About the engine

The engine is a Ruston 12HC, twin cylinder, cold start, heavy oil engine with a single flywheel engine rated at 200HP @ 190RPM.  Starting is by compressed air, which is stored in a separate air receiver.

The engine was built in the Ruston factory Lincoln, England in 1925.

It was ordered through the Melbourne Ruston Agent by Burnley Flour Mills Pty Ltd for the Donald Flour Mill. The engine saw very little work at the mill. On initial running the engine produced too much vibration. Before this could be rectified, the mill burnt down (a common occurrence in mills at that time). The fire occurred shortly before midnight on Friday 21 August 1925 and the Sydney Morning Herald reported that damage exceeding  £10,000 to buildings and infrastructure  resulted from the fire. Fortunately the engine was not seriously damaged.

It is believed that the engine was subsequently purchased by the Zwar family of Beechworth who had decided to convert the Beechworth Tannery from steam to diesel power. It is reported that two Ruston engines were installed at the tannery during 1926 (no information is known about the fate of the 2nd engine)  The plant generated more electricity than the tannery required and so an agreement was reached with the United Shire of Beechworth to supply power to the township of Beechworth.

The Maude and Yellow Girl Mining Company then acquired the engine and it was installed to run a 1000 CFM Ingersoll Rand compressor (still insitu with the engine) at Glen Wills in the Victorian High Country. It operated at this site until the mine closure in 1952.

The timber and corrugated iron building the Ruston was installed in sustained significant damage during the 2003 bush fires and subsequently an open sided steel structure was placed over the machinery by Parks Victoria.

Restoration work started in earnest in 2012 when a small group took it upon themselves to try and improve the state of the engine. Easy access from the Omeo Highway meant that many parts had been removed over the years from the engine. Fortunately some of the missing components had found their way into the hands of other machinery enthusiasts. Once contact was made, they willingly handed over these items to the restoration team when it became clear that a serious effort was being made to save the engine and possibly get it running again.

Work started with a major clean-up of area around engine to remove debris that had built up over 60 years along with the remains of burnt timber from old shed that housed it prior to the bushfire of 2003.

The next task was to free up all components. The engine had become seized over the years and the crank could not be turned, so it was decided that removal of the pistons from the bores would be necessary. A portable gantry was erected to assist as the pistons are very large and heavy {approx. 600kg including the con rod). One of the pistons was liberated from it’s bore with relative ease, however the other was firmly stuck and needed some persuasion to extract it. This piston showed signs of having run hot at some stage, with the beginning of a small crack in it. After deliberation it was decided that the piston could be cleaned and returned to operation without repair as the crack was reasonably minor.

While this work was going on, a security cage was erected around engine to ensure that only the restoration team could access the engine during the restoration.

The next problem encountered was that one of the exhaust valves was firmly stuck. This was eventually unstuck with the help of a hydraulic jack. After cleaning it was reseated to ensure good compression and no blowpast.

With the pistons cleaned and all gunk removed from the ring grooves, it was time to turn the focus to the bores. Both required a good clean and a hone. The bore that had the stuck piston required the most attention so Dave Dyball, who lead the mechanical repairs to the engine, took it on himself to squeeze down the bore with a block and emery paper in hand to dress the worst of the bore. It was quite a sight to see Dave’s legs poking out of the back of the bore while he sanded away! Dave also manufactured a bespoke honing tool to finish off the bores. Team members had to take turns at manually working the tool up and down the bores until everyone was satisfied with the finish.

With the pistons returned to the bores, the big end and main bearings were cleaned and reoiled. Fortunately these were all still in serviceable condition. Next came the task of aligning the crankshaft to ensure that the crank would run true without binding.

Many more hours were spent cleaning, lubricating and freeing up other components of the engine. Particular attention was paid to the oil gallerys, pumps and the oil lines. The oil pumps had been removed from the engine, but fortunately they were tracked down to an engine enthusiast a couple of hundred kilometres away. New sight glasses had to be made, but otherwise the pump was in good condition.

Despite much searching the governor weights from the flyball governor could not be tracked down. Dave, with the assistance of Jerry Jokinen, made up patterns and cast new weights. A fair bit of extra fiddling and modification was required to get these balanced and working correctly, however eventually they were successful.

Ted Giliam, a part time resident of Glen Wills and diesel specialist with many years experience, refurbished the injectors and the injector pumps. What a surprise to see these returned to as good as new condition, highly polished and ready for another 50 years service.

Much time was then spent ensuring that the timing of valves and injection was set exactly right. At the same time others were working on sourcing and modifying a suitable fuel tank, setting up the cooling header tank connecting coolant lines. The air receiver was relocated to a better position near the engine and it was pressure tested and new piping manufactured to reconnect it to the engine. A small air compressor was used to build up the pressure required to test run the engine on air only. There were many happy faces to be seen late February 2016 when the air valve was opened and the engine turned over freely for the first time in many years. Subsequently, a new higher volume air compressor has been assembled and installed. This was made possible with the donation of a compressor and engine from Rich-Air Compressors in Gerogery, Glenco Air & Power and Briggs and Stratton.

A lockup shed was also constructed in corner of enclosure to store oil and other materials essential to running the engine.

The following is a video of the engine with associated machinery and the original shed it was housed in. This shed was lost in the 2003 bushfires . The engine was scorched and most of the wooden fixtures were burnt (including the wooden pulleys on the adjacent pelton wheel).

Preserving our mining and engineering heritage