After Locomotive Production

Ruston Diesels for all Purposes in the Seventies

In 1971 the most powerful tug/supply vessel for servicing offshore drilling rigs to be built in the United Kingdom was delivered to Zapata Offshore Services; it was the first of four sister ships to be ordered from Cochrane & Sons Ltd., Hull. ImperialService was originally based in Canada to service a drilling rig and was powered by two sixteen-cylinder CSVM engines, each producing 3520 b.h.p. at 900 r/min.


Between 1971 and 1973 seven new 150ft (45m) trawlers entered service with North Star Fishing Co at Fleetwood. The vessels that were powered by twelve cylinder RK engines differed from their predecessors as they were designed to shoot and haul their nets over the stern. All these stern trawlers were to go on and break catch records, not only for vessels of their own size but also much larger.

By 1972 GEC Diesels Limited with its head office at Vulcan Works; comprised Ruston Paxman Diesels at Newton-le-Willows and Colchester, Dorman Diesels at Stafford, Kelvin Marine at Glasgow, Paxman Process Plant and Regulateurs Europa at Colchester. Also acquired were the French company Moteurs Baudouin and Alco Power of New York State USA.

The English Electric ‘C’ engine ceased production in favour of the ‘AO’, but this too was ultimately withdrawn. Development at Vulcan then continued around uprating of the ‘RK’ series and the introduction of the 4 and 6AP230 engines to replace the 6APC. These were supported by the production of the ‘AT’ engine.


Two orders received in 1972 demonstrated the worldwide acceptance of the Vulcan products. The first was the provision of five full mobile generating sets to the Ministry de Recursos Natyrales y Turisimo of Ecuador, South America, these were to be used by the Instituto Ecuatoriano de Electrification to supplement power supplies for Rural townships. The 8CSRK powered sets that produced 1570 kW had to operate under a wide range of temperature conditions and at altitudes between 900 and 2600 metres. The generating sets were mounted on an under-base that formed an integral unit within the trailer, and flexible mountings provided the maximum degree of isolation from shock loads under towing. All ancillary units were incorporated within the trailer and protected by an all weather canopy. With this order the company had supplied some twenty generating sets for Ecuador totaling 26,300 kW.


The second order was closer to home and was for the Isle of Man Electricity Board power station at Peel, one of the two public utility undertakings on the island. The power station had been engined exclusively by Mirrlees when the company installed its first Ruston engine, a 16ATC in 1969 to run on heavy fuel oil. The second order for a further two 16ATC sets was received in 1971, and the third order for a further two 16ATC sets was received in 1972 and demonstrated the confidence of this customer in the Ruston ATC range for power generation. Operation of the ATC range along side the Mirrlees engines under identical conditions provided a unique opportunity to obtain comparative records of performance and operating conditions.

D2 In 1975, sixty-three sixteen-cylinder engines were ordered by British Rail, thus continuing a forty-year association and providing work for eighteen months. The engines were for the new Class 56 heavy freight locomotives, half of which were built in Romania and the remainder at British Rail’s workshop at Doncaster.

By 1957 over five hundred AT units were in service in luxury liners, cargo vessels, trawlers and in industrial applications from Manchester to Australia.

Ruston engines were chosen to power thirteen new tugs built in British shipyards in 1974, all the vessels were designed to handle supertankers. Four single-screw vessels, each powered by a twelve cylinder RKC engine and owned by Grangemouth and Forth Towing Co Ltd., handled tankers at the B. P. Houndspoint Refinery. Two 6RKC engines were used to power each of two twin-screw tugs built for the Tees Towing Co Ltd. and six, sixteen cylinder RKC engines were ordered by Cory Ship Towage to power single-screw tugs being built at three British shipyards. Finally, a 12-cylinder RKC engine was installed in a single-screw tug built by Robb Caledon for Clyde Shipping Co Ltd.

The company won its largest single contract for marine auxiliary generating sets in 1975; this was from Hyundai Shipyard in South Korea for the supply of forty-five, six cylinder AP engines with 5090 kW alternators. The sets, in groups of three, were fitted in 23,000 ton dwt bulk/cargo carriers built for Kuwait Shipping of Liverpool to the Govan Shipbuilding standard design. The Ruston engines were standard equipment on this type of vessel and Kuwait Shipping had already taken delivery of similar ships.

The largest and most modern vessel ever built for ferry service on the Canadian Great Lakes entered service in 1975. Christened Chi-Cheemaun which in the Red Indian language means Big Canoe, the vessel featured roll-on-roll-off bow and stern loading and could carry 530 passengers and 113 cars. The vessel was powered by two Ruston RK engines providing 3,500 b.h.p., giving a service speed of 12 knots and formed a link across Lake Huron between the Brice Peninsular and Manitoulin Island, both very popular Canadian holiday resorts.

In 1976 the Ministry of Defence ordered ten Ruston engines for the Jura class of offshore patrol vessels that were designated for oilrig protection duties. The twelve cylinder RKC engines, each developing 2190 b.h.p. were installed in five vessels built by Hall Russell Ltd. In the same year a new concept in refrigerator ships produced an order, in 1976, for twelve, eighteen cylinder ATC heavy fuel engines with 1.5 MW alternators. The engines were installed in two fast refrigerated container ships built by A G Wesse at its Bremen Shipyard. The vessels were ordered by Ellerman Line and Ocean Containers Limited for its South African run.

Combined Heat and Power Generation


Also in 1976, two of the latest major applications for Ruston combined heat and power (CHP) installations were completed. The first was at the newly constructed Free University of Amsterdam, one of the largest and most advance complexes of its type. Six dual fuel gas/diesel engines, located in the energy centre, each produced 1 MW, providing all the power requirements of the University. The 6ATG engines normally ran on natural gas but if the pressure or quality should fall below predetermined standards, the unit changed over automatically to run on oil.

The second CHP installation was at the Leeds General Hospital which at the time was undergoing a massive re-development programme. Five sixteen cylinder RKG dual fuel engines were installed to provide the entire power supply for the hospital complex, making it completely independent of outside power sources. The Ruston engines were the first hospital power generating units to run on North Sea gas and, as well as general power, the engines provided power for the highly sensitive medical machines where reliability is essential.

Development of the RK Engines

There was a continual quest for increasing power and uprating continued with a maximum running speed of 1000 r/min. Naturally aspirated and non cooled engines were then not viable and the engine range became the RKC whether in vee form or in-line form. The engines featured improved turbochargers and larger fuel pumps. The dual fuel versions were also uprated at this time.

In the late 1970’s to extract even more power larger bore liners were fitted to the RKC crankcase (the diameter being increased from 254 to 270mm) whilst retaining the RKC cylinder head and other features were strengthened. This was the forerunner of the current range of RK270 engines.

Development continued on the RK270 range and for many years both RKC and RK270 engines were produced side-by-side, with many customers still wanting repeat RKC products. In the late 1980’s a spark ignited gas engine was introduced into the RK270 range. Initially this featured two valve heads and was restricted to a maximum speed of 900 r/min. Later a four-valve head version capable of operating to 1000 r/min was introduced. The spark ignition engines had much more advanced technology than those produced by English Electric in the early 1960’s.

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