A Rare Opportunity to Observe Lister CS neglect?

Have you ever wondered how much of an advantage an enclosed valve train would be over what Dursley created?  Maybe you’ve mused over other details of this engine, and saw a need to make them different? I personally think it’s the wiser man who will study what really breaks, and how the engine is used before he spends his life’s energy in fixing it. Of course we DIYers can chalk up any effort  to a hobby, and with these efforts normally come a full measure of learning. What is the value of adding a roller bearing to something that has had a bushing for 80 years and never created a problem worth addressing? It’s a question for me to ask, and for you to answer.

6/1 Generator left in the elements for 5 years to see what kind of troubles would develop.

6/1 Generator left in the elements for 5 years to see what kind of troubles would develop.

The fact is, it’s rather rare to find a modern day situation where you can observe what happens with neglect in the CS design.  It takes a lot of fuel and years of use to see the results ‘IF’ you are to study it in real use, as most of us might use the engine.

Your may recall my test  6/1 left in a field in our central mountains for five or more years, with only a pan to cover the valve cover, and a squirt of heavy oil on the injection pump in an attempt to ward off rust and pitting over a long winter. I think I put up a picture of this engine buried in snow, and each year in the spring, it started on the first compression stroke!  

It was neglect, and when I inspected the engine most closely after those five years with most use in the Summer months, I did note that the condensate in the crank case was starting to etch the crank pin. Very minor damage, but any of us would note that if we continued to neglect our engine in this way, more serious damage would occur.

One of my recommendations is you give your Lister or Clone a proper home, same as any other beast of burden. Perhaps the best home is a shed where the rays of the sun never fall on the cast iron, and the daily heating and cooling doesn’t pump so much condensate water into your engine sump.  If we can keep the engine at the more constant temperature, if temperature changes can be kept far more moderate than what happens out of doors under the sun, all the better.

But what happens if you seldom or never lube the rocker arms, what if you never squirt a drop of oil in the tops and bottoms the of push rods, and those caps on top of the valves? As Hillary asks….what difference does it make?  If you leave it all dry? Will you run 300 hours or 30,000 hours before your beast of burden gives it up?

Just how rare is it to find a place where the neglect could go on and on, and where you could study it? I consider than situation a great gift.  Those 5 or more years I had the Lister out of doors left me guilt ridden, how could I continue? Best to find others to carry the guilt, and I get to look on with less of a burden to carry.

When I enter a power shed and see a valve cover left on a Lister CS or clone, I  wonder, just how much oiling the valve train gets?  I leave the covers off, so I can lube these spots, and it takes about 30 seconds more to do so if your lube is handy, if it’s not handy, pulling the dip stick and allowing a drop to fall off the stick and into the pushrod cups, tops of the tappets, and into the hole in the rockers is so quick to do.  Twisting a grease cup on occasion, it takes seconds at most. Haviing TRBs allows us to weather dry starts with never a problem, if I had a bushed main, I’d open the door, and spoon oil into the trays if it had been a while before the last run, they don’t appreciate dry starts. 

On this most rare study, I’ve been able to observe the worst possible care of a Lister CS clone,  it’s been ongoing for 10 years, there was a need to run as many as 18 hours a day. The off grid property in a hole, the winter solstice brings the sun barely above a mountain top and shining in only long enough to keep a person from going into some permanent state of depression, (by my measure of course).   

What was under that valve cover left on, and what did the owner say about the Lister? I brought it back, so now I can study it in detail.

 “It’s been running fine” he said..  But now we are moving back on grid, after 10 years with the Lister And 11 years total living on this pond in the Western Cascades.  The road in so rough, it’s taken a serious toll on our AWD car, the pot holes big enough to tear off suspension parts, less you skirt them.

My first observation was the threaded valve lash adjustments,  there was no thread left showing on top of the exhaust side!  The intake side was not far behind in total wear.  Now, we need be scientific, is it possible the same owner oiled it now and then, and one day stopped all together?  If we asked him, would it give us more confidence in our conclusion?  

I have always thought open flywheels are best left to thoughtful care takers, and normally the more thoughtful ones would share a drop of oil now and then.  That massive amount of energy stored in a flywheel…… is it something you knowingly leave in the hands of the carless?  In this case, I worry no more.  I can say, this is the rarest of all off grid places I’ve known.

Next I reached over to wiggle the exhaust rocker from side to side, and I was astounded! The amount of sloppiness caused me to wonder if the bushing had been worn all the way through?

