Ruston & Hornsby 2YWM Mk V

Here are some details of the background to the engine In Albert, its design and our experience of operating it.

Ruston & Hornsby 2YWM Mk V

On the cut, despite the Ruston badge on the pigeon box and the Ruston & Hornsby plaque on the engine room wall, I often get asked if it’s a Russell Newbery, a Lister, or occasionally a Gardner. Those interested in narrowboat engines, but not enthusiasts, appear to be generally more familiar with those marques than R&H.

The Ruston & Hornsby Company was based in Lincoln and had a long history that can be traced back to the earliest developments of the diesel engine. Its predecessor company, Richard Hornsby Ltd., which operated from 1828 until 1918, developed the Akroyd Stuart oil engine which could be argued to be the true starting point for modern diesel engine; its development in Britain pre-dated the Rudolf Diesel patent. As someone who lives near Milton Keynes I find it interesting that Hornsby’s first heavy oil engines were built in Fenny Stratford and installed at a pumping station at nearby Great Brickhill, both locations close to the Grand Union.

So what of the lineage of the 2YWM? According to Ray Hooley, who worked for many years as librarian for Ruston and continues collecting and restoring their old products, Ruston produced a wide range of engines but between the wars they identified a gap in the market for smaller vertical “high-speed” diesel engines. As a result they joined with Lister, the leaders in this field, and produced an engine under joint production, the well-known 'JP'. Ruston produced the larger components while Lister produced the smaller. From this experience Ruston soon produced high-speed diesels wholly of their own design. It therefore comes as no surprise that the Ruston Y series is quite similar to Lister engines, particularly the JP. The Y series has water-cooled (YW) and air-cooled (YA) versions. The first figure quoted in the model number is the number of cylinders, the M was added to denote marine use. Ruston engines were widely exported and production of many smaller engines was “off-shored” to India where they were used to power irrigation pumps and generator sets. Manufacturing in India was based in Bombay (now Mumbai) by Ruston & Hornsby (India) Ltd. From what I can gather from Ray Hooley’s web site, production of the 2YW series ceased at Lincoln around 1968 with the Mk2 version, but production in India continued up to the Mk 5. It is similar to the story of Morris Minor production.

Through various amalgamations and sales, by the late 1990s the Ruston & Hornsby trademarks had become part of the MAN Diesel Group in Germany. By then Ruston & Hornsby (India) Ltd had become part of the Greaves Cotton engineering conglomerate that were still building and selling the Y series. Ever vigilant over protecting their trademarks, MAN stopped the use of the Ruston & Hornsby name on products they did not manufacture. As a result from the late 90s the 2YWM had to be sold as a Greaves product. This is despite the fact that the engines still carried R&H identifications, particularly on castings. Today the main contact for the 2YWM and similar “R&H” engines in the UK is Phil Lizius of Longboat Engineering near Blisworth. Phil carries all the spares required for the YW series (and many more) and would love to import more complete engines, if he could only get Greaves to produce them.

The Engine
Albert’s engine is a Ruston & Hornsby 2YWM MkV a two-cylinder vertical water-cooled engine which was manufactured in India, probably in the late 1980s. It was sold by KE Jones (Steam Cruising) to the first owner of Albert, Mike Hurd, in 1994. Supplied with the engine was a 1985 parts list and a 1982 operator’s manual, both of which I find invaluable. The serial number is 21510200142. The engine was supplied complete with a PRM 160 gearbox with a 2:1 reduction. It has Mico (i.e. Bosch in India) direct fuel injection and is fitted with two alternators; a Bosch 90A to supply the domestic batteries which is driven by an oversized pulley, and a 35A driven by the original pulley system to charge to engine start battery.

More details of the domestic alternator system can be found on my post in July 2015 when I carried out an update of the pulley system.

Belt drive for domestic alternator; the chain is for the hand-start

The engine is keel-cooled using a non-pressurised system (open header tank) with water circulated via the centrifugal pump (automotive style) as supplied with the engine. The engine has a Bowman oil cooler and a raised hand start. The engine capacity is two litres and she has a heavy flywheel – just try turning her over by hand!

There is a hefty CAV electric start motor operated from the engine-mounted control panel. The panel, which I remade in brass, has an hour-meter, water temperature gauge, ignition switch, oil pressure gauge and a large diameter mechanical tachometer driven from the crankshaft. The tachometer has a built-in hour-meter which reads in equivalent hours at 1,000 rpm operation; the rated speed of the engine. The power is rated as 15 BHP at 1,000 rpm but peak toque occurs at 1,800 rpm. Maximum power is about 24 BHP. The Newage PRM 160 gearbox drives a straight propeller shaft to a standard stern tube with greaser and Crowther 22” x 16” propeller.

