A Ruston & Hornsby Teaches The Three R’s

By Staff
1 / 5
#2) The bare block resting on wheeled utility platform ready for restoration.
2 / 5
#4) Electric motor attached to the rear and belted to the right hand flywheel v-belt pulley. Used for seating rings and initial starting.
3 / 5
#3) Close-up of the finished carburetor bolted to the completed block. Note the air shutter that controls the air/fuel ratio for proper running.
4 / 5
#5) Right hand side of engine.
5 / 5
#6) Rear view of engine showing fuel tank and valve. Note v-belt pulley on the inside of the left hand flywheel.

130 Malcolm Dr., Pasadena, CA 91105

We continue this story from last month’s GEM. If you recall,
when we last left our author, he had completed his Research into
his engine find, and parts Removal. The engine was now fully
disassembled, and we’re ready to hear about the third R,


It is best to start with the block since all the other pieces
mount on it. Other than that, it doesn’t really make much
difference what order the other pieces are restored in. The engine
was initially at my brother’s house, but it became clear that I
needed it where I live. I have limited space and not a big work
shop for this size a project. To further complicate matters, I live
in a city where overnight parking on the street is not allowed.
Also 1 have a short driveway not long enough for parking vehicles.
That meant that the garage had to be used for the vehicles and not
this project. And furthermore, I live on a hillside and there are
stairs and ramps to the back yard area. I do have a small concrete
area in the rear where I took the block. I had also brought over
the ‘cherry picker’ because the bare block weighs 155
pounds. To get the block up to a good working height, I used a
portable table known as a Workmate made by Black and Decker. This
is a very handy piece of equipment around a restoration project
because not only is it a work surface, it is also a vise and

Before really getting serious about the restoration, I washed
all the parts with solvent, dried them and stored them in boxes. I
will now describe the restoration by major units.


Since the block was too large and heavy for my solvent tank, I
put it on the ground and washed it off using various cleaners such
as 409 and a variety of scrapers and wire brushes. This was really
a preliminary cleaning so that the extent of the restoration could
be evaluated. It is interesting to note that the inside of the
crankcase was painted an off white. I am really impressed with the
design and ruggedness of the engine. It is a very stout engine.
With the initial cleaning complete, it was time to really inspect
the block for problem areas. See Photo 2 of the block sitting on a
utility cart.

The really big area of concern was the cylinder. The water and
rust had really done a number on the cylinder wall and left large
pits too deep to hone out. I had two choices. One was to bore and
sleeve it and the other was to try and fill the pits. I chose the
latter. I own a Fairbanks-Morse 3 horsepower engine; prior to my
owning it, the piston wrist pin had come loose and scored the
cylinder walls. I successfully repaired that with J-B Weld slow set
epoxy. So I decided to try epoxy to fill the pits. The secret for
using epoxies is to have very clean surfaces down to base material,
in this case cast iron. I used a flexible rotary shaft grinding
tool with carbide burrs of various sizes and shapes. Be sure to use
full eye protection. I was using safety glasses but a particle came
in from the side and lodged on the eyeball. A trip to the eye
doctor was necessary to have the particle removed. I now use safety
glasses with side shields and full goggles. Every rust pit was
enlarged and ground down to base metal. The inside of the cylinder
looked like Swiss cheese. But this is what I wanted to do to
provide lots of surface area for the epoxy.

To minimize the waste of the epoxy and force it into the pits, I
made a wooden plug. On my lathe I turned a piece of wood just a
little under the diameter of the cylinder and longer than the
length of the cylinder. It was then cut in half the long way and
cut to length. The cut ends were saved.

