Into GEC Alstom and the Nineties

During 1989 the engineering companies of GEC and Alcatel Alsthom formed GEC ALSTHOM to become a major player in the worldwide power generation, power transmission and distribution and rail transmission industries.

In the same year the Ruston service department received a request to carry out performance tests on an existing installation. This was to visit the famous Ealing Studios and check on one 6VXC and two 6VKR engines that had been installed in 1931!

Ruston supplied two 6AP230 generating sets and associated equipment to the Sizewell ‘B’ power station in 1990. Each set produced 750 kWe and was installed to provide a charging facility for the battery back up on the main computers, and a variety of essential supplies. Once a month the engines are fully checked and run up for two hours at full load. The Ruston generating sets play a key role in the ‘defence in depth’ design of the power station.


A new innovation came in 1990 when Ruston engines were the power behind the record breaking crossing of the Atlantic by the first 74 metre wave piercing catamaran Hoverspeed Great Britain which was built by Incat, Tasmania, and was the first large passenger/car carrying high speed ferry to enter service. Four 16RK270 engines, producing a total of 14,600 kWb propelled the vessel at an average speed of 36 knots to win the coverted Hales Trophy.

RK215 The RK215 engine range was introduced in 1991 as a compact, turbocharged, high power to weight ratio engine with a bore of 215mm and a stroke of 275mm. Initially introduced in a six cylinder in line and eight cylinder cylinder vee version, the range was planned to be extended to include twelve and sixteen cylinder vee versions, all producing 241 b.h.p. (180kW) per cylinder. The engine had an underslung crankshaft ~ a departure for Ruston, having traditionally produced bedplate design engines.

The largest lean burn, spark ignited generating set in the world was installed at a land fill site in Calvert, in Buckinghamshire, England in 1992; it used methane gas produced by household waste to provide fuel to run a 16RK270GS engine. Operated by Shanks and McEwan Ltd. the generating set produced 2.8 MW, 24 hours a day, which was supplied to the Electricity Authority to provide all the power needs for the local area. Because the engine was

16RK270GS unattended during operation, a comprehensive alarm system was installed and linked to a security company. By the end of 1997 the engine had run for a little under 43,000 hours and had been operational for 94.9% of its possible running time.

Three 6RK270 diesel engines producing 1392kW were installed in 1993 to provide the majority of the electrical lighting, heating and air conditioning requirements of Harrods, London, after the store took the decision to become independent of outside power supplies. The six cylinder RK270 engines proved ideal in view of the limited engine room space available and the ability to provide waste heat recovery helped offset the steam required for processing heat throughout the store. There were major difficulties with installation of the equipment. First, access as Harrods is located in the heart of London’s West End, work was restricted to Sundays between 9am and 6pm. Second, space in the engine room and access to it was very restricted. All machinery and equipment had to be lowered through a hatchway too small to take the completed sets. Therefore, they had to be despatched as separate items, lowered one by one through the hatchway and assembled in situ. To complicate matters further the store was in the run up to Christmas and trading could not be disrupted. In the event, the operation went smoothly and the contract was completed on time.

GEC ALSTHOM Canada won an order for the supply of emergency power at the Cernavoda Nuclear power station in Romania in 1994 and Ruston was chosen to provide the generating sets. Four, sixteen cylinder RK270 engines coupled to 4400 kWe alternators provided the emergency back up power essential to the safe shutdown of the nuclear plant. The Cernavoda Station is equipped with five nuclear reactors and provides more than one third of Romania's electrical power needs.

In 1995, Rustons supplied Samsung Engineering Ltd. with three, sixteen cylinder RK270 engines for base load power generation with heat recovery. The final destination of the engines was Muju, a popular ski resort in South Korea. Home to the country’s longest ski run, the Silk Road, the resort also holds laser shows, festivals, rock concerts and summer schools for the arts and music. The generating sets run in parallel with the public electricity supply and also drive three snow making machines. The heat recovery system is utilised to generate hot water for the City.