 I  grabbed hold of the top of the valve spring cap between thumb and fore finger, and forced it back and forth, the exhaust side was fairly tight, the intake side well worn.  I reflected on the words of the owner operator, “it’s running fine”, and I knew if the generator was making good power, it was ‘running fine’.  All these little things wrong didn’t interfere with the mission of making juice in frozen Mountains, as much as 18 hours a day.

No chance of this Generator Set rusting, the exhaust not fully clear of the shed, and every board coated in what looked like ‘lamp black’,  10 years of running with a good overload,  and touching much of anything meant you’d need some serious scrubbing to rid yourself of the color black. But the owner had an electric starter, and there on the edge of the frame a foot operated switch. Perhaps he learned just touching the machine would create a job to with a miracle cleaner to rid his hands of that lamp black?   

 As I type, I note the stains on my fingers, and make a note to get some of those disposable gloves that I thought only sissies wore. The fact of the matter is, I guess I never knew there’s things you can touch that can leave tracks from your shop to the kitchen, and when  you look up and see a smudge in territory not your own, it’s time to think about using those sissy gloves, or expect the quality of your meals to suffer.

After half a dozen scrub downs with simple green, and a hosing off. I looked at the drive way gravel, and wondered what kind of fine I could get if Lisa J. or one of her Goblins were to drop in?  I opened the large sump door on this best made clone, and of course the first thing I looked at was the timing gears. To my amazement, they looked near perfect, and  the Bronze idler that Joel and I decided was a great idea had a nice ‘square’ appearance on the end of the teeth. Once you know what to look for, you need not look, your finger tips learn what’s right, and it only takes a gentle caress of those gears. Once you check the idler, you can normally fondle the other gears with some certainty they’ll be OK too.

And that Bronze gear, I’m not sure there ever was one till Joel and I deployed it to mitigate a problem found, but now that we’ve used it, now that it’s proven to prevent train wrecks, we see others have adopted it, and even asked that it be used in the construction of their orders.

And what do those gears feel like just before the ‘train wreck’?  Well, I can say that train wrecks have different root causes, but if your finger tips meet a gear sharpened on the ends of the teeth, when it feels more like the profile of the kitchen axe, you need understand that the train wreck can happen at any moment!  It can be ugly, and in the worse case, the crank gear typically made of a better grade of steel  cracks between the teeth and spins, but not for long.  Cams gears break in half, the idler might lose half its teeth, and the wise man ponders just how much of that ferrous metal left the gear prior and where it all settled? Can we find a good bit of it embedded in the crank pin bush?  And what all might a bronze idler do just in preventing this shedding of ferrous materials during the live of our engine?

This bronze Idler, it’s still a topic of discussion here and there, and even some mechanical engineers might argue the need, they might say the use of bronze is seen in worm gears, but not  common or necessary in a simple square cut gear train lie wefind in the CS 6/1.   

I only ask, when you see breakage in engines in as few as forty hours, when you see the ‘fuzz’ on your magnets in the sump, and know it came from the gear train, when  you add the bronze idler and your customer runs for years without another problem. When you see far less ‘fuzz’ on your magnets in the sump, can the bronze idler be a BAD thing?

AS I SAY, others now follow our efforts, and our efforts came out of need to find a way to stop the high percentage of breakage we saw through field reports and complaints.

As ‘I’ write, I think of the use of the ‘EYE’ word. I try and be careful to share who I am, or who I want to be.  I am forever a student, and every time I think I’m more than that, I get thumped on the head by reality.  The Bronze gear, not my idea, not funded by me, not made by me, but certainly tested by me, and others who were kind enough to report their findings, ‘friends of utterpower’.   I need give North Americans credit.  We dare not leave out the Canadians,  they have their full share of DIYers, perhaps more than their share?  But what about all those out there that tested it, that attempted to find root causes of gear breakage? Do I have their names at hand? No, but maybe I mention XYZer Dave? He was one of several who made efforts to measure gear train mesh and develop an off set idler for engines with less than ideal center lines for crank, cam, and idler locations. Should you care to mention others, do consider adding them in a comment with the link found below this post.   

In a former life, I once mentioned four people on a project, and in reality there were many more, I feel the guilt to this day, and there’s no way to give a proper account of who all was involved in the work to determine what went wrong. We do know that the British managed to make long lasting gears without the use of bronze. I might point out that they also had competition at times, and dropped features that likely proved a benefit in order to compete. Value is a perception thing, and Gold plate was not something the average farmer or shearer wanted to pay premium for.