The surface of the cylinder was cleaned with various solvents
and wire brushes. The final solvent is a spray can of brake
cleaner. It removes oil and leaves no residue. If you use this
solvent, follow directions on the can and use it outside with
plenty of ventilation so as not to breathe the fumes, and also wear
protective gloves as it will dry your skin instantly. The J-B Weld
epoxy was mixed according to the package instructions and liberally
applied to the clean pits in the cylinder. A layer of kitchen wax
paper was pressed against the fresh epoxy. The wooden plug was
inserted into the cylinder and wedged tight against the walls. The
epoxy takes 24 hours to set-up properly. Remove the wedges and wood
plug and peel away the wax paper and let it stand for at least
another 24 hours.

Even with the wax paper and form, the surface of the cylinder
was lumpy with epoxy. To get the surface to a point where a hone
could be used, I took the semi-circular scrap ends from the wooden
plug and stapled coarse emery paper strips to the outside surface.
By hand, I was able to sand away the high spots and quit when 1
began to see the outline of the pits. Actually, I started with
coarse paper and worked my way down to finer grit. You must use a
form of some sort because if you just hold the emery paper in your
hand, you will just follow the lumps and pits and not get a flat
surface. I have used this semicircular form idea on several
cylinder walls. I have also used the J-B Weld on the bore of a
Western air compressor.

The initial epoxy treatment on this engine was not enough to
fill all the pits. It was necessary to spot fill a few holes and
re-sand. After the hand sanding was complete, I honed the cylinder
with a hone that works on a rack and pinion. The hone has two
stones and two felt wipers and is used dry. Because the epoxy tends
to clog the stone face, I start with an old coarse stone and clean
the stone surface with a wire brush frequently. As with the emery
paper, I finish up with a finer stone. I honed it just enough to
make the surface look like a leopard skin. That is, spots of epoxy
surrounded by clean cast iron. After the honing, be sure and coat
the inside surface with oil. Clean cast iron turns to rust

After running the engine for at least 160 hours, the head was
removed for inspection. I found that the J-B Weld epoxy in the
cylinder did not survive the high temperature just at the head end
near the exhaust valve. The major portion of the cylinder walls are
in good condition and the engine runs with the missing epoxy.

As far as the outside of the block was concerned, the goal was
not to make a super smooth surface but to make it look as if it
just came from the factory. However, I did remove a few high spots
and fill in a few large pits. Just as in the cylinder, J-B Weld was
used on the outside. At the rear next to the bolt hole for the oil
fill fitting was a small pit in the casting. I ground away at it
with a burr, and it opened up into a cavern about the size of an
almond meat. It also intersected the bolt hole for the oil fill
fitting. By packing the bolt hole with wax paper I was able to fill
the void with J-B Weld and not fill the bolt hole. After it set up,
I removed the wax paper and ran a tap into the hole to make sure
the threads were good.

The final major problem with the block was with one of the studs
for holding the head on. There are four long studs and two short
ones. I was able to remove all the studs, except for one short one.
After some penetrant and local heating and a pair of Vise-Grips, it
came out. What I discovered is that the bolt is supposed to be in a
blind hole and not exposed to water in the water jacket. The back
end of the casting was rusted away and the stud had become rusted
in place. Well, here was another place to use J-B Weld. As before,
the area was cleaned up with rotary burrs and what ever else I
could reach in there with to get a good clean surface. Since I
needed to build up quite a bit of material, I built a dam out of
modeling clay. I also put wax paper in the part of the hole that
had good threads. After the epoxy hardened, I dug out the modeling
clay to restore the water passage and removed the wax paper from
the hole, Now this left the hole not deep enough for the stud. The
epoxy drilled and tapped nicely.

This might be a good place to discuss the nuts and bolts used on
this engine. You might remember that I mentioned earlier that the
wrenches did not fit. After some measurements and head scratching,
I discovered that the threads were British Whitworth. In most cases
they are the same diameter and pitch as American threads, but the
thread angle is 55°, not the 60° of American threads. For all of
the threads, except inch, I converted over to American. All of
these were cover plates and brackets for non-heavy loads. I was not
afraid of any problems by switching over. However, the head, belt
pulleys and flywheel bolts were inch. In the Whitworth series, the
inch has 12 threads per inch and the American standard is 13
threads per inch. Trying to convert to American would really mess
up the threads. My only choice was to stick with the Whitworth. I
asked around and none of my friends had any Whitworth taps and
dies. By looking through several machine tool catalogs, I was able
to find a supplier and purchased a Whitworth tap and die in the
inch size.

