In 2020 Andrew Macey re-discovered his grandfather's old engine (Alf Macklin's "injun") that was in regular use in the sheds at the top of the property at 100 High Street when it was a dairy. The engine, a 4.5hp Ruston Hornsby paraffin engine (which needed petrol to start it).
Don't leave this page without watching and hearing the engine running (at the bottom of this article)!
Andrew (a retired orthopaedic surgeon) kindly sent information about the engine, along with photographs and a video of the engine running. He said:
"The engine starts pretty easily, even after being neglected, so long as I can remember the knack and fuel settings. Perhaps it is long overdue that I should write this down ( for posterity !) Yes, the sound, smell and sight of the smoke all very evocative, and before all that started, more clouds of smoke from my Grandfather's Wills Capstan cigarettes or Woodbines, the latter from that characteristic pale green packet. No filters back then...
I spent many happy hours up in the Cowsheds at the top of our garden firing up "the engine" and sawing up wood on a hefty metal circular saw bench. Once it was reckoned I was competent and sensible ( a work in progress..), & whilst still barely out of short trousers, I could go up on my own and fire it up. Firstly oiling up both the shaft and starting handle ++, then rotating it both ways to make sure it was friction-free and would pull off easily when the engine fired. I had been given dire warnings as to what could happen if it wasn't pulled off PDQ, and could then start spinning with the crank…. i.e. launch off the spindle at high speed in an unknown direction as a very dangerous missile !
Before starting, the brass grease caps should be unscrewed and filled with grease to keep all the bearings lubricated, and the oil feed drip filler on top of the water jacket to be filled with oil until the sight glass was full. This simply dripped oil via gravity into the cylinder head onto the piston. In addition the open sump was part-filled with old engine oil, so this lapped into the cylinder with the piston. Not too much, or it splattered everyone in the vicinity !
Then, thumb OVER the top, ( not that I knew about Chauffeur's fractures / scaphoid fractures in them thar days ). Reach to cylinder head with left hand and push in the decompression valve - otherwise impossible to get past TDC. Swing heavy metal starting handle, and even heavier flywheels as fast as possible - then let off valve and hope it fires. Not forgetting to admire the open piston and crankshaft rotating away, just in front of your nose.
One Ortho Trainer I had cautioned against what he called "high grunt operations", but there was no way of avoiding the explosive effort required to get it going, especially if you had not set up the fuel etc properly. Once rewarded with a promising cough and splutter... a massive bang usually followed and clouds of blue smoke bellowed out - all very exciting ! After that, it settled down to a mesmerising rhythm and generally just ran. Nor is it an even rhythm, but involves a certain amount of "hit & miss" or coming and going, depending on when it fires. Once hot, the petrol could be switched off and the paraffin valve opened, which was more economical - important on the farm economies of the 1930s/40s.
Of course, the "pre-op preparations" involved in actually harnessing this mighty 4.5HP meant checking the drive belt FIRST, which was made out of ( well used ) canvas fire hose ℅ Alfred Macklin being an HVF member. A loop was made by joining it with a length of crocodile clips * ( from Oakes Bros) and hammering this securely into each end. So, a 4" width of hose about 20' long, ( which was already around the driving wheel of the saw bench) was laid out on the ground, with the "proximal loop", ending up below the spinning drive wheel of the engine. Now the tricky part….
Check that the bottle jack is in position on the axle of the engine, and carefully ease the belt ( loose at this stage ) onto the spinning wheel of the engine using the palms of the hands and fingers well back(!). If all going to plan and length / tension as it should be, the wheel would rotate inside the belt( hose ) without moving it. Now the next tricky part..
This involved cautiously bending down to the bottle jack, which was angled at about 30 degrees up and rotating the collar of this to slowly push the engine away from the saw bench. ( All the while avoiding the large, rotating flywheel, the smaller driving wheel, the hot exhaust and moving push rods, beside your ear ! ). Once a little tension developed in the belt, the friction between it and the driving wheel took over and the circular saw then rotated at the same speed as the engine.
After navigating a safe route back to the saw bench, avoiding hot exhaust, spinning wheels, moving belt and rotating saw blade… the wood cutting could begin. The next safety point hammered in ( and now essential ), was to push the wood onto the blade using another piece of wood, ( a pusher), keeping hands well back from the rotating blade. I must have absorbed it all, as I still have 10 digits :)"
The 4.5hp Ruston Hornsby engine running in 2020 (by kind permission of Andrew Macey)