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FutureNarrowboater2026

Which Classic Engine: Russell Newbery or Lister?

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Hello There,

I'm looking looking at getting a second hand narrowboat, I want one with a classic engine. I have two options, one has a Lister JP2, and the other, a Russell Newbery DM2. I am going to be a continuiuse cruiser (even in winter), and I was curios as to which engine would be best suited for that. I dont mind having to spend half an hour - an hour to get it going, I was just curious as to which one would be more reliable in winter.

Thanks

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Is it for propulsion only or are you wanting to provide battery charging capacity and hot water as this will assist with the replies you get from those with knowledge on old knacker type engines as to noise, longevity and the real life experiences 👍

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this is clearly my personal opinion and you will get many opposing views BUT having owned Listers Perkins Russells and Gardners its a RUSSELL (DM2) every time ............true a lot more expensive but you can get all the bits, the corporate back up is excellent and they look and sound great

Peace of mind ............at a price

3 minutes ago, mrsmelly said:

old knacker type engines 

Ha!!

 

Its a good job we aren't all the same

  • Greenie 1

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7 minutes ago, Halsey said:

this is clearly my personal opinion and you will get many opposing views BUT having owned Listers Perkins Russells and Gardners its a RUSSELL (DM2) every time ............true a lot more expensive but you can get all the bits, the corporate back up is excellent and they look and sound great

Peace of mind ............at a price

Ha!!

 

Its a good job we aren't all the same

Okay, thankyou

10 minutes ago, mrsmelly said:

Is it for propulsion only or are you wanting to provide battery charging capacity and hot water as this will assist with the replies you get from those with knowledge on old knacker type engines as to noise, longevity and the real life experiences 👍

Proplusion

  • Greenie 1

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1 minute ago, FutureNarrowboater2026 said:

 

Proplusion

Ahh cool, whatever you decide then will be your own choice rather than what does other jobs the best. The only old knacker I have owned is a lister years ago but I have a friend long standing on this forum actualy who has a RN on his boat and he loves it, it did cost him 14 billion pounds for a rebuild once but they do look the part.

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4 minutes ago, mrsmelly said:

Ahh cool, whatever you decide then will be your own choice rather than what does other jobs the best. The only old knacker I have owned is a lister years ago but I have a friend long standing on this forum actualy who has a RN on his boat and he loves it, it did cost him 14 billion pounds for a rebuild once but they do look the part.

Okay, thankyou

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4 minutes ago, mrsmelly said:

Ahh cool, whatever you decide then will be your own choice rather than what does other jobs the best. The only old knacker I have owned is a lister years ago but I have a friend long standing on this forum actualy who has a RN on his boat and he loves it, it did cost him 14 billion pounds for a rebuild once but they do look the part.

As Rishi would say - its only a months worth of money - sorry "off topic"

  • Haha 1

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There are RN's and there are RN's.  The 3 cylinders are not common.  There are variations in the 2 cylinder ones,  depending on when and where they were built.  Worth looking at the company history and the history of any prospective engine to understand what you (might) have.  Most spares are available, though supply sometimes depends on there being enough for an order.  There is a Register with friendly anf very knowledgeable folks.

 

There are all sorts of Lister JP, too, depending on what the original build was for.  Some are converted Industrial engines and have the flywheel at the other end to the marine engines.  Proper marine propulsion builds have a dry sump and a huge but highly polishable copper oil tank.    Oil changes on these are expensive!

There are even, rare, Ruston and Hornsby JP's made under a joint production agreement with Listers.

Spares can be had for most JP's and the look alike JK and JS.   Marine Power Services have some new stuff made to their own patterns.  Some other spares come from India, and are variable in quality at best.  New old stock is getting rarer.

Worth doing a lot of reading and talking to owners so you understand what you might be buying.

 

Either type of engine may  apparently run well, even when they are, practically, knackered. Proper  rebuilds of either type are serious money.

 

  Gearboxes, on both types are another subject altogether, and another area where much research is needed.