Also in 1995 Bharati Shipyards of India built three, 35 tonne bollard pull tugs for Cyprus Ports Authority; these were the first tugs to be fitted with RK215 engines. Each vessel was powered by two, eight cylinder engines each able to produce 1440kW (1930 b.h.p.)

The arrival at Immingham in December 1996 of the tug Lady Alma, the most powerful Voith tractor tug in Britain, marked the completion of the new building programme for the Howard Smith Group. All five Ruston powered tugs are used in ports around the British Isles. The choice of Ruston engines was a commercial decision, but made against the background of a Howard Smith fleet of some 59 tugs, 43 of which are powered by Ruston engines.

In September 1996 Shanks and McEwan awarded Ruston a contract for a turnkey project to design and build a complete power, station housing four Ruston 16RK270GS gas spark ignition engines rated at over 12MWe. Located at a large landfill site at Stewartby on the outskirts of Bedford, this station supplies Eastern Electricity network on a continuous basis.

The site allocated for the project was formerly a brick paved storage and handling area for the London Brick Company and close proximity to a residential area dictated that particular consideration be given to noise limitation. Time from award of the contract to completion was limited to 50 weeks and construction commenced in December 1996 and the station was handed over in September 1997.

This contract follows the successful Ruston powered 16RK270GS landfill site at Calvert in Buckinghamshire, also for Shanks and McEwan.

Rustons history of providing towing power can be traced through over 400 vessels from 1935 when the 6KM ~ the forerunner of the RK270 ~ and the 6VRGD were supplied for tugs working on the Thames. Framfield was the first tug to have a diesel electric propulsion system, and was powered by two 6KM engines, each developing 265 b.h.p. at 530 r/min. Rio was fitted with a 6VGRD engine developing 30 b.h.p. at 310 r/min. and the owner’s tests showed that she could do as much work as a steam tug at a fraction of the cost.

In 1997, following the success with Hoverspeed Great Britain, as previously described, and after powering thirteen fast catamarans, Ruston was awarded the contract to supply three ship sets of four, twenty cylinder RK270 engines for the first of a new series of 86 metre Incat vessels. Each of the twenty cylinder engines provided an output of 7080 kWb at 1030 r/min, compared with Hoverspeed Great Britain engines of 3650 kWb at 750 r/min.

The announcement of a twenty-cylinder version of the RK270 engine in 1995 was a response to the requirements of the high-speed ferry market for more power to meet the demands of larger, heavier and faster vessels.

The first 20RK270 powered vessel, Condor Express , an 86 metre catamaran built by Incat, Tasmania, completed its sea trials and was handed over to its owners in December 1996. During her trials the vessel achieved 48.6 knots and entered service in March 1997. By late 1997 the 20RK270 was in full production with twelve ship sets, forty-eight engines, either delivered or on order to shipyards in Australia, Italy and France.

The twenty cylinder soon gained acceptance in the industrial market and the first engine, producing 5700 kWb at 1000 r/min, was supplied in 1997 to DTA Togo International, France, to be built into a generating set for use by the Togo Government.

1996 saw a revived interest in Ruston engines for the naval market with an order for eight 6RK215 engines for diesel electric propulsion of two hydrographic vessels foe the Royal Australian Navy. The two new vessels, HMAS Leewin and HMAS Melville, are to replace HMAS Moresby (Ruston powered) and its sister ships Cook and Flinders .

The gen-sets provide the power for the main propulsion motors, driving twin five-bladed, skewed fixed pitch propellers through reduction gearboxes. The also power an omni-directional pump jet capable of driving the ship at speeds of up to six knots in auxiliary propulsion mode in addition to its main role of enhancing manoeuvrability.

In 1996 Ruston supplied two 16RK270 propulsion engines, each producing 3350 kWb at 900 r/min, to the Republic Singapore Navy for the re-engining of RSS Preseverance an ex Royal Navy vessel.