I think the Bronze gear came out of our desperation, and it certainly came at some expense. The major funding by Joel Koch out of Portland Oregon. The desperation created by Ashwamegh, some of the research done by a gear making  company in Portland.  Some of the proto types made by the Portland gear making company,  cost of a gear as much as soe 6/1 engines FOB.  But soon they found homes in engines off grid to prove their worth.

JKson  of  India, was  hard to communicate with then,  as they didn’t have a person in the company that had decent  English language skills,  but soon they agreed to produce a good bronze idler gear, and a proper bronze it was.  Not some piece made of navy brass, but a bronze alloy  that might have been suitable to make a best pinion for a worm gear.   I give praise to JKson, not because I have friends there, but because I know how hard it is to do much of anything differently in Rajkot or other places in India.  It seems once they have the blueprint, it’s very difficult to invoke change at all.  

It’s enough to write today, what other things can we learn from a clone that has run for 10 years and given such good service EVEN with a full measure of neglect? Maybe I’ll wrote more about it? This one was made by JKson, and it leaves me to wonder, can the Indians make an engine as good as the British?    



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4 Responses to A Rare Opportunity to Observe Lister CS neglect?

  1. Hi George –

    Greetings from the land down under – the land of droughts and floods! east coast
    rains and floods at the moment. It is a nice feeling being off grid – not having to worry about power outages 🙂

    I for one really appreciate the sacrifice you made by exposing your JKSon CS6/1 listeroid to such harsh conditions – as slow speed enthusiasts we owe you and others in the Utterpower family a debt of gratitude for sharing your experiences – and encouraging the development of simple solutions to extend the service life of all future listeroids.

    We have to put the Lister myth about engineering excellence in perspective – here in Australia a CS6/1 engine cost about the same as a small British car of the day – we were fortunate to have good economic times in some rural areas in the late 1930s 1940s – 1950s – many CS Listers were purchased and used to generate electricity – pump water or power shearing plants – it gave Australians and their New Zealand cousins a source of old engines to restore. Some of these old CS engines are still running and have remained in service for decades – in dairies etc. We pay relatively a lot less for a listeroid than the original Listers so adding a few mods and checking a few things before startup is a small price to pay.

    Young Ben Styles recently acquired a CS12/2 Lister from a remote part of the country – he tells me the original grease was still inside the flywheel hub – the gib keys were a work of art – perfect fit – the price of a Genuine Lister engine was so high they could afford to pay a person to make sure things were done correctly before they were shipped.

    If there were no manufacturers like JKSon and other listeroid producers – many of us could not afford the cost of Genuine spare parts to do their restorations – listeroids are not perfect but hey they are still available as are spare parts. It would be hard to imagine life without owning a listeroid.


    • George B. says:

      Steve, thank you for the comment, it’s all so true about cost of the originals, and in David Edgington’s collection of pictures is a good number of workers at the Dursely factory doing the hand fitting work. The job title was filer (sp). And much like fine gun smiths, they fitted keys, and other pieces with percision. As we learn in gun making, that extra finishing and fitting cost a company a lot of money.

  2. Dave says:

    I love the picture at the top of the page. To extend the life of the set up for your children’s children we need to get rid of the plastic dishpan! UV will kill that first. I had a friend that taught me some time ago that when the perfectionist in us thinks something is on its last leg we are wrong. How many old barns we see that are falling down through the years we thought would be level the next time we pass it? The next time we pass they look the same….and the same every year the same…. I had the privilege of watching an old sagging barn get demolished after the owner thought it was dangerous. They made 3 trips to get bigger and bigger equipment and finally fought it to the ground. My friend also taught me that motorcycle tires can be run way past the cords showing. I would just cringe but realized the integrity of the tire was in the casing not the tread. Just me rambling here……over how much thing can be abused in eyes of others but in reality they will outlive us all!

    • George B. says:

      Dave, so few will read your comments and know your talents as I do 🙂

      Plastic, there’s good stuff and bad, but it’ll be at least a thousand years before we know any of it is as good as the cheapest glass as per longevity and light transmission at least.. That same Lister has a new home, it’s still at the same water well head, but has a new non plastic cover 🙂

      As for the motocycle tires, I’m older now, but at the speeds we once road, I wanted lots of tread 🙂 Losing traction… especially on corners are still memories that wake me in the middle of the night.. the Kawasaki 750 triple with expansion chambers.. about 1100 miles was the best I got.. , much of the tread left in hard cornering and diving deep into corners, white knuckled with the brakes near lock up. Other bikes I owned never saw a tire change, but I didn’t ride them like I was going to a fire.

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