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Above: There is no other drive system that will give you lower cost, longer life, and better efficiency, the belts are common, and can be purchased everywhere.

If you are new to Listers, take time to look over the 'Listeroid' page. These are mighty work horses that could out live you in regular service.  They are also known for their efficiency.

It has taken me several months to find the time to research and test a durable drive system for the Lister 6/1 and ST1800 RPM generator head. You could do it differently, perhaps you'd drive off the engine crank with a pulley, or try a different type of belt?   I don't think you'll do any better than what we have done here, and it may take you a long time to discover why it's built the way it is.

Some folks note that small diameter pulleys are less money than the big ones. If you decide to drive with VEE belts and two pulleys, you may be smoking belts when you try to load your generator. Over tightening VEE Belts to compensate for an under-sized pulley causes  trouble. Pay the money to buy a bigger diameter pulley set if VEE belts become your choice. Talk to your supplier, communicate your application and allow them to help with the selection. If you don't know where to start try for sheaves, belts, couplers, bearings, etc. They have a number of outlets in the States and do a good job of getting you the right part. cheap alloy VEE pulleys are best left to fractional horsepower applications, buy them, and you are likely to regret it.


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Above is a picture of an old Lister plant, notice how compact and simple the unit is? This became my goal.

The KISS principle? One belt, one Pulley, one Bushing.  Less parts to buy, and the wear part is readily available at your nearest auto parts store. Maybe you've noticed that most all Autos now use the Micro VEE Poly belts often referred to as 'serpentines'.  They come in both 6 rib and 8 rib belts and are strong enough to drive all the accessories off a single belt.

Our custom pulley forces the belt to track DEAD center on the flat flywheel. The Engine runs at it's rated speed while the 4 pole head maintains 60HZ at it's 1800 RPM speed. this is not a pressed steel pulley with rolled grooves, it's a precision machined piece of art work with a custom diameter.

7/15/02 It was another day of testing, the generator set performed perfectly all day, there's been no attempt to check fuel usage yet,  basically I'm trying to torture the drive system, checking the generator head, bearings, etc. the high flywheel mass is magic, I stalled the chop saw and waited to hear the exhaust note change,  How different that is from the instant bog with the lights dimming with the consumer generators. I guess a person has to remember that this is a totally different kind of 6HP.


Building a coolant system.

If you look at other pages on this site, you'll find that tanks are used for cooling versus radiators. Make sure you use a big enough tank.  If you're like me, you will think of the amount of cooling required in terms of horsepower produced from the engine. If you're making  6 HP, you expect to have less heat to dissipate than a 100 hp engine. If you're using a thermostat, there's no penalty for running too big of tank.

For 6/1genset#1 we'll start with a radiator, but there is plenty of energy in this waste heat to do all of the domestic hot water for a house hold... even off a six horse power, I'll probably change over after experimenting.

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Note the supports for the radiator frame. These are fabricated from pieces of pipe and scrap tubing found in the salvage yard. the rubber isolators are cut from a rubber mat with a hole saw and glued in place with rubber cement.

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The key is to mount the unit high enough for proper thermal siphoning, make sure you purge all the air from the system, a burp tank is a good idea.

Once everything fits correctly, it's time to tear it down and paint it green.

August 7th, 2002

The Lister 6/1 is presently fitted with a heat exchanger that allows antifreeze to be run in the engine block and the heat to be extracted and transferred to a tank and stored. After considerable testing, I am pleased with this set up, and have tossed the radiator into the scrap pile.  Set the water pump at the spring, connect the hose to the cold water side, connect the hot water side to the shower a presto... hot water for a shower and dishes at no additional cost!

Today I ran the 6/1genset#1 for about 4 hours, I transferred the shop to the gen set and ran all my power tools, the FM receiver, chop saw, fridge, fan, fluorescent lighting, grinder, drill press, and more. It worked just like commercial power. I even made a few healthy cuts with the chop saw cutting some 3/8 steel plate.

