston, Burton & Proctor. Each partner was to receive a salary of £150 per annum, and profits were to be shared equally. In addition, Ruston was to receive commissions of £4 for each steam engine and £1 for each thresher sold. He was to take charge of the commercial side of the business.

Ruston & Proctor & Co.

Ruston immediately commenced a program of expansion, spending money on land, new buildings and machines. He planned to build engines for stock - an unheard-of practice! Burton strongly disagreed with the lavish spending, saying that it would ruin them. Accordingly he left the partnership on 18th July 1857.

Ruston purchased his share for $855. Within a few years the share was to become worth many times that amount. The firm of Ruston & Proctor prospered and employed several hundred men by the time Mr Proctor retired in 1864.

Joseph Ruston had established an impressive network of overseas agencies, and the Company's portable and stationary steam engines, threshing machines, elevators, corn mills, boilers, pumps etc., were in heavy demand. These products were constantly winning prizes at exhibitions all over the world. Ruston adopted the motto: "My Customer is my Best Friend". He insisted on a quality of product that pleased his customers. They became his friends and recommended his products to their friends. Thus the firm grew apace.

Ruston Proctor Steam Excavator

1877 Ruston Proctor steam excavator (navvy) 71 of these
machines were supplied to the Manchester Ship Canal Company

Joseph Ruston was a super salesman by any standards. He travelled to Russia in 1880 to negotiate a deal for steam engines and pumps to drain 8 million acres (32,000sq km) of the Pripet Marshes. On the way back he heard of large oil strikes at Baku. He immediately headed in that direction and won large orders for oil-field equipment. A few years later Ruston persuaded a group of Lancashire businessmen that a ship canal from Liverpool to Manchester would be an economic viability if Ruston-built mechanical excavators were employed. Orders for more than 70 Ruston Dunbar excavators were received (see picture above)

Ruston Proctor & Co. Ltd.

By 1889 Ruston Proctor & Co. were employing 1600 men, being one of the largest engineering firms in the country. The product range included traction engines, steam rollers, and locomotives, in addition to the items already mentioned (see pictures below)

1885 Ruston Proctor 'Colonial' Traction Engine

1885 Ruston Proctor 'Colonial' Traction Engine supplied to Argentina

Ruston Proctor Steam Engine Erecting Shop

Ruston Proctor Steam Engine Erecting Shop, c. 1910

1885 Ruston Proctor Locomotive

1885 Ruston Proctor Locomotive No 5: two were
supplied to the Kimberley Diamond Mine, South Africa, in 1881

Joseph Ruston decided that it was the right time to go Public. He received £465,000 as the purchase price, and remained Chairman of the new Company. The workshops then extended over 15 acres (60,000 sq m) and were equipped with over 600 machines, 50 cranes, and 70 steam engines, supplying 800hp (600kW)

Continued on next page. © European Gas Turbines Ltd 1997

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