I wanted to make three new studs for the head. By using my
lathe, I tried to make a thread on a inch steel rod by using the
die directly. This was quite difficult and I decided to turn a
thread on the lathe by first using a 60° bit and finishing it with
the British die. Everything went well until I ran the die on it.
The thread looked awful. Well, I tried again, and still bad. It
took four tries before I realized that I had set-up the lathe to
make a 13 pitch thread instead of a 12 pitch. After correcting this
error, the studs turned out real good. What really disturbed me was
that I even made a trial cut and checked with a pitch gauge, but it
too was set at 13 instead of 12. As usual, I was in a hurry and did
not double check myself.

The inside of the block was cleaned using paint thinner and
brushes, and dried with an air gun. All threaded holes were cleaned
with wire brushes and then an appropriate tap run into the hole. In
this case it was converting to American standard, except the ‘
holes. All other holes, such as the valve guides and cam gear
bearings, were cleaned with wire brushes. The inside of the water
hopper was cleaned by using some special tools made by Larry.

He took ‘ all-thread rod and made a handle for one end by
drilling a hole through a length of broom stick, and fastening it
on with nuts and washers. On the other end he fashioned various
shapes, such as a flat blade like a screw driver. Another was
grinding off the end at an angle to make a sharp edge. The tool can
now be pushed and pulled through the narrow passages of the hopper.
One rod can also be bent in a semicircle to fit in the narrow space
between the bottom of the cylinder and the water jacket. The sharp
edges of the thread provide cutting edges as you poke it around in
the hopper.

And finally, the outside of the block is cleaned and prepared by
using a small handheld high speed electric 90° grinder with a
knotted wire cup brush. The surface is then sanded by hand using
emery paper. The purpose was to get the surface clean and free from
loose material, but not glass smooth.

Since the block was ready for painting, I went ahead with it so
that it would have a long time to dry before final assembly. For a
base coat, I used Benjamin Moore & Co. Iron Clad Retardo rust
inhibitive paint, Bronze tone color. For the two color coats, I
used Ameri tone Industrial Finishes High Gloss Universal Alkyd
Enamel, custom mixed starting with yellow oxide base. The engine
was built during the early years of World War II and was painted an
olive drab color. There was not enough color on any of the pieces
to get a good match, so I chose the inside of the lid of a surplus
ammunition can. Both paints were applied with a simple foam brush.
The finish is very smooth and there are no brush marks. I have
painted several engines using the foam brushes and it has been very


It is now time to discuss the preparation of all the small and
larger piece parts. First take apart all assemblies. Remove piston
rings, springs, screws, etc. In other words, take it completely
apart. All metal parts were cleaned by using a high pressure stream
of glass beads. This is similar to sandblasting, but not as brutal.
Small glass beads are re-circulated through a nozzle in a special
cabinet. The beads remove rust and thin layers of paint. It does
not remove thick gooey material such as rubber, grease and thick
paint. Well, it will take away thick paint, but you don’t want
to take the time necessary. There are better ways to get thick
paint off. You can use chemical strippers, scraping and wire
brushes. Bead blasting should be used as a final surface
preparation. All nuts, bolts, washers, babbitt bearings, gears,
covers, springs, rings, piston, valves, head, crankshaft, etc., got
bead blasted. Do not use on plastic, wood, ceramic (spark plug
insulator) and thin sheet metal. On thin sheet metal, it is like
hitting it with thousands of tiny hammer blows and the metal will
curl. I know from experience! Also, do not use on smooth brass if
you plan to polish it. After cleaning, I wash pieces in paint
thinner and some times an ultrasonic cleaner bath to get the beads
out of tiny crevices. If the pieces are not going to be painted,
coat all steel or cast iron surfaces with oil before putting in
storage. Because the surface is so clean, paint any pieces that
require it. As with the block, I used a foam brush and the same
paint. By painting the pieces early on you allow more time for the
paint to set up nice and hard. I like to paint the individual parts
rather than the assembled engine so that you can disassemble it
later if need without disturbing the paint job. I also do not paint
bolt heads and nuts.


