A Ruston & Hornsby Teaches The Three R's

Ruston and Hornsby 3 HP engine

This Ruston & Hornsby taught Ken Evans, 130 Malcolm Drive, Pasadena, California 91105, the real meaning of the three R's.

Content Tools

130 Malcolm Dr., Pasadena, CA 91105

If you think this is a story about Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, you better stop right here. But if you are interested in a very detailed accounting of the Research, parts Removal and the Restoration of a Ruston and Hornsby 3 HP engine made in 1941 in Australia by Harris, Scarfe & Sandovers Ltd., then read on.

Bill Young, a good friend and fellow member of the Western Antique Power Associates, has lived for many years in Japan with his Japanese wife. He finally decided to make Japan his permanent home and decided to sell his property near me here in Southern California. I volunteered to help him with a massive yard sale in August of 1994 that was needed to clear the property of the items he did not want to ship to Japan. Among the hundreds of items to be sold were several old gas engines. By the end of the sale there was only one remaining engine and nobody seemed to be interested in it. It was a horizontal single cylinder, hopper cooled, throttle governed, sideshaft driven rotary magneto with spark plug ignition, fully enclosed crankcase, self oiling, spoked flywheels, heavy, stuck, 3 HP engine. I took pity on Bill, since he urgently needed to sell everything, and made an offer on it that he accepted. If you want to know more about Bill and his experiences in Japan, read his article on page 20 of the August 1994 issue of GEM.

The engine appeared to be complete as it sat there on a wooden platform. The magneto mounts on a bracket near the front of the engine and is driven by a rotary sideshaft from the crankshaft. Prior to the sale days, Bill had me help in arranging the engines and I had found the magneto near the engine and bolted it on the bracket so it would stay with the engine and not become a neat single piece treasure. The magneto drive sideshaft was slightly bent and would not mate with the magneto, so I turned the magneto backwards when I bolted it to the bracket. The engine was also very much stuck. Nothing would turn except the magneto.

My brother Larry lives near Bill's old place, and we moved the engine to his house using my low bed trailer and a portable 'cherry picker' hoist to load it. I began to question my sanity in buying the engine because when we picked it up, it sloshed from inside, which meant that the enclosed crankcase was full of rain water. You see, Bill had it stored in a makeshift cover and I believe it was more shift than make. Anyway, the engine was mine and it had to be moved. Off we went to Larry's house. We off loaded it onto a small platform with casters so we could move it around until a proper cart could be built.

The first order of business was to remove the rear crankcase cover and see what I had really bought. There are four bolts that hold the cover on. My American wrenches fit one bolt head, but not the other three. Neither did the metric wrenches. So off came the bolts with an adjustable wrench. Sure enough, the crankcase was full of water and mucky oil. I drained the fluids out and left the cover off to start the drying process. I also took the head off to see what problems lay ahead there. The head gasket is copper clad and was in good shape. Since everything was stuck and wet, now was the time to start the Research into what I had purchased in order to determine whether I should restore this engine or just try to resell it at a later date. So here we are at the first R, of The Three R's.


There are two sides to the research story. The first has to do with the specifics of the engine itself, such as who made it, where was it made, is there printed information available, what is the proper color, etc. The second side of the story has to do with the history of this specific engine regarding its original use, date of manufacture, and how and when did it get to the United States of America and in particular, California. Bill Young hopefully would be the source for the latter.

The rectangular name plate on the front of the engine hopper had the following engraved on it:


So how do you find out about something you know nothing about? You start by asking questions and writing letters. I have the indexes to GEM and looked up both names that were on the name plate. There was not much listed, and after looking up the references, none were the engine I had. I placed an Information Wanted ad in the June 1995 GEM and got zero replies. Sorry GEM, I usually do very well. However, Stationary Engine Magazine of Kent, England, is a regular advertiser in GEM, so I wrote to them. They in turn forwarded my letter to a Ray Hooley in North Hykeham, Lincoln, England. More about Ray in a bit.

In the meantime, Bill Young in Japan sent me some information from the March 1995 Stationary Engine Magazine. On page 8 is their Helpline and for Ruston & Hornsby, contact Ray Hooley. Bill also knows Chris Madeley, an English chap living in Tokyo, Japan. Chris said to contact Ray Hooley. See the back cover of the January 1995 GEM for an article and photos by Chris. By now I was convinced that Ray Hooley was the one to talk to. Before I had a chance to write him, I got a letter from him in response to the referral from Stationary Engine Magazine. From Ray I was able to purchase an instruction manual reprint, copies of construction prints, advertising, and R & H transfers (decals to us U.S. folks). Ray even sent a color sample. He also gave some information on the Australian built engine.