LST Following the re-engining a further order was secured for eight 16RK270 and 16 6RK215 engines from Singapore Technologies Marine for installation in four vessels in a new Class of 140 metre Landing Ship Tank for Republic Singapore Navy.

The first vessel RSS Endurance , is the largest naval vessel ever built locally and was launched on 14th March 1998, the second vessel RSS Resolution was launched on 1st August 1998 with the third, RSS Persistance, following down the slipway on 13th March 1999. The fourth and final ship was launched late in 1999.

Each vessel is powered by two Ruston 16RK270 engines, each producing 5000kWb at 1000 r/min, in addition four 6RK215 generating sets producing 700kWe at 900 r/min are installed for onboard power generation.

During 1998 Ruston’s past links with rail traction came to the fore, after a lull of several years, with the award of three major contracts through GEC ALSTHOM. These were for 100 off 16RK215 engines for Iranian Railways, 30 off 12RK215 engines for Syrian Rail and 10 off 12RK215 engines for the Sri Lankan Railways.

The sixteen cylinder RK215 engines for Iran were each rated at 2880kW at 1000 r/min and were to power one hundred AD43C diesel electric locomotives. These hauled passenger trains at 150 km/h and goods trains at 110 km/h.

The order for Syria covered twelve cylinder RK215 engines rated at 2160 kWe at 1000 r/min. The thirty-two units powered dual cab AD33C CoCo diesel electric locomotives to improve services on the countries goods and passenger network.

Sri Lanka ordered ten AD32C diesel electric wide gauge (1676mm) locomotives each powered by a 12RK215 diesel engine rated at 1350 kW at 1000 r/min.

hese three contracts moved Ruston back into rail traction in a big way.

In April, 1998 Ruston was rewarded for its efforts when the company won the ‘Queens Award for Exports’. Mr. J M MacKinnon, Managing Director, commented: "We are naturally delighted to have received this award for exports. It is the suitability of our products plus the skill and dedication of our personnel in serving the needs of our customers which has enabled us to be successful in expanding our export business, and these same qualities will be the key to our continued success in the future."

On 9th June 1998, the Hales Trophy for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic was taken away from Hoverspeed Great Britain that had held it since 1990. This was by Catalonia, a 91 metre Incat wave piercing catamaran, the latest in Incat’s development.

On the 22nd June, 1998, GEC ALSTHOM was floated on the Stock exchanges in London, Paris and New York as ALSTOM. Ruston Diesels and its two sister companies, Paxman Diesels and Mirrlees Blackstone became divisions within ALSTOM Engines Ltd.

On the 20th July, 1998, Ruston celebrated becoming part of the new company by powering Cat-Link V, a sister vessel of Catalonia, to reclaim the Hales Trophy, crossing the Atlantic at an average speed of 41.205 knots and setting four records.

  • Fastest crossing.
  • First ship to cross the Atlantic in less than three days.
  • Longest distance travelled in 48 hours ~ 1018.2 nautical miles.
  • First ship to beat the 40-knot barrier.

At this time Cat-Link V was the latest fast ferry to be powered by four Ruston 20RK270 engines, each producing 7080 kWb at 1030 r/min.


In 1999 Ruston achieved yet another first with four 20RK270 engines powering the first military catamaran to enter service when the Australian Defence Force entered a twenty four month contract to charter a high speed catamaran from Incat, Tasmania for evaluation.

Originally built as hull 045, an 86 metre wave-piercing catamaran, to enter commercial service the vessel was commissioned HMAS Jervis Bay. After commissioning events changed and she took a pivotal role in the Royal Australian Navy's United Nations sanctioned East Timor peacekeeping force. The vessel carried 500 fully equipped troops plus equipment and sailed the 300 nautical miles from Darwin across the Timor Gap to Dilli at twice the speed of conventional naval vessels.

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