The name of the game in restoration is patience. Prior to bead
blasting, the rings must be removed. They are often stuck. Solvent
clean the assembly first. Apply penetrant and wait! I take a small
plastic hammer and gently tap on the rings. This helps to loosen
the rings and also drive the penetrant into the cracks. Sometimes I
have been able to get a small screwdriver into the ring gap and
gently pry it loose. Be VERY patient. Rings are brittle and break
easily. Once the rings are loose, they can be removed by using a
ring expander, narrow strips of thin metal (drink cans), or I use
old plastic pocket calendars slid under the rings. With the ring
expanded all around the piston, slide the rings off. As you remove
the rings, mark them or put them in bags for identification. For
marking, I scratch a number on the edge with a sharp carbide
scribe. Remove the wrist pin and mark it. All piston assembly
pieces were glass bead blasted. After cleaning, 1 reassembled the
piston and connecting rod and liberally applied oil and set it


The carburetor cleaning was treated as a separate project so
that the parts would not get mixed up. I took it apart and bead
blasted the pieces. The brass lid for the fuel float chamber was
cleaned and polished. The other brass fittings were cleaned and
polished. The carburetor is unique in that it has a fixed orifice
for the fuel supply. To vary the air/fuel mixture for running under
different load conditions and speeds, there is an air shutter with
a spring loaded pin that drops into detent holes on the carburetor.
Another unique feature is the crankcase vent passage. I could see
some kind of filter in the hole. There was no easy way to get it
out in one piece so I drilled it out. It was a piece of brass
screen rolled into a cylinder and pushed into the hole. This was
easily duplicated. I think the screen may have two purposes: first
as a dirt filter, but also as an anti-backfiring screen. I
don’t think you would like to have a flame front travel into
the crankcase with all those oil vapors. It could get a little
exciting. The carburetor body was painted and allowed to dry
thoroughly. I was able to purchase the necessary fiber sealing
washers from a local carburetor repair shop. Illustrated in Photo 3
is the finished carburetor installed on the completed engine.


The flywheels were too large and heavy to fit in the bead blast
cabinet. With the work on the block completed, the Workmate could
be used for other parts of the restoration. I put a short length of
pipe through the flywheel and rested it on the top surface of the
Workmate and tightened the top halves together. I then used the
small electric cup wire brush to clean the flywheels. Areas that
could not be reached with the power brush were hand sanded with
emery paper. After the cleaning, several timing marks were found on
the surface of the right hand flywheel. They were: A, EX C, T.D.C.
&. S. There were also inspection stamps for quality control.
The surface was cleaned with solvents and then painted.


The magneto is a Lucas rotary Type RS1 and does not have an
impulse start mechanism or a spark retard. The plastic cover showed
a lot of damage due to weather exposure. It should have been black
but now it was gray, and the surface was rough. There was also a
crack on one corner and also in the side of ‘ spark plug wire
hole. I enlarged the cracks and filled them with J-B Weld that I
darkened with some powdered artist charcoal. Before I actually used
this mixture, I let some cure and checked it with an ohmmeter and
found out that the charcoal powder did not make it electrically
conductive. I did not want to create a leakage path for the high
voltage. By carefully sanding the plastic surface, I was able to
get through the weathered surface and down to good base material.
By using finer and finer paper and then wet/or/dry, I got a nice
smooth surface. To finish the surface, I used a cloth buffing wheel
with polishing compound recommended for plastic. The surface took
on a nice smooth luster.

