The Lister Lad

Meet Jo Roberts' nephew, Damian Roberts – a chap with a passion for the Lister legacy.

| June 2016

  • The Lister CS (Cold Start) diesel engine running in Damien's backyard.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • These old engines are beautifully finished off with ornate lettering and brass plates, all indicators of quality. One wonders how many of today’s engines would continue to give good service after well over half a century.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • These old engines are beautifully finished off with ornate lettering and brass plates, all indicators of quality. One wonders how many of today’s engines would continue to give good service after well over half a century.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • These old engines are beautifully finished off with ornate lettering and brass plates, all indicators of quality. One wonders how many of today’s engines would continue to give good service after well over half a century.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • The first Lister A was built in 1923, but Damien's engine is thought to date to 1940.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Damien stops the engine to fit the belt for the saw-bench. It's easy to trap a finger whilst fitting the belt.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • With a swing of the handle, she's running again.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • The gentle rhythmic sound is quite pleasing to the ear, and even though it isn't loud, you can feel the beat coming through the ground up into your feet.
    Photo by Joephine Roberts
  • The saw-bench was built by London firm F.W. Reynolds, which dates to 1868.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Lettering on the side of the saw-bench is testament to a time when Britain built all manner of machinery.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Damian's Lister A is unusual in that a groove in the flywheel allows it to take a narrow V-shaped belt.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Both a workhorse and a plaything, Damien's Land Rover dates 1951, but has been seriously modified.
    Photo courtesy Rosie Ellis
  • There couldn't be a better place to enjoy an old Land Rover that the Welsh hills, especially during a snowy spell.
    Photo courtesy Rosie Ellis

Collecting and showing stationary engines is often seen as something of an old man’s hobby, enjoyed by those who like the quiet life. We picture gents of a certain age who are content to sit on a deck chair, smoking a pipe whilst admiring the rhythmic slow tick-over sound of a healthy vintage engine. In a world awash with complex electronic gadgetry, there’s something highly reassuring about the simple machines of our youth.

“I was amazed by how many young people there actually are with an interest in stationary engines,” says 37-year-old Damian Roberts, who works as a greenskeeper at a local golf course. “For many, it’s a hobby that they’ve got into with their grandparents and have continued from there.”

In that regard, stationary engines are not only admired by older folk, they also have a following of younger people who find that the simplicity and affordability of these engines make them perfect machines to tinker with and take around to shows.

Stationary engines come in a wide variety of sizes and prices, which means that there is generally something out there for everyone. Many are small enough to fit in the back of a car or pickup, and can be had for less than the price of a high tech phone.



“The fact that these engines are so simple makes them a brilliant way to learn about mechanics,” says Damian, who owns two Listers. “I have just fitted a new set of piston rings to my Lister A, and it took all of about 10 minutes.”

Long history in farm engines

R.A. Lister & Co. was founded in Dursley, Gloucester, England, in 1867 by Sir Robert Ashton Lister, with the aim of producing agricultural machinery. The family previously produced machinery for the wool and cotton industries, but by the late 19th century, they’d made a name for themselves producing engines for agricultural use. Their first real success – the Alexandra cream separator – was in the agricultural line.