Ray Hooley's - Ruston-Hornsby -
Company History - Page 3
World War I
The 1914-18 War brought many new products into Ruston's workshops. They
produced all manner of war machines, guns, parts and ammunition, for use by
land, sea and air forces. For eample, they were the third largest producer of
fighter aircraft - building more than 2750 aeroplanes and more than 4000 aero
engines during the war (see pictures below) The first German Zeppelin to be shot
down on British soil was done so by a Ruston-built BE2 fighter. The pilot, Lt
Leefe Robinson was awarded the Victoria Cross for this deed.
1910 Hornsby steam chain traction engine
(80hp, 25 tons and 8 speeds) - purchased by the
Northern Light Power &
Coal Co., Canada and used for hauling coal (in 8 wagons, each
tons of coal) from Dawson City to the Klondyke gold fields.
Ruston, Proctor & Co. WWI aircraft
production in 1917 - ultimately more
than 2750 aircraft were produced,
including more than 1000 Sopwith Camels.
Ruston, Proctor & Co. 1918 WWI 'Clerget'
rotary aero engine on test trolley - Rustons
were the largest producers of
aero engines in WWI, producing more than 4000 in all!
The 1000th aircraft built by Ruston-Proctor
& Co. - a 1917 Sopwith 'Camel'. Special permission was
Rustons to paint this plane in a decorative design and to use it for publicity
Almost unnoticed, a batch of 442 large oil-engined tractors was
produced for the Russian war front. In another workshop, 127 large submarine
engines were built. Other Naval contracts resulted in the production of 30,000
sea mines and 2000 paravanes for countering enemy mines. During the war period,
Rustons continued to produce oil engines for a variety of purposes; power for
munitions factories; engines for searchlight batteries; hospitals; trench pumps
etc., oil engined locomotives for powder factories (see pictures below) tank
engines etc. Rustons technology had taken great strides, and much of it would
benefit their post-war products. Rather than resting on their laurels they were
looking forward to considerable expansion after the war.
Ruston-Proctor 20hp paraffin-engined,
flameproof locomotive supplied
in WWI (1917) 28 were produced and supplied
to Gunpowder factories
At Grantham, howevere, the Hornsby story was less hopeful. The
factory had been virtually taken over by the Admiralty and their whole output
was devoted to specialised items. When the war ended, they found out that their
peacetime markets had shrunk dramatically. They sought amalgamation with a firm
that had a healthier order book.
Ruston & Hornsby Ltd.
Rustons acquired the Grantham business and the new firm of Ruston &
Hornsby Ltd was born on 11th September 1918. In the initial period of peace, the
new company offered Ruston high compression oil engines (see picture below)
alongside Hornsby safety paraffin engines. A big range of gas engines was
available, and Rustons had designed a gas producer that would burn any
combustible material. Steam boilers were available for a variety of purposes,
and excavator models from 16 to 120 tons were being produced. Other standard
products included: traction engines, road rollers, pumps, wagons, threshers,
baling presses, binders, mowers, ploughs, drills grinding mills etc.
Ruston-Hornsby Class 'HR' 2-cylinder
horizontal, open-crank oil engine - thousands were produced from 1930 to
The war had speeded up the pace of life, and the attractions of
motor car production were found tempting by Rustons. The experience gained in
building wooden-framed aircraft was put to good use, and the first
Ruston-Hornsby car was available in 1920 Unfortunately, too many other
engineering firms had the same idea. The established car producers were
adopting mass-production methods, and the cheap(£100) family car was being
turned out in very large numbers. The well-built but expensive Ruston car could
not competer effectively, and production ended in 1925, after approximately 1300
cars had been made.
1920 Ruston-Hornsby 16hp A-1 Tourer,
photographed in 1996 - approximately
1300 Ruston-Hornsby cars were produced
from 1920 to 1925
Rustons had a similar experience with farm tractors. Before the
war they had designed a good tractor that was beginning to sell well in the
South American markets. During the War years, the USA captured these markets. In
1920 Rustons designed a British version of the Wallace tractor. Again, they
could not compete successfully with the established tractor builders.
Approximately 300 were sold.
Continued on next page. © European Gas Turbines Ltd 1997
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