The spark plug wire is held into the cap with a pointed screw
from inside. This screw had not survived the weathering and needed
replacing. I checked the diameter and pitch and it turned out to be
a metric thread. A replacement screw was not difficult to make. So
now the engine is truly international American, British and Metric
threads. Because the magneto turned and produced a good spark, I
originally planned to just do a simple cleanup and use it. But
careful inspection showed that the leather dust seal around the
drive shaft needed to be replaced. A complete disassembly would be
required. It is a good thing that I did, because the ball bearings
inside were very dirty. With the magneto apart, I bead blasted the
aluminum case and the breaker points mounting plate. All other
pieces were washed in solvent.

For assembly, I had to manufacture some bearing retaining rings.
The bearings are held in place with a heavy paper ring. My friend
Bob De Voe happened to have some raw stock of similar material and
I cut out replacements. He also had some industrial felt that I
used as a new shaft dust seal. The magneto went back together
without any problems and it still worked! It was put aside until
needed for final assembly. The bent magneto drive shaft was
straightened and bead blasted. Everything for the engine was now
ready for final assembly. However, I did need a wheeled cart.


When I build a cart, the steering axle must be able to rotate a
full 360° under the frame. This allows full maneuverability in
tight places. I do this by having smaller wheels on the steering
axle. Over the years I have collected some cast iron wheels and I
found a pair of 9′ wheels to use for the rear. They happen to
have an R & H cast into them, but I doubt that they are Ruston
& Hornsby wheels. I did not have any matching wheels for the
front. My friend Mike Jones was able to help me out. He had
recently acquired some 6′ wheels that were a pretty good match.
I got two of them from him. The literature I got from Ray Hooley
indicated that the original cart was made from steel U-channel. I
chose 3 x 1′ steel and bought a length from a local supplier.
The side rails are with the 3′ dimension vertical and the open
part out. Across the front on the bottom I welded a flat plate for
the steering pivot bearing surface. The front axle assembly is the
same size channel, but with one flange cut off and an axle welded
in place. The axles are actually hollow pipe with solid pins welded
inside the ends to fit the wheels. I was originally going to use
solid 1′ bar until I lifted a piece. The steering bearing plate
is 3′ diameter and ?’ thick steel welded to the center of
the U-channel. A hole was drilled in the center and the cart front
plate for a ?’ bolt for the pivot. Small metal ears with ?’
holes were welded to the front as sockets for a handle. The handle
is ?’ steel rod bent in a U-shape with the ends bent out. To
install, all I do is compress the handle ends and slip them into
the sockets. The rear axle assembly is also U-channel, but mounted
with the ‘U’ up and the axle tube underneath. Large U-bolts
were used to fasten the assembly to the frame. In the center of the
back I installed a shouldered eye bolt for a tie down point. I also
drilled some holes on the front of the side rails for tie down
points for transportation.

The cart was fabricated before the engine was assembled, and the
block was placed on the cart and the mounting holes marked and
drilled before painting. The cart pieces were painted with base
coat and then black Sign Painters’ 1- Shot lettering


The painted block was put back onto the Workmate. By the way, I
bolted and c-clamped it to the work surface during all the
restoration. The first chore was to check the valve seats. They
were a little pitted from the rust, but I was able to reseat them
by hand using Dykem on the seat surface to check the mating
surfaces as I used coarse grinding and fine lapping compound. All
grinding compound was carefully cleaned off. The valves were put in
place and their springs and keepers installed. The valve pushers
(lifters) were inserted into their guides. During assembly, I
coated all moving surfaces with Sta-Lube engine assembly lube.