N

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Subjective of course but a Gardner 2LW followed by a RN DM2 then a Gardner 3LW. Providing either have been fully /properly restored and well maintained

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My personal choice, having had one, is the RN - however, you say that you don't mind spending a while getting it going, so if you are thinking of a hand-start, I've heard from more than one source that the JP2 is far easier to start from cold than the RN. One friend of mine, who really does know what he's talking about re engines, went as far as saying you'd need to be Geoff Capes in his prime to hand-start a RN (I think he may have been exagerating just a tad, but the message was clear enough!!)

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2 minutes ago, Mike Tee said:

My personal choice, having had one, is the RN - however, you say that you don't mind spending a while getting it going, so if you are thinking of a hand-start, I've heard from more than one source that the JP2 is far easier to start from cold than the RN. One friend of mine, who really does know what he's talking about re engines, went as far as saying you'd need to be Geoff Capes in his prime to hand-start a RN (I think he may have been exagerating just a tad, but the message was clear enough!!)

okay thankyou

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7 minutes ago, Mike Tee said:

My personal choice, having had one, is the RN - however, you say that you don't mind spending a while getting it going, so if you are thinking of a hand-start, I've heard from more than one source that the JP2 is far easier to start from cold than the RN. One friend of mine, who really does know what he's talking about re engines, went as far as saying you'd need to be Geoff Capes in his prime to hand-start a RN (I think he may have been exagerating just a tad, but the message was clear enough!!)

Hand starting a JP2:

 

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Don't forget the National Oil Engine Co.  The RN's and the Nationals are basically the same animal and stemmed, I understand, from an order that Russell Newbery could not fulfil on their own and so farmed part of the order out to National. Over time the designs have drifted apart somewhat, more in detail than general design but still the same family.


I have had both makes, the National DM2 dated from 1936, (ex working boat). and currently a more modern Russell Newbery DM2.  Both engines proved to be reliable, easy to start, maintain, and economical on fuel too.


I particularly like the valve arrangement on these engines, you can do a valve job without removing the cylinder heads! This is down to a bit of clever design, a button on top of the piston pushes the ingested air into a swirl chamber, the sides of the swirl chamber are formed by the heads of the two valves. The really neat bit is that the inlet valve assembly lives in a sub casting that bolts into the head casting proper and can be easily removed. Once removed you then have access to the exhaust valve. Proof: I did once loose a cylinder due to a carboned up valve stem, it took less than half an hour to fix. Nuff said!

 

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2 hours ago, Mike Tee said:

My personal choice, having had one, is the RN - however, you say that you don't mind spending a while getting it going, so if you are thinking of a hand-start, I've heard from more than one source that the JP2 is far easier to start from cold than the RN. One friend of mine, who really does know what he's talking about re engines, went as far as saying you'd need to be Geoff Capes in his prime to hand-start a RN (I think he may have been exagerating just a tad, but the message was clear enough!!)

EVEN the owner of RN who is a well built strong bloke has trouble starting a DM2 by hand! JP2 is much easier

I couldn't even get my DM2 on Persia to move - IMHO don't touch DM3's spares are impossible unless transferrable from the 2!

I "passed" on a great boat a few years back which had a DM3 lovely engine but a worry - not why we go boating..........

Edited by Halsey

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Jp you can get spares for very easily.

 

Rn you have 2 options pay a silly premium for some partsor do as I did and get your own build, it saved me a huge amount by doing it all in-house than going to rn. Note some bits for nationals they don't hold in stock. You can get some bits from other engines and mod to fit or are direct bolt on

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Very easy to hand start a DM2 in the summer or after it had ran for a bit to warm up...

 

But on those cold and frosty mornings, this is how I got a little assistance...

 

 

20181020_083225.jpg

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1 hour ago, Liam said:

Very easy to hand start a DM2 in the summer or after it had ran for a bit to warm up...

 

But on those cold and frosty mornings, this is how I got a little assistance...

 

 

20181020_083225.jpg

I'm assuming that's your water pumps on the front behind the flywheel?

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