Bill Young had also sent me information from Stationary Engine Magazine on clubs in Australia. I wrote to four of them and got a reply from Tony Marvin of the Sydney Antique Machinery Club in Blacktown, NSW. Tony in turn asked Pat O'Brien of Aitkenvale, QLD, Australia, to lend a hand. From these three I was able to piece together information on the engine.

The engine is a Ruston 6k Hornsby, Type P.B. designed in England but built in Australia by Harris, Scarfe & Sandovers Ltd. Thus the Type P.B. becomes S.P.B., the 'S' indicating Scarfe manufacture. There are no exact records on the date of manufacture, however it is most likely in the 1941-1942 era. Prior to World War II, the English-built R & H engines were sold in Australia by Harris, Scarfe & Sandovers Ltd., as sole agents in Western Australia. For ease of writing I will refer to them as H.S.S. They were a large outfit in their day and were able to organize and manufacture the entire SPB engine during the WWII years of 1941 thru 1945. After the war, Ruston &. Hornsby, Lincoln, could then again supply Australia from England.

All H.S.S. engines were eventually sold either by Scarfes or the R & H offices in Australia. H.S.S. was the only R & H agent in Western Australia. All other Australian states had R & H offices in the capital cities that were owned by the parent company in England.

Tony came to Australia in 1946 from R & H, Lincoln, to the Sydney office and was service manager in the 1950s. In the late 1950s and early '60s, the 'Company takeover period' commenced and disaster reigned, and Harris, Scarfe & Sandovers eventually went out of business due probably to loss of agencies, the G.E.C. Group having opened a branch in West Australia.

Some other information has recently surfaced according to Tony. A company by the name of Ledger Engineering in Perth, West Australia, had something to do with making the S.P.B.'s. Maybe they were connected with Harris, Scarfe & Sandovers in some way?

There is a small mystery about my engine. On the side of the block just above the exhaust port is neatly stamped 'J & E L.' None of my contacts know what this is for or what it means. I am wondering if the 'L' is in some way connected with Ledger Engineering?

Tony Marvin has a list of approximately 25 SPB's on record as existing in Australia today. The serial numbers range from S537 to S1722. To the best of his knowledge, all were made between 1940 and 1945. The only positive fix he has on a particular engine is that No. S1443 was delivered in 1942 by the Australian Army to a farmer to drive a milking machine. Therefore, my Serial No. S1033 could have been made in 1941. He does find it hard to believe that so many engines were made if numbering was in sequence. It is quite possible that the numbering was mixed up with other products.

The big mystery about my engine is how did it get to California? I don't know! All Bill Young remembers is that he got it 10-15 years ago, maybe in Tracy, California. He was purchasing parts for Stearman airplanes and saw several antique engines at this location and purchased them also. If any one of you readers have any information on the traveling history of this particular engine, I would like to correspond with you.

Even though this is an old engine, I was able to use some modern technology in the research phase of the restoration. Larry has access to the internet on his computer. While looking at some old engine related information on the World Wide Web (WWW), he saw reference to a mailing list that is specific to the subject of old stationary engines. The way this works is that you electronically mail (e-mail) a message to a certain computer address and that message is then automatically re-sent to all the subscribers on the list. A response can then be sent back to the original sender or the entire group. If you are interested in this service take a look at Craig Prucha's 'Antique Gas Engine Home Page' at http://www. servtech.com/public/cprucha/. This is a great service that is being provided. Larry sent in a message for information on this particular engine and unfortunately it did us no good as there were no responses.


Now that we have an idea of the engine history, it is now time to really get serious about the Removal of all the pieces that make up this engine. So, now on to the second of the Three R's. See Photo 1 of the author with the finished engine. This should orient the reader for the following discussion on the removal of the engine pieces. As mentioned earlier, the head and the rear crankcase cover were already removed. A little more description of the engine is in order before details of the removal phase are described.

It is a horizontal single cylinder hopper cooled cast iron engine with two five-spoked flywheels and enclosed crankcase. The bore is 3.75 inches and it has a stroke of 5.5 inches. The fuel flows by gravity from a tank mounted above and behind the water hopper between the flywheels into a float type carburetor. The intake and exhaust valves operate off a camshaft with adjustable pushers and are located underneath the cylinder inside the crankcase. All references I make to the right and left side of the engine will be as viewed from the rear (flywheel) end. The intake valve is on the left and the exhaust is on the right. The cam is not directly driven off of the crankshaft, but has an idler gear the same diameter as the cam gear and mounts between the crankshaft and the cam. This arrangement gets the cam down low in the engine, but it also means that the cam turns the same direction as the crankshaft. There is a flyweight governor mounted on the cam gear. The weights actuate a pin which in turn operates the throttle plate in the intake passage through a lever arm. This lever is spring loaded and externally adjustable to provide variable speed control.

