Ruston Diesels for the Eighties

On Monday 24th March, 1980, a Vulcan built Class 86 electric locomotive was named Vulcan Heritage at Bank Quay Station, Warrington. Ruston was given the opportunity by British Rail to commemorate 150 years of continuous Vulcan Works involvement with railways. The locomotive was originally built as a Class AL6, No E3167, by the English Electric Co Ltd. at Vulcan Works in 1964 and was converted in 1973 to a Class 86 and renumbered 86228. This class of locomotive was, at this time, used on the high-speed intercity service.


1983 saw Ruston Diesels largest ever contract completed ~ supplying and installing sixty-nine power stations throughout Iraq ~ thereby marking the end of one of the largest projects of its kind ever handled by a single company anywhere in the world. The contract, won in 1981, involved the company supplying eighty-seven RKC engines ~ twenty-four, eight cylinder and sixty-three, sixteen cylinder ~ which were installed singly or in pairs according to the power requirements. Ruston was responsible for all civil, mechanical and electrical aspects of each power station, which involved the shipping of some 20,000 tons of equipment in 1,000 lots from the United Kingdom to Iraq.

B In 1983 there was a decided swing towards marine applications: there was the introduction of the twelve-cylinder RK270 engine and the development of the sixteen cylinder RK270. Also introduced was the AT350 engine, the first application being in Mersey Venture a dredger for the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. The vessel incorporated two six cylinder engines producing 2100 b.h.p. for main propulsion, with a third driving the dredger pump.

Work was also completed in 1983 on the first phase of a contract to supply the Royal Navy with twenty four, six cylinder RKC engines for a new breed of fleet minesweepers designated EDAFS (extra deep armed fleet sweeper). This contract followed successful work with the Ministry of Defence on seven Island Class and two Castle Class offshore patrol vessels, all powered by 12RKC engines.

Two tugs were built by McTay Marine, one for Dover Harbour Board and one for Alexandra Towing ~ each used two, six cylinder engines for propulsion. Two 6AT350 engines were supplied to Appledore Shipbuilders for use as main propulsion of a specialised cargo vessel, three 8RKC engines for a combined drilling/production platform for Britoil in the Clyde Field and two 16RKC engines were supplied for re-engining a Canadian Coastguard vessel.

Industrial power was not neglected, however, with deliveries of two 6RK engines to Riyadh for power generation at the Justice Palace. Four, twelve cylinder RK engines were delivered, two each, to Granada and a coalmine on the island of Sumatra.

58 Also during 1983, work continued in supplying British Rail with 12RKC engines for the new Class 58 freight locomotives, and on Thursday, December 12th, 1983, the first British Rail Class 58 heavy freight locomotive was handed over at its birthplace, Doncaster.

This was the first of an initial order of thirty-five, and was to be the final non-electric freight design for British Rail. The 126 ton locomotive was powered by a Ruston 12 cylinder RK3 engine producing 2460kW and able to haul 1,000 tonne payloads at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour (130km/h). The Class 58 locomotives were designed by BR to replace its Class 56 locomotive for which Ruston had produced 140 engines and had clocked up millions of miles in the UK and abroad.

m During 1983 Queen Elizabeth paid a three day state visit to Kenya and two Class 71 Vulcan built locomotives took pride of place at the head of the royal train. A total of 22 such locomotives were built for East African Railways, entering service in 1968 and each was powered by eight cylinder CSVT engines.

In November of that same year the semi submersible drilling rig Sovereign Explorer was floated out from Cammell Laird Shipyard on the River Mersey to be used for drilling of exploratory wells in the British Sector of the North Sea. The four 12RKC powered alternator sets, each producing 1800kW, were the sole means of power on the vessel, including the electric propulsion system.


Rustons success was rewarded in 1984 with the presentation of the Queens Award for Export Achievement.

After the conflict on the Falkland Islands, seven 8RKC powered generating sets were despatched from the works in 1984. The engines were to provide the power for Mount Pleasant Airport that was constructed near Port Stanley. The generators were situated in two power stations, one with five engines providing 1.5 MW each for base load. Two similar stand-by sets were installed in a separate building. The site was equipped with a heat recovery system and entered service on 30 th January 1985.

In July 1984 a unique seabed operations vessel, HMS Challenger entered service with the Royal Navy. The vessel was designed to enhance the Navy’s capability to search for, work on and recover objects from the seabed. Five, sixteen cylinder RKC engines, coupled to 3.3 kW alternators, provided electrical power for the main propulsion, and two 6RKC engines provided auxiliary power. By using diesel electric propulsion the vessel can stop in its own length, move astern and sideways providing remarkable manoeuvrability.

Ruston installed their first 6RK270GS ‘lean burn’ gas engine in 1985 at the Shell/Esso Gas Terminal at Bacton in Norfolk. The engine runs on gas from the North Sea and supplies up to 700kWe of power, which forms all or part of the sites requirements, depending on the seasonal fluctuations. By the end of 1997 the engine had clocked up 68,000 hours with normal annual service carried out in the summer of each year, running month in, month out with only minor problems.

qq In 1988 the largest ever wastewater treatment scheme was under construction in Cairo. The project used two power stations to supply the power for the screw pumps to move sewage and waste water to the treatment works and treated water to the desert. The power station at Kossous used three, sixteen cylinder RKC engines driving 2.7MW alternators and at Khakag three, twelve cylinder engines each produced 2.5MW.

aa A new Royal Mail combined passenger/cargo vessel , RMS St. Helena, was built in 1998 for the island of St. Helena, the first such vessel to be built in the UK since the 1960’s. The regular mail service runs between Avonmouth in the UK to Tenerife, Ascension, St. Helena and Cape Town. On board power is provided by two 6RK270 generating sets of 1MW.

Also that year a Ruston 12RK270 heavy fuel burning engine was despatched to the Republic of Naru, a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean. The engine was used to upgrade and up date the power station that was already equipped with four 16CSV and four 16RK3c engines of English Electric/Ruston manufacturer. The order continued an association stretching back to 1914 when a slow speed ‘A’ frame engine, built by Willans and Robinson was installed. This was the first of six such engines to be installed between 1924 and 1928. Between 1936 and 1956 these were replaced with five English Electric Fullagar 4Q engines. Eventually these engines required replacement and between 1960 and 1968 four 16 cylinder CSV engines were delivered and, in 1977, a 16RK3C was installed.