Picture yourself sitting in the middle of the Victorian high country, taking in the scenery and serenity, when the peace and calm is interrupted by a resonating doof, doof, doof sound, like heavy metal music, at 190 beats per minute. Not your cup of tea? Think again.
The home of the Ruston 12HC just outside of Glen Wills, Victoria, at Yellow Girl Mine
In a remote valley, the small community of Glen Wills can be found. This community exists because of the mining that occurred in the area, especially at the Maude and Yellow Girl Mine. Here, the Friends of the Ruston 12H, along with the cooperation of Parks Victoria, have returned a 1925 Ruston 12HC, to running condition. The sound of the engine running again, is truly music to the ears of all those involved in the restoration project.
The engine prior to restoration
The 12HC is a twin cylinder, cold start, heavy oil engine, with a single flywheel, rated at 200hp @ 190rpm.
The engine was despatched from the Ruston factory when it was ordered through the Melbourne Ruston agent, by Burnley Flour Mills Pty. Ltd., for the Donald Flour Mill, though it saw very little work at the mill. On initial running, the engine produced too much vibration and, before this could be rectified, the mill burnt down, which appears to be a common occurrence in mills around this time. The fire occurred shortly before midnight on Friday, 21st August, 1925, and The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the damage exceeded £10,000 to buildings and infrastructure. Fortunately, the engine was not seriously damaged.
It is believed that the engine was subsequently purchased by the Zwar family, of Beechworth, Vic, 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, though no information is known about the fate of the second 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.
During 1946, the Maude and Yellow Girl Mining Company acquired the engine, and it was installed to run a 1,000cfm Ingersoll Rand compressor, still insitu with the engine. It operated at this site until the mine closed in 1952.
The timber and corrugated iron building that the Ruston was installed in, sustained significant damage during the 2003 bushfires 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, over the years, many parts had been randomly removed 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 were very happy to return the parts to the restoration team, after they ascertained that this was a serious effort to save the engine, and possibly get it running again.
Work started with a major clean-up of the area around the engine, to remove the debris that had built up over the past 60 years, along with the remains of burnt timber from the original old shed.
The next task was to free up all the components. The engine had become seized over the years, and the crank could not be turned, so it was decided that the 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, weighing approximately 600kg, including the conrod. One of the pistons was liberated from its 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.
The injectors are refurbished & The rebuilt oilers.
While this work was going on, a security cage was erected around the engine to ensure that only the restoration team could access the engine during this restoration period.
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 re-seated to ensure good compression, and no blowpast.
With the pistons cleaned, and all the gunk removed from the ring grooves, it was time for the team to turn their focus to the bores. Both required a good clean and a hone. The bore that housed the stuck piston required the most attention so, Dave Dyball, who led the mechanical repairs to the engine, took it upon himself, to squeeze down the bore with a block and emery paper in hand, and 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!
Honing the bore
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 re-oiled. 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.
Dave with the honer & Mick and the big end.
Many more hours were spent cleaning, lubricating, and freeing up other components of the engine. Particular attention was paid to the oil galleries, pumps, and the oil lines. The oil pumps had been removed from the engine but, fortunately, they were tracked down to an enthusiast a couple of hundred kilometres away. New sight glasses had to be made, but otherwise they were 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. Some extra fiddling and modification was required, to get these balanced and working correctly, however, eventually, they were successful.
Luke and Dave removing the seized piston
Ted Giliam, a part time resident of Glen Wills, and a 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 the valves and the injection was set exactly right. At the same time, others were working on sourcing and modifying a suitable fuel tank, and setting up the cooling header tank that connected the coolant lines. The air receiver was relocated to a better position near the engine, before it was pressure tested, and new piping was 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 in late February, 2016, when the air valve was opened, and the engine was turned over freely for the first time in so 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 & Stratton.
A lockup shed was also constructed in the corner of the enclosure to store oil and other materials that were essential to running the engine.
To celebrate the return to running condition of the engine, an Open Day has been organised for the weekend of 15th and 16th October, 2016. The engine will be run an on hourly basis, however, due to the anticipated popularity of the event, and the need to manage safe access to the engine, group sizes will be restricted. It is necessary to register for a viewing, and this can be done via the www.ruston12h.com website. No private vehicle access to the engine will be allowed over this weekend.
Dave and Ted look very proud
The restored Ruston 12HC as it stands today
A special thanks must go to all the volunteers who contributed to getting the Ruston back up and running. On a project this large, the time, effort, and expense contributed by, not only those directly working on the engine, but all the others involved in the less glamorous, but equally important tasks, such as keeping the work area tidy, cleaning and painting parts, spending hours preparing submissions to seek grants, generating sponsorship, etc, is often overlooked. It has truly been a team effort. Our thanks also goes to Parks Victoria, and Ranger David Foster, for their foresight and support in allowing the group to get the Ruston running again. The engine will remain in public hands under Park’s guardianship. We also acknowledge the generous grant made by East Gippsland Shire for the restoration work.
The team would like to encourage everyone to visit the website at www.ruston12h.com to see more photos, videos and other information about the restoration of the engine. This engine is the only running example of this model that we know of in the world.
*Lawrie Piko & Mick Stribley
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