I am still infatuated with this engine/generator combination, it was love at first sight and there's been nothing to change my mind. I was a little concerned about the lack of automatic oiling to the valve train. I even wrote to the manufacturer and asked about this; the reply...  " no one uses the grease cups anymore, the shaft and arm materials are hard and require very little lube". Lets face it, at 600 RPMs, the requirements are reduced.

The bolt holding on the breather cover did fall out today. Although I caught it in short order, it did deposit a mist of oil on the valve cover and other parts of the engine. Seems to me, things must be getting oiled real well in the crank case if it can do this.... It is important to keep this breather in place, tighten that bolt because the little plate acts as a 'reed valve' and causes the lower end to operate in a vacuum. This keeps oil from being forced past the seals and keeps your engine clean and dry.

Feb 11, 2003, load testing begins on 6/1genset#2, this engine is presently equipped with a cast iron radiator for cooling.

I moved our first 6/1 to our cabin in the Cowiche Mountains. After some months,  I have completed a second 6/1 generator using the 5KW ST5 gen head coupled with our custom pulley. After working on this engine for more than a year; I have come up with a list of modifications I like to make. This includes port matching on the intake and exhaust, some light polishing of the ports, hand lapping the valves, modifying the somewhat restrictive oil bath intake breather to accept a large replaceable foam filter.  Blue printing the fuel linkage, creating  the critical timing marks, and re-timing the engine if necessary.

I have come up with a frame configuration that meets all of my requirements, this incorporates the sub frames for the engine and head I mention elsewhere on this site.   It also has mounting holes so it can be tied to a concrete slab or other foundation. Presently, it is bolted to the concrete floor in my shop.

Today I placed two 1500 watt space heaters on the set and ran it for about an hour at exactly 60 HZ. The engine didn't seem to be phased by this load at all, and I noticed that I could plug in my bench grinder and two horse chop saw and it ran as well as if it were plugged into the commercial power. I need to build a good load box for testing. Maybe I'll find more load this week.

What will a Lister 6/1genset#2 carry ?  Stay tuned.

Feb 12, I went to Home Depot looking for components to make a load bank of sorts.  I want to be able to load evenly, and in small increments. After looking at everything, I found a plastic flush mount light fixture rated at up to 250 watts for 91cents each... I bought 10 of them, but passed on the expensive light bulbs. On the way home, I slipped into the dollar store and found 200 watt bulbs for $1, and 3 100 watt bulbs in package for a dollar. I wired this all up so it could be placed as a 240 volt or a 120 volt load.

Once  things were hooked up, I cranked up the 6/1 and let it warm up on one 1500 watt space heater, then I switched in the other small space heater. The engine exhaust gets warmer as the load goes on, but it still seems to be loafing along,  I then started switching in the light bulb load bank and adjusted for exactly 60 HZ... counting up the (stated) wattage, I was running 4200 watts and ran out of load to place on the set.

I did notice that the 6/1 started to smoke a little and the exhaust temp went from a cool 258 degrees to around 368 degrees when I added the 1200 watts of light bulbs.

With this load in place, I plugged in the 2HP chop saw and slammed through a few 2x 4s, it seemed to perform the same as it does plugged into commercial power.

Now here's a lesson for some readers, and some relief for others.....

Just because that light bulb says it's 100 watts doesn't mean it's consuming exactly that at the voltage you are providing, and just because that space heater says 1500 watts, it doesn't mean that's what it will consume under test.

Putting a clamp on amp meter on a cold heater showed it initially pulling close to the 1500 watts, but one rolled off to 900 when it got warmed up, and the other was pulling only 1200 when warm.

This head puts out 117 volts at 60HZ, and the real load I had on it constantly was 3200 watts. Unlike a small gas rig that wants to drop RPMs when it's overloaded, this 6/1   wants to carry more, running the 2HP chop saw on top of a full load is a testament to it's ability.

I don't know if there's a point to putting more constant load on this set, I think the 3KW continuos load is about right. the old Lister 6/1 power plants did 2800-3000 watts, this plant is doing slightly more, possibly due to the more efficient drive belt and pulley, and maybe that bigger air cleaner helps too?

