R A Lister and Company
|Successor(s)||Hawker Siddley, Lister Petter|
R A Lister & Company was founded in Dursley, Gloucestershire, in 1867 by Sir Robert Ashton Lister (1845–1929), to produce agricultural machinery. The family was originally from Yorkshire but Ashton's father (George Lister) relocated to Dursley in 1817.
R. A. Lister and Co. was founded in 1867, and was initially a manufacturer of agricultural equipment, but after the invention of the internal combustion engine the company became a world-renowned name in engineering. By the early 20th century Listers were producing petrol engines, initially to power sheep-shearing equipment. These products remained an important part of the company's business, but over time the product range expanded considerably, ranging from electric lighting plants and dairy equipment to garden furniture.
Sir Robert Ashton Lister was still alive in the late 1920s, by which time the management of the firm had passed to younger members of his family. In 1926 the chairman of the board was Austin Lister, and the company was run by the five sons of Austin's brother Charles: Robert, George, Percy, Frank and Cecil. Inevitably this occasionally caused tensions: for example, George managed home sales and Frank was in charge of buying, while Cecil did not have a clearly defined role at all, and, although Robert was the eldest, it was Percy (later Sir Percy) who had by far the most significant impact.
As managing director Percy led the firm through a period of significant growth and prosperity in the 1920s and 1930s. By 1926 the workforce was around 2000 and was growing rapidly; the company ran a 24-hour manufacturing operation, expanding its range of products and supplying retailers to around 6000 UK customers and many more worldwide. Retailing revenues were particularly healthy in Australia and New Zealand, where sheep-shearing equipment was in great demand.
The company headquarters were housed in an early 16th-century Priory building in Dursley, which remained the headquarters of Lister Petter at time of writing in 2009. In the nearby valley was located a foundry, together with a number of other workshops necessary for the production of engines and the various other products offered, including a machining shop, capstan lathe shop, engine assembly lines, and a coopers' shop.
Lister engines were traditionally painted a mid-range shade of Brunswick Green, which continues to be used by Lister Petter (see below) at time of writing (2009). In 1929, the first of Lister's own design of "CS" (cold start) diesel engine was made in Dursley. The CS is a slow-running (600 rpm) and reliable engine, suitable for driving electric generators or irrigation pumps. The CS type engines were available in single-, twin-, triple- and four-cylinder versions in a range of power outputs and gained a reputation for longevity and reliability, especially in Commonwealth countries, to which they were widely exported. Some CS engines ran practically continuously for decades in agricultural, industrial and electrical applications.
By around 1930 Listers were producing around 600 engines a week, most of which were small at around 1.5 to 3 hp; many of these were used in the construction industry. Listers continued to flourish during the 1930s, riding the economic financial crisis and building on its many earlier successes.
The most successful Lister engine was the D-type engine, most of which were rated at 1.5 horsepower at 700 RPM. More than 250,000 'D' engines were built between 1926 and 1964: they were used for a wide variety of light tasks such as pumping and small-scale electricity generation. The Lister 'D' is still one of the most widely seen vintage stationary engines in the UK. Hand-cranked Lister diesel engines were used in many early dumpers.
Listers obtained many other plants over the years to assist with production demand initially in war time Britain, Nympsfield 1942, Wotton under Edge 1943 & Cinderford 1944 mainly employed women working on sub-assemblies or packing spares: they continued on until (dates req). Marine Mountings near Swindon was purchased from the Admiralty in 1946 and became the home of the D Type production till 1963 when the SR range became its main product. Marine Mounting was closed in 19??.<5>
Having survived the Second World War, Listers continued to benefit from its reputation for durable, reliable high-quality engines, and its pedigree as an old-established firm. However labour costs in the post-war period made a return to the heyday of the 1920s and 1930s impossible. Competition from rivals such as Petter and from overseas were also factors to be contended with, and unauthorized copycat engines ("Listeroids") were produced in other countries. In 1965 Listers was acquired by Hawker-Siddeley (see below) who had bought its old rival Petter in 1957.
A larger investment was made in 1966 when they bought the old Gresham & Craven plant in Walkden, Lancashire. This plant had a large iron foundry, pattern shop and machine shop. It was reorganised to supply diesel engine parts that were previously bought from sub-contractors. The plant produced cylinder heads, crankcases, flywheels, gearcases and a multitude of small parts for the parent plants. It also assembled moisture extraction units and the SR range of diesel generators employing 200-250 personnel until it was closed in 1971 because of a downturn in demand for diesel engines.<6>
In 1986 Hawker-Siddeley merged the two engineering concerns to form a new company, Lister-Petter, which was now placed to build on the strengths of both its predecessors. The economic climate of the 1980s and 90s, however, led to a change in the company's fortunes, and Hawker-Siddeley had to sell out. An unstable period followed, and, having narrowly escaped collapse, the company was split; part was acquired by Deutz AG but the core part of the business was bought out by venture capital investors who began to rebuild its product range.
In the early years of the 21st century, as in previous decades, small, durable, reliable industrial and marine engines continued to be a staple, notably the ALPHA water-cooled industrial and marine engines (2-, 3- or 4-cylinder) and the "T" air-cooled series (1-, 2- or 3-cylinder). Although Lister-Petter no longer ran a foundry, engines and diesel generating sets continued to be assembled and sold from a factory on the original site in Dursley. The new investors began to extend the product range to include more powerful engines and a wider range of generating set specifications. In 2007 a new heavy-duty engine, the OMEGA, offering up to 268 kW, was added to the company's product range.
In 2007 Lister Petter held an exhibition in Dursley to mark its 140th anniversary, which included a group photo of staff on the 60th anniversary in 1927. Listers has always had strong family traditions, and one employee who attended this 2007 exhibition was able to identify both her maternal grandparents in the 1927 photo.
In 2009 Lister Shearing (now a separate company) celebrated its centenary.
Production of CS engines in England ended in 1987 but the popularity and reputation of the design meant that a number of Indian manufacturers have since continued production of "Listeroids" or clones copied from the CS design. These engines are used in India and also exported to other countries, including Australia and the USA. Recently there has been an upsurge in interest in these engines and their unique capabilities for long-term electrical generation or pumping, and the initially haphazard build quality of "Listeroids" had now largely reached the same level as the original Lister-built units. They are becoming increasingly popular for "off grid" or "remote" uses, partially because of their ability to use a large variety of alternative fuels and ease of maintenance and repair. Indian companies have also taken out licenses on Petter diesel engines (naturally dubbed 'Petteroids'), as well as other Lister (and latterly Lister-Petter) designs, such as Indian-built versions of the air-cooled L-Series diesel engines.
Lister trucks and Industrial locomotives
Lister also built light trucks fitted with their engines, for use around factories. From 1926 to 1968 they built light narrow gauge railway locomotives, weighing as little as 1½ tons, typically used by small brickworks and on peat bogs. The locos were often characterised by a total lack of bodywork; sometimes they had the luxury of an all over roof supported by four corner posts.
- Gloucestershire Between the Wars: A Memoir, A. S. Bullock, 2009
- Your Works and Ours, history produced for employees, 1926
- Gloucestershire Between the Wars: A Memoir, A. S. Bullock, 2009.
- "Lister Blackstone Advert from "The Lister Standard" (Winter 1949/50)". Dursleyglos.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
5 Listers The First Hundred Years. D Evans 1995 6 Alan (Spider)Webb Walkden Employee 1967-1971 Template:Help on References
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