Ray Hooley's - Ruston-Hornsby - Engine Pages

Company History - Page 4

Although a full range of steam engines was still being produced at Lincoln, Rustons recognised that the internal combustion engine had come to stay. Their horizontal engines were very successful, and they now entered the field of large multi-cylinder vertical oil engines (see pictures below) They were an immediate success in both industrial and marine applications. Also in the early 1920's Rustons commenced building small petrol/paraffin engines, which had a multitude of uses on farms, in factories, on building sites etc. They were sold in tens of thousands, either as independent engines or incorporated into packages such as lighting sets, pump sets, compressors, mills, mixers etc. Many country houses that had previuously relied on oil for their lighting could now boast electricity, provided very cheaply by a small Ruston engine.

Ruston & Hornsby large oil engine test bay

Ruston & Hornsby large oil engine test bay c. 1940

Ruston & Hornsby small oil engine erection shop c 1935

Ruston & Hornsby small oil engine erection shop c 1935

It was gradually becoming more clear that we had entered the age of greater specialization. Ruston's range of products was too diverse, and they decided to do something about it. A controlling share was purchased in the Ipswich firm of Ransomes Simms & Jefferies, agricultural engineers. As part of the agreement, Rustons transferred to them the manufacture of steam engines, threshers, and the host of smaller agricultural implements. This move set Ransomes on a new path to prosperity.

In another deal, they put money into the firms Barford & Perkins of Peterborough, and Aveling & Porter of Rochester. A new company, Aveling Barford Ltd., emerged. They moved to Grantham commencing production in part of the old Hornsby factory. To help them, Rustons transferred their road roller manufacture to the new company. They subsequently became world leaders in their field.

Ruston Bucyrus Ltd

The excavator division was also on the move. The financing of new models was becoming too expensive - Rustons sought amalgamation with American excavator interests. The firm of Bucyrus Erie in South Milwaukee was looking for expansion in the European market. They specialized in this field and were building an attractive range of machines that were complementary to the Lincoln products. The forces were joined and the new Company of Ruston Bucyrus Ltd., was born on the 1st January 1930. The Lincoln factory was to benefit from the new American designs, and Ruston engines were to be used throughout the R-B range. The new company flourished.

Lister and the JP engines

Having shed most of their non-engine products, Rustons had concentrated mainly on offering a wide range engines of all sizes and capabilities. There was one obvious gap - the smaller vertical high-speed diesel. Listers were probably the leaders in this field, but their engines were on the small side for Rustons. The two companies got together and produced a joint engine, the 'JP'. Rustons produced the larger components such as the crankcase, and Listers produced the smaller elements. Rustons learned quickly, and very soon afterwards they were producing high-speed diesels of wholly Ruston design. A wide range was made available, and these engines became one of the company's main products.

Ruston Locomotives

In 1931, Rustons decided to re-enter the field of oil-engined locomotives. The high-speed diesel was well established and the potential markets in mines and quarries were very promising. Rustons promptly designed the first successful underground oil loco. They solved the problems of of poisonous exhaust fumes and the danger of fire from sparks igniting gases. They subsequently became one of the World's largest producers of narrow-gauge locomotives. Soon after they produced an impressive range of standard gauge shunters.

World War II

The Second World War brought fresh demands on Rustons. Their engines were ordered for a great variety of of specialised wartime equipment. Flameproof loco's were required in great numbers for use in ammunition depots. Ruston engines powered fleets of minesweepers, landing craft, patrol boats, midget submarines, etc. They also provided auxilary power on the larger Naval ships. One of the Ruston factories was equipped for the production of tanks. The first model built was the Matilda - 400 were built. Next came the Cavalier, 220 being produced. Another type was the Crusader. Its design was not sufficiently advanced so Ruston converted it into a Bren Gun carrier and prduced 600 of them.

Stationary engines were used in every field of operations. generating sets provided power for lighting, heating, refrigerating, ventilating etc. They were incorporated into pumping sets, compressor sets, winching sets etc. The total output for the war effort was tremendous. Although the post-war years brought full order books, competition from Japan and the USA became very fierce and profit margins became much slimmer. The products were becoming more sophisticated, and costs of new designs were major factors. Even so, Rustons found the money, and the skills, to commence one of their most ambitious products ever, the gas turbine.

To be continued. © European Gas Turbines Ltd 1997

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