Lubrication of the engine is accomplished by using the cam gear to pick up the oil from the sump and splash it around inside the crankcase. There are special channels and holes to guide the oil around to all the important places. Since it is an enclosed crankcase, I wondered about the vent system. It turns out that it vents into the intake passage in the carburetor. If you thought positive crankcase ventilation was new, sorry.

During the course of this story I will name products that I used. This does not mean that they are the best or the only ones that will work. Plain and simple, it is what I had available, or had used before with good success. We all have our favorite products and procedures and maybe even a magic potion or two.

I am also going to relate some of the errors I made. In this way you can learn from my mistakes. Also I have learned to laugh about some of the dumb things that happen.

I also highly recommend that you take photographs from all sides before taking it apart so that you can remember where pieces go. Keep in mind that the way you got it may not be the correct way. But at least you have a record of how it was before restoration. Video tape is another possibility for documentation. However, it is difficult to really study a video and the image quality is not as good as a photograph.

During the research phase, I had positioned the engine so that the cylinder was vertical and I could soak the piston with just enough Kroil penetrating fluid to just cover the piston face. During the soaking phase, Larry used a five pound hammer to tap on the top of the piston with a piece of wood that just fit the bore. This way there was no danger of breaking the top of the piston since the force of the hammer blows was directed around the circumference of the piston. The idea was not to try to break the piston loose with the hammer blows but kind of jostle things around a little so the penetrating oil could work in as far as possible. You do not want to apply much force to the center of a piston. It could break.

Since the engine was stuck, I had to find out just what was stuck. Trying to turn the flywheels just didn't work. It was very stuck. The first thing to do is disconnect the connecting rod. Keep track of how it was assembled and where the shims go. The end cap was already marked with punch marks. Look before you put your own marks because you could be adding to marks already there and then not know which are for correct alignment. With the connecting rod loose, the flywheels still would not budge. Removing the cam idler gear did not improve the situation. The crankshaft was stuck in its bearings. By the way, the piston was also stuck. It was now time to try and remove the crankshaft.

Because of the enclosed crankcase, the crankshaft is assembled to the block through an elongated hole in the right side of the engine. The bearings are in assemblies that bolt to each side of the block. The left hand assembly also contains the drive gear for the magneto drive sideshaft. But before anything could be done, the flywheels had to be removed.


The flywheels have five spokes and a split hub. There is a 1 inch bolt through the hub for tightening. There is also a cast iron v-belt pulley bolted to each flywheel. The left pulley is between the flywheel and the engine block. The right hand pulley is on the outside of the flywheel. The left hand flywheel has to come off because the crankshaft is removed out the right hand side of the engine. Before trying to remove a flywheel, clean off the exposed driveshaft with emery paper and wire brushes. Remove the hub tightening bolt and soak the area with penetrant. The v-belt pulley has three spokes that are threaded to line up with holes in the flywheel hub. I removed the bolts for the pulley and let it hang loose. Since it was between the flywheel and the block, it could not be removed until the flywheel was off. However, the mounting holes in the flywheel could now be used to help in removing the flywheel. A word of caution is in order here when removing flywheels. Always pull on the hub and not on the spokes or the rim. I used a heavy duty wheel puller that looks like a crows foot with a threaded hole in the center. Because of the five spokes, the pulley holes are not in line with the center of the crankshaft. Using high strength bolts through the pulley holes in the flywheel and a side slot in the puller, I could get the center puller bolt to line up with the center of the crankshaft. However, it was a little off center and the puller tended to cock to the side when the center bolt was tightened. By adding another bolt to the puller with a large washer behind the flywheel hub and some heavy wire to keep it on the puller, the geometry for pulling was all right. Because of the split hub, I was able to lightly tap a small cold chisel in the slot to expand the hub. Be very careful and don't force it hard into the slot and crack the hub. Apply pressure on the center bolt, lubricate the crankshaft with silicone spray with Teflon and lightly rap on the center bolt. The flywheel did come off with a little force. The flywheel weighs in at 55 pounds.

The right flywheel came off using the same technique. However, the v-belt pulley is on the outside of the flywheel and is nut and bolted to the flywheel.


Back to the left side of the engine. The pulley was now removed and put aside. The crankshaft is cut for a key and the key was easily removed. Two screws fasten the cover plate for the magneto drive gear. They came out without difficulty and the cover plate slid right off. The cover plate also holds the crankshaft oil seal. Remember, the engine has an enclosed crankcase with splash oiling. The magneto drive gear is also keyed to the crankshaft by the same key slot. Since the gear is inside a housing there is no way to get behind the gear for pulling it off. But, the manufacturer was looking ahead and provided two threaded holes opposite one another on the center line. The thread size was -20 and two pieces of all-thread and a steering wheel puller made quick work of removing the gear.