The governor weights were put back on the cam gear and secured.
The cam was installed and held in place with its collar and cotter
key on the right side of the block. The governor operating pin was
installed so it wouldn’t get forgotten. The throttle plate and
shaft were installed using new screws. Next came the governor lever
held in place on the pivot with a new cotter key. The pivot is
mounted on the crankcase oil guard that is bolted just in front of
the cam gear. All of the above is done through the large opening on
the left side of the engine block. The speed adjust assembly was
installed using a new gasket at the block, and a roll pin replaced
the small cotter pin that was used as an anti-rotation pin. The
speed adjust is a threaded shaft and a knurled nut. As the nut is
turned, the shaft is moved in or out against a spring. The spring
works against the motion provided by the governor weights on the
cam gear.

The side play of the crankshaft is adjusted to 0.004 to
0.006′ by the thickness of the gasket material between the
bearing assembly and the block. It took making several gaskets
before I was satisfied with it. For thin gasket material, I used
‘parchment’ paper from a copy service. After the final
gaskets were fitted, the right hand bearing assembly was removed
and the new oil seal was pressed into place. The left hand seal was
also installed into its cover plate. Next came the installation of
the magneto drive gear and key onto the drive shaft. A gasket was
made for the oil seal plate, but it wasn’t thick enough. The
seal was not a total direct replacement. A thicker gasket solved
the problem.

It was now time to install the piston. It was put in the
cylinder from the front of the engine making sure the oil holes
were in the right position. The connecting rod was bolted to the
crankshaft and tightened. It was too tight and a few new brass
shims had to be fabricated.

The cam idler gear was put in place making sure all the timing
marks lined up properly. When I took the engine apart, I thought
timing the gears would be a real problem. Because the engine was
stuck, I could not rotate the crankshaft to check for timing marks.
It turned out that the factory had done a good job of plainly
marking the three gears. There was only one way for them to be put
together. It was really beginning to look like an engine.

A new gasket was made for the left side cover plate and was
installed under the plate. A gasket was cut for the oil filling
fitting and that was installed. A new gasket was made for the
carburetor and installed under it.

The magneto mounting bracket was installed. The camshaft cover
on the right side of the engine needed a gasket and that was easily
done and installed. The cover plates for the valve adjustment
access and water hopper clean out required thicker gasket material
than the standard soft fiber used elsewhere. I obtained some rubber
material with a woven reinforcement laminated inside. The material
was cut to fit and the plates installed. The plates are held in
place with a bolt assembly that is a piece of metal strap with a
threaded rod welded to the center. This assembly is inserted into
the block and bridges the opening. The cover has a hole in the
center to fit over the threaded rod and is held in place with a
washer and nut. The bolt assembly for the valve access cover was in
good condition. However, the water passage cover bolt was rusted
beyond use. I made a new assembly out of brass and I hope that this
will help in the future by not rusting and making it difficult to
do water hopper maintenance.


With the cart assembled and painted, the partially assembled
engine was mated to the cart. Because of the taper in the steel of
the U-channel, bolts that go through the flanges do not have a flat
surface to tighten against. Because this is such a heavy engine, I
made tapered washers out of extra channel. I drilled a series of
holes of the right size through the side flange and with a band saw
cut out squares of metal with the hole in the middle. Stacking
these pieces together on a long bolt, lining up the taper and
tightening them together with a nut, I used the lathe to turn round
tapered washers. With a tapered washer under each bolt, matching
the taper of the channel, the engine is held onto the side rails
real tight. Similar tapered washers were used at the steering pivot
and shouldered eye bolt at the rear.

It was now time to mount the flywheels onto the crankshaft.
Remember that there are v-belt pulleys on each flywheel. The left
pulley has threaded holes and fastens to the inside of the wheel. I
assembled the pulley to the flywheel, but left it loose. The
flywheel was slid on the shaft lining up the key, and the long
Vi’ bolt was tightened through the hub. Then the pulley bolts
were tightened. The right hand flywheel was installed similarly
except that the pulley is on the outside and is fastened on with
bolts and nuts.