I would bet this plant will start any load a 5KW consumer plant will start. I have a 125 foot well with a 1 1/2 HP 220 volt submersible pump at the bottom, if I wire the generator into my shop, I could open the breaker at the house and feed the well pump. That would mean There's 200 feet of wire between the 6/1ST5 and the pump.

Sounds like a good test to me, as you may have read elsewhere on my pages, the 6/1ST5 runs my buzz box welder without complaint, what more does a guy need in a small power plant?

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This is 6/1#2, in the back, you  can see a piece of flex pipe used as an exhaust, this sneaks under the door. The engine is fitted with a 190 degree thermostat (in the head), and a cast iron radiator. Yes... the set is bolted to the floor.

July 2003... I welded an exhaust flange of sorts to the front of the wood stove door, the flex pipe now goes into the wood stove and the flu is used as the exhaust system, believe it or not, it's fairly quiet, I think the fire brick and the heavier metal help to muffle things. The radiator spills some good heat... a problem in the summer, and most welcome in the winter. Of course the DIYer will have at least two solutions to this problem.

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Here's the radiator, painted the same color as the Lister on the ends, and black everywhere else to help dissipate the heat.  This particular cast iron radiator made a trip all the way from Calumet Minn., Thanks MJ!  I ran the engine with a 2000 watt load for about three and 1/2 hours today, the heat from the engine block, radiator, and 2000 watts of light bulbs and heater kept the shop a comfortable temperature. Note the red tank in the background, this is a boat tank with quick connect, it's the best thing I've found for these engines.

If we figure .150 gallons of fuel per KW hour, we might guess that the Lister would be dumping nearly 20,000 BTUs per hour into the coolant water when the engine is fully loaded. This waste heat might easily heat 400-600 square feet of insulated space when the power is out. There should be an equal amount of heat that could be re-claimed from the exhaust.


Stay tuned, we'll see how this set starts the well pump.

Here it is late July 2003, and I found time to test the 6/1_ST5 for starting my well pump.

The pump is a typical 1HP pump at 125 feet with a bladder pressure tank with a pressure of 60 pounds. The wiring between the shop and the house is #6 or better and the overall distance is about 120 feet.  To conduct this test, I opened the dual 60 amp breakers at the house that feeds the shop, then I hooked the generator into the shop service panel through a spare set of breakers, and 'back fed' the isolated circuit. If you do something like this, triple check everything, and take voltage readings before you through the breaker, and of course.. get approval from all possible authorities in your jurisdiction....

As expected, all this stored energy in the flywheels starts the pump like it was on commercial power. I even added the small loads in the shop and allowed the generator to power the well for an hour or so while the sprinkler was running...  6 horse power it is, but it starts induction motors like a typical 10 or 12 HP generator.

With this finding, I have scraped the idea of placing a bigger generator at our Easton location. the 6/1 will run the heck out of power tools, and take care of my hardest to start  load..." the well pump". Some folks need more power, my thoughts are to use propane for all the big power sucking jobs.... dryer, water heater, and kitchen stove, if you have the well pump covered, you probably have most critical needs covered.

I am also pleased to report that the drive system is performing well.  I still feel this is the ultimate set up for the Listers.  

One more note, there are a number of folks that are concerned about voltage regulation, some of them read about voltage droop, and circuit breakers tripping and all that stuff.  These problems are magnified when a modern engine (low fly wheel mass) is used. 

The voltage of a typical generator head is related to the frequency (RPM of the engine), if you have a heavy flywheel like the Lister, your have some additional help in controlling droop (low voltage).

With all this said... remember that a Lister 6/1 doesn't like to carry more than about 3000 watts at sea level ongoing, maybe less if you choose to use Vee belts versus our Allmand Drive Pulley. What this means is you must not load the engine down with other loads and try to start your well pump.


Take a look inside the 6/1

Running a Lister for the first time.   First Run

Exposure Testing  (let's put it out in an open field and see what happens :-)

Turbo Charging the Lister 6/1 :-) (new)


Please email me with your comments.

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