Control of the engine is via rods to a speed wheel and a forward-reverse lever at the steering position. There is also a remote engine stop lever. This makes for three brass rods connecting to the engine. In addition there are two brass tubes, one acting as a barrier to avoid the control rods being used as support when walking through the cabin and the other carrying the capillary connection to the water temperature gauge mounted in the pigeon box on the engine room roof.

Control rods

Alongside the roof-mounted water gauge is a large oil pressure gauge. Both read in Imperial units (PSI and degrees Fahrenheit). Oil pressure is invariably steady at 20 psi and water temperature when cruising is in the range 80-100 degrees F.

Pigeon box and roof-mounted gauges

The exhaust is roof mounted close to the pigeon box. A standard lagged silencer is mounted above the engine and I have a selection of exhaust pipes. The normal 2 ft high pipe has a hinged break-back to cope with the inevitable encounter with passing trees. It has a brass cutter which is vital to avoid scouring the debris from tunnel roofs – the exhaust is quite powerful. We once went through Blisworth Tunnel without the cutter in place. The boat roof and I got fully coated in a mixture of soot (residue from the days of tunnel steam tugs) and debris from the tunnel roof. Occasionally, particularly on rivers such as the Nene, a fixed short pipe is used to enable us to easily get under low bridges.

Engine installation

Using the engine
The 2YWM is definitely simple to operate. Although it has high compression (40:1) its large starter motor usually turns over the engine quite rapidly and once primed, it fires up readily. After a long period without use I decompress the cylinders and use the hand-start to turn over the engine. This gets the oil moving and appears to help firing-up. However, for normal starts it usually fires-up after one revolution. My only start failures to date have been when I have left the engine-stop lever out. It is spring-loaded but sometimes sticks.

As supplied, normal engine tick-over is about 500 rpm but a spring loaded system fitted to the engine stop mechanism, has been added which allows tick-over to be reduced to around 400 rpm. Canal cruising is usually at about 600 rpm and river cruising is at around 750 rpm. The power available has been more than adequate to cope with the Thames Tideway and crossing the tidal Great Ouse to Denver Sluice.

The sound of the engine underway is quite memorable – basically it thumps. I often get complements from the towpath. Once at Great Heywood I got “that’s a lovely sound – I could listen to it all day”, to which I replied “I do!” Stopping using reverse is not like a modern designed engine, particularly since Albert displaces around 22 tons, but there is ample power available; you just have to think long enough ahead. The only drawback with the 2YWM is that after a period waiting in locks at tick-over the exhaust can smoke. Like most diesels the2YWM likes being under load and working somewhere near its design speed. Certainly on rivers the exhaust is very clean.

Because we use an Adverc battery management system, the morning period when the domestic batteries are being charged at high current means the engine noticeably works harder. You can hear the change in engine note, as the management system cuts in and out.

I keep an engine log so I can check on oil and fuel consumption. Fuel consumption is, on average, 1.25 l/hour and oil consumption is at the moment low. I regularly service the engine based on the “real” hour meter, not the mechanically-driven equivalent. At the moment the engine has just short of 2,500 hours on the clock; we have put on about 1,500.

Do I like the 2YWM and would I recommend it to other boaters? Well the answer is yes to both. It sounds right, looks good, feels good and is easy to operate. What more would you want from a classic-styled engine.

A 2YWM Postscript
Since writing the above I have discovered more about Keith Jones who imported the first batch of 2YWM engines into the UK and fitted the engine in Albert. David Beckett mailed me to ask about Rustons and included some details that he had obtained from Ray Hooley. This included copies a letter explaining how Keith had come to import the engines and their specification sheet. I have reproduced them below.

At the time Keith Jones was importing the 2YWM into the he was operating a steam narrow boat for hire from his Welford base. Trawling internet canal chat rooms I found reference to the fact that his company was featured in a Waterways World article in April 1994. By coincidence this was when Albert was being fitted out. I duly purchased a copy on ebay and found it to provide details of all Keith's boats.  The article features Dragonfly, a hire boat fitted with a R&H 2YWM, Firefly a steam-engined hire narrow boat and Whimbrel a conventional diesel-engined hire narrow boat.  

Waterways World April 1994 - part of a report on Leicester Line Hire Fleets

NB Dragonfly at Welford in 1994

Dragonfly was at that time 50ft long and had been operating with a 2YWM since 1991. K E Jones Steam Cruising did not last long following the article. Firefly, the steam boat, was sold and fitted with a diesel engine.

A Ruston & Hornsby (India) 2YWM as offered for sale in 1994 by Keith Jones Steam Cruising

Steam NB Firefly

Keith Jones sadly died a few years ago. Dragonfly has now been lengthened but still carries the same engine. It is normally moored at Godstone Wharf on the Shropshire Union. We passed her in April 2013 on our way to Llangollen but we were unable to pass to time of day with the new owner, Ray Bessant, because we were both on the move.

NB Dragonfly at Godstone Wharf