It was now easy to rotate the crankshaft to check for proper
operation of all the gears and valves. I also hand operated the
governor. The valve operation matched with the marks on the right
hand flywheel. All systems were operating properly. At this time I
also checked the clearance between the valve end and pusher
adjusting screw. I made sure it was adjusted to 0.031′ for
intake and exhaust.

I was able to use the old head gasket since it was copper clad
and came off in one piece. I did clean up the surfaces with a mild
household powdered cleanser and thorough cleaning. The gasket was
coated on both sides with grease and then slid over the head studs.
Then the head was put in place and the nuts tightened evenly. Again
I turned the flywheels and there was some compression. There were
no major hissing sounds indicating compression leaks.

It was now time to mount the magneto and time it. I had really
agonized over the timing because there were no marks that I could
find to indicate the proper gear mesh. I had mentally devised a
method of rotating the magneto with an electric drill and using a
timing light to indicate when it produced a spark. Then it hit me!
The spark is produced when the points open. All I had to do was
remove the cover on the back of the magneto, rotate the engine to
the ‘S’ mark on the flywheel and install the gear so the
points were just opening. It worked perfectly. Some final hand
turning to double check the’ system operation was performed and
the engine was almost ready for the moment of truth. Would it run?
It only took 1 quarts of oil to fill the crankcase. A new gasket
was made for the rear cover plate and it was fastened into

For a muffler I borrowed one off of one of my other engines and
eventually replaced it with one purchased from an advertiser in

I had not done anything about the fuel tank because the
carburetor is a gravity fed float type with a swing away lid. So on
Halloween night 1995, I filled the carburetor with gasoline (pardon
me, petrol, it is English design), and pulled on the flywheels. Not
a sound! After several attempts and even resorting to starting
fluid. I quit for the time being.

I had recently finished a ? scale model of an 8-cycle Aerometer,
and it too initially would not run. A friend, Merle Morse, scratch
builds models, and he suggested that I turn the model crankshaft at
slow speed with my lathe for several hours without compression. I
did this using lots of oil, and much to my surprise, the model ran
on the first spin of the flywheel. This trick seats the piston
rings, mates the bearing surfaces and wears in the gears.

I decided to try something similar with the Ruston &
Hornsby. Because the engine has v-belt pulleys, I fabricated a
hinged wooden platform with an electric motor mounted on it. I
mounted it across the back of the engine with c-clamps. The weight
of the motor was to keep the belt tight. In Photo 4 you can see the
electric motor mounted on a hinged wooden platform and belted to
the right hand flywheel pulley. After removing the spark plug, I
turned on power. It worked except the electric motor bounced a
little so I strapped the motor down with a cargo strap. I let the
engine run like this for at least six hours. I did attach the spark
plug to the magneto and grounded it to provide a known path to
ground for the spark.

Now my mental wheels were really turning, because the final goal
is to produce an engine that runs on gasoline and not electricity.
Why not use the electric motor as a starting device? So with the
help of my neighbor, as a safety backup, I reinstalled the spark
plug and poured some gasoline in the carburetor bowl. On went the
electric motor and a little manual help turning the flywheels and
within a few seconds, the engine was off and running by itself. I
popped the v-belt off the pulley and the engine continued running.
I did not run it very long because I did not have any water in the
hopper. After a cool-down period, the hopper was filled with water
and the engine restarted with the electric motor. I let it run
until the carburetor ran dry. This was repeated once more.

There was a water drip out of the hopper access plate. This was
not corrected by tightening the cover bolt. After letting the area
dry, I applied clear RTV rubber on both surfaces of the gasket and
around the mounting bolt and tightened the nut. After letting it
cure properly, I refilled the hopper and the leak was gone.

