Largest Portable Stationary Engine

500 HP Ruston-Hornsby engine

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R. R. #3 Ilderton, Ontario, Canada NOM 2AO

Although this may sound like a contradiction of terms, it is the only way to describe the 500 HP Ruston & Hornsby engine owned by Walter Dedman of Cambridge, Ontario. Watching this massive engine coming down the street is a sight to behold.

Walter is a collector of Ruston engines. However, unlike most engine collectors, Walter wasn't content to play with the regular 5 or 10 HP engines. He fell in love with BIG engines. His first challenge was to make his 42 HP Ruston portable so he could take it to shows. Being a professional building contractor, he knew he could do it. By using the right kind of steel framing and the right kind of construction, he man-aged to mount this engine on a trailer he could pull behind his truck, much to the delight of spectators at the various shows around Ontario that he attended. He designed the trailer with sides that could be opened, giving a clear viewing of the engine from both sides. However, having succeeded in this endeavor, his next challenge was to see if he could do the same with his larger 142 HP Ruston engine. Once again, man and steel worked together to put this engine onto wheels, in a carefully designed exhibition trailer. This time, however, Walter decided to make use of the goose-neck of his trailer by building a comfortable 'home-away-from-home' compartment, complete with couch/bed, sink, refrigerator, and even microwave.

Now, most would be content with these accomplishments. However, Walter isn't like most. He began to wonder how big a stationary engine could be made portable? His answer came in 1978 when he learned of a 500 HP Ruston for sale. Was he up to the challenge? Of course he was! However, his first challenge was to get it out of the building in which it was housed.

This engine was the standby unit in the pumping station of the city of Kitchener, Ontario. In the winter of 1927 it had been shipped to Kitchener by rail and then moved to the Green-brook pumping station by horses. It was hooked directly to a GE generator, 375 KVA at 2200 volts. It is a four cylinder engine, 20 inch bore and 28 inch stroke, giving it 27,135.29 cubic inches, four cycle water-cooled, dry sump, 500 BHP at 214 rpm. It is capable of running 10% overload one hour out of twelve, and its fuel consumption is .414 lbs. per HP per hour.

Walter began disassembling the engine in the winter of 1978, just before Christmas. He removed the last piece in April of 1979. He had to tear down a wall to get it out, and of course rebuild the wall when he was finished. He used a crane to load the pieces onto a railway car set on 40 feet of track. He then used a large loader to transfer the pieces to a flat bed trailer.

Once again Walter had to build a frame of steel and cement to carry this monstrous engine. Over 30 tires were needed to support its weight. A series of stairs were built onto the frame to allow Walter to climb up to reach the top of the engine. Watching Walter start this engine is entertainment to young and old alike.

A sign on the side of the trailer tells some interesting information about Ruston engines:

'Ruston Cold Starting Engines, when compared with oil engines of other makes, will be found to possess many outstanding advantages. Among the chief considerations when installing an engine are those of safety, reliability, and economy, and in these respects the Ruston Oil Engine is unique.

'Starting': No lamp is required. The compression pressure being sufficient to ignite the oil with certainty, the use of a lamp or any external or electrical starting appliance is unnecessary with the Ruston Oil Engine, even in cold weather. Further, the compression pressure is sufficiently high to dispense with all unjacketed surfaces and bulbs, an essential factor in reliable starting.

'Durability': The absence of a high-duty air compressor increases the reliability of the engine, and decreases the general wear and tear, besides making the engine safe in the hands of a man of average intelligence.

'Fuel Oil': The range of oil that may be used in these engines is wide, and includes tar oil, residual, crude and refined oils. Engines are specifically fitted when required to run on tar oil. Where obtainable, such fuels as palm oil may be used.

'No Air Compressor': The system of fuel injection and atomization excludes the use of mechanically operated fuel valves and high-duty air compressors, thus completely eliminating the dangers arising from these two sources.'

Walter has kindly agreed to bring this engine, as well as his other 'smaller' (!) engines, to this year's Heritage & Antique Show in Ilderton, Ontario, Canada on July 11 & 12. The show is featuring stationary engines and vintage garden tractors. These three engines are certainly a 'must-see' for anyone interested in engines of any kind. Their 'portability' is certainly a work of art. Come meet the man who doesn't believe that a challenge cannot be met!