The left crankshaft bearing is in a housing that is attached to the block with three bolts. The bearing is babbitt and is pressed into the cover plate. Fortunately, the left bearing was loose and came off with the housing. This left the right bearing assembly stuck to the crankshaft. Removing its three attachment bolts allowed the crankshaft and bearing to be removed as one stuck assembly. The crankshaft and bearing assembly weigh about 20 pounds.

The next challenge was to get the crankshaft out of the bearing. I supported the bearing assembly and crankshaft in my hydraulic arbor press so I could apply pressure to the end of the crankshaft. As I applied force with the hand pump lever, there was a loud pop and the crankshaft was loose. I thought I was home free, but I discovered that the babbitt had popped loose from the housing and was still stuck to the crankshaft. The babbitt is circular and has a flange on one end with flats that key into the housing. I clamped the crankshaft in a bench vise and used a large adjustable open end wrench across the flats and tried to twist the bearing. All I did was distort the bearing flats. Because the bearing flange is against the crank throw, I could not use the arbor press to get the bearing off. With the crankshaft and bearing still in the vise, I squirted it with Kroil and heated the babbitt with a hot air gun. This is the type used in the electronics industry to shrink heat shrink insulation. Do not use an open flame. Applying the heat evenly around the bearing, I was able to twist the bearing a little. More Kroil, careful heating and twisting and pushing got the bearing off of the crankshaft. The reason it had stuck to the crank is because the bearing has spiral grooves cut in it for oil distribution and water had gotten into the grooves and rusted the crankshaft.

It is interesting to note here that there is a right hand and left hand bearing. The bearings are marked gear side and exhaust side. It turns out that the oil grooves are spiral cut in opposite directions so the oil is distributed over the crankshaft, but the rotation direction of the shaft forces the excess oil back into the crankcase and not out the oil seal. Very clever design on the part of the manufacturer.

The right hand bearing housing also contains an oil seal. I could read that the seal was a FLASEAL # 212116. Because the engine was built in Australia, I thought it would be impossible to get a replacement. A long time friend of mine, Bob DeVoe, has a well equipped home machine shop and support literature. I talked with him and we were able to look up the 800 phone number for CR Systems (formerly Chicago Rawhide) now CR for short. I called the number (800-882-4445) and the nice service person was able to give me a current replacement part number. It is a Type CRW1 single lip, Nitrile, spring insert seal. I went to my local independent auto parts supplier to get new oil seals. They do not stock CR seals but had a cross reference to National Seals. They were not in stock there, but the shop ordered them and I picked them up the next day. I had to destroy the old seals to get them out of the housings. The seal had rusted to the housing.


Usually in a stuck engine, piston removal is quite a chore. For once, this was not the case. The piston was stuck about two-thirds of the way after bottom center. Because of all of the water in the crankcase, the exposed rearward portion of the cylinder was badly rusted and pitted. I cleaned off as much of the rust as I could with emery paper, but it looked like the piston better come out the front. The exposed front area of the cylinder was cleaned with medium grit emery paper and the surface cleaned with air and then lubricated. Tapping on the top edges of the piston with a wood 2x4 made it move a little. What luck! Around to the back of the engine with the hammer and wood block; with my brother holding the connecting rod level, we got the piston out by pounding on the connecting rod with the wood block and hammer. The top two piston rings were loose, but the oil ring was stuck. Not a surprise because that is the ring that was closest to the water vapors.


The engine block has a large cover plate on the left side. This was easily removed. The cam slides in from the left and extends out the right side. It is held in place by a collar on the outside right side and a cotter key through the collar and shaft. The camshaft end and collar are protected with a cast brass cover with gasket. The cam slid right out. The exhaust valve worked and a little tapping with a wood stick loosened the intake valve. Under the front of the engine is a cover plate to gain access to the valve springs and push rods. This too was easily removed. A large valve spring compressor was used to squeeze the springs to remove the spring retaining pins. As parts were removed, they were put in plastic bags and marked.


Only a few pieces now remained to be removed. Somewhere along the way the carburetor had been removed, and also the magneto mounting bracket. The throttle plate is in the intake passage in the block. Two small screws hold the plate to the shaft. The slots were a little messed up, but with a good screw driver, they were removed. The governor lever was also easily removed. On the rear of the block is a casting that is both oil fill and drain. Two bolts were removed and it was off. The only remaining piece left was a cover plate on the right side that allows access to the water hopper. There is a bolt and nut in the center of the plate. The nut took a little penetrant and force to get off because it is exposed to the water in the hopper. The cover plate was stuck to the block by the thick rubber gasket. Some pounding and destroying the gasket finally got the plate off. The fastener is really a narrow metal plate that bridges the opening with a long bolt welded to the center.

All the pieces were now removed from the block. After seeing how well built the engine was and the possible rarity of it in the United States, I decided to finish the job and keep the engine.

Now it was time to start the last phase, and that is Restoration. We are now at our last R of our Three R's.