It was now time to try and start the engine without electric
assist. I was really apprehensive about this step. The magneto,
which has no spark retard feature or impulse mechanism, is a rotary
type and needs to turn fast for proper operation. Everything looked
like it was going against easy hand starting. The instruction
manual indicates a starting crank is available. I do not use
starting cranks, unless they are attached to the flywheel and fold
out of the way. So what did I have to lose? Try it anyway. With
full choke and gasoline in the carburetor, I pulled on the
flywheels and much to my amazement and satisfaction, the engine
started and stayed running!! The speed control also worked. All
systems were operational, except there was no fuel tank.

At the beginning of this project I had removed the fuel tank and
put it aside without really looking at it. Big mistake. The bottom
was totally rusted out with large holes. I put the word out that I
was looking for a round tank of certain dimensions that I could
adapt. Well, my good friend Bob Swan had one that would work. It
was a little dented, but so what. That is the good news. The bad
news was that the original tank had a nice shut-off valve and wire
mesh filter but had British straight male pipe threads. I was able
to make a brass adapter, but I had to purchase a British tap. I
made some simple mounting brackets and mounted the tank and did a
test run. There was a slight fuel leak at the carburetor, but that
was solved. I painted the tank with the same paint as the engine,
but I did spray it using an air brush.

You may think that this tale is over, but not quite yet. This
restoration project was so complete that I had to restore even the
name plate.

The name plate was attached to the front of the water hopper
with four drive in rivets. You know, the kind that don’t come
out. I had ground off the heads with a rotary burr but it slipped
and gouged the brass surface and even messed up some of the
lettering. The fix was to soft solder over the problem areas and
smooth the surface. The letters were reformed using a sharp craft
knife. The name plate was spray painted the ‘ engine color and
the letters filled in with black paint. The hopper mounting surface
was drilled and tapped and the name plate fastened on with brass
screws. Take a look at Photo 5 for a view of the right side of the
engine and Photo 6 for a rear view showing the fuel tank and

Well, that completes the story of how this Ruston & Hornsby
engine helped teach me The Three R’s of Research, parts Removal
and Restoration. The engine is very smooth running from the lowest
speed to the maximum. I am pleased with this restoration. The next
project is to restore a Hardie water pump so that the Ruston &
Hornsby has something to do.

Please note that this restoration was very straightforward and
was not complicated by missing parts and major problems such as
cracks in the hopper. The only bothersome problem was the rust pits
in the cylinder walls. All the bearings had very little wear and
the whole project was really just a thorough cleaning and painting
plus the fabrication of a cart.

I would like to acknowledge all the help that I received in this
project. You are all mentioned in the text and without your help
this project would have been much more difficult. A final thank you
to my brother, Larry, for his help in the project and his inputs
and review of this story. A special thank you goes out to Michael
Peterson of the Glendora Preservation Foundation for providing the
back drop for the finished engine and for taking and processing the

To you readers, thank you for your attention and I hope I have
helped you in some small way in your restoration projects. It can
be discouraging at times, but be patient and do careful work. The
thrill of completing a major restoration is hard to describe. You
must experience it to know what we are really talking about. Happy
rust hunting and restoration success.


Since the restoration of the engine has been completed and it
has taken a while to put together this article, as of yet I still
have not found out how and when this engine arrived in this
country. My brother Larry is continuing to hunt for information on
the internet and through the use of e-mail. He wrote back to a
gentleman in Australia named Paul Pavlinovich who posted an item to
the mailing list mentioned earlier. It turns out Paul has
established a home page on the World Wide Web relating to the hobby
of steam and gas engine collecting in Australia. He was so
interested in the story of this restoration that he’s devoted
an entire page to just this engine. The web page address is:

http://www.ppit.com.au/se/info/ restore/ruston_hornsby.html

One final update note. I am a member of the Western Antique
Power Associates engine club, and the club has just finished a
sixteen day show at a local tourist attraction called Knott’s
Berry Farm. At the exhibit I showed the Ruston & Hornsby and it
ran about 10 hours daily for the entire event. Just like the pink
bunny on television, it just kept going and going and….

Gas Engine Magazine
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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines