Ruston Gas Turbines
The wartime team led by Frank Whittle had succedded in developing the gas turbine for the jet propulsion of aircraft. After the War the team split up, some of them moving into industry. Rustons were fortunate in attracting
one of the more valuable members of Whittle's team, Mr G.B.R. Feilden, together with several of his old colleagues from Power Jets Ltd. This was in 1946. By 1949 running tests were being carried out on the prototype '3CT'
turbine. The success of this engine led to full-scale production of the 'TA' gas turbine commencing in 1952. (see picture below) The 1952 'TA' was rated at 1050bhp (750kW) with heat exchanger, or 1260bhp (900kW)
without heat exchanger.
The photograph shows a portion of the production factory of Ruston Gas Turbines Ltd., at Lincoln, UK. In the background is
the production line for the basic gas turbine units, and in the foreground, packaged gas turbine sets are being assembled.
In the early 1950's, the Ruston Group had production sites at Lincoln, Grantham and Colchester (Davey-Paxman) When the 1953 Engineering & Marine Exhibition at Olympia was threatened with closure because of an electricians strike, a Ruston gas turbine saved the day. It supplied lighting throughout Olympia and the exhibition was able to carry on. The event attracted special attention and all who examined the turbine were impressed by its quietness of running and smooth output. The first Ruston turbine for an oil field application had already been sold to a Middle East company. Soon afterwards, turbines were sold for use in the new gas fields in Italy. In 1956, Ruston turbines were employed in a 'Total Energy' project at Little Rock, Arkansas, providing all the energy needs for the Park Plaza shopping centre. The 'TA' in an uprated 2500hp (1.86MW) form, was sold in large numbers. Meanwhile, several other models had been developed successfully.
Late in the 1960's, the 'TD' was produced, with an output of 4000hp (3MW) Soon after this, a demand from the oil industry resulted in the design of the more compact 'TB', rated at around 3000hp (2.24MW) The 'TB' was later sold with a rating of 5000hp (3.73MW).
The turbine division expanded under the name Ruston gas Turbines Ltd., and they were reinforced by the Napier Turboblower concern which was moved from Liverpool to Lincoln. The Newton-le-Willows Vulcan Works have their own remarkable links with the past - being the factory where Robert Stephenson produced large numbers of steam locomotives from 1830.
In the 1940's, Napiers produced the powerful 'Deltic' engine for Admiralty use. powering many high-speed craft. The 'Deltic' was later used in British Railways main line locomotives. In the 1950's, Napier's diesel and gas turbine experience led to the development of a very successful range of turbochargers. After the English Electric/GEC merger, production of 'Deltics' went to the Paxman factory at Colchester. The turbocharger business moved from Liverpool to join Ruston Gas Turbines at Lincoln.
Ruston Gas Turbines went from strength to strength. The 500bhp (373kW) 'TE' of the 1950's was developed into the 1100bhp (820kW) 'TF' in the 1960's. Following the uprating of the 'TB', a decision was made to produce engines of higher power. The 8500bhp (6.34MW) 'Tornado' was introduced in 1981 - and in 1984 Rustons commenced the production of 15MW and 25MW units, using Rolls-Royce gas generators. The 4MW 'Typhoon' was offered to world markets in 1988. By this time the Ruston operation at Lincoln included a very successful high-tech controls centre, building flexible solid state control systems for automatic and remote operation of all Ruston gas turbine installations.
The author has also been involved in acquiring, restoring and preserving several of the older Ruston/Hornsby products. Visitors to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life can see : traction engines, excavators (steam and oil engined) locomotives, oil and gas engines etc etc. A small collection at EGT (Firth Road) includes 2 Ruston & Hornsby cars (1920 and 1923) and a 1930 50-ton 6 cylinder oil engine from Ealing Film Studios, where it supplied DC power for arc lighting on the film sets for all of the 'Ealing comedy' films. The Company archive collection at Lincoln includes: machine registers from 1860 onwards; over 100,000 works drawings (on film) instruction books; parts lists and sales catalogues for most of the Company's products; agreement registers; photographs; patent specifications etc etc.
Access to these archives is by arrangement with the author.