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Lister Auto Truck

From the Collection of Puffing Billy Railway School Rd Menzies Creek Victoria

The Lister Auto-Truck - small monowheel tractor
Made of steel with three wheels. Powered by a J.A.P single cylinder petrol motor which is Hand Cranked to start.
Length Overall: 9' 5" ( 2870 mm) Width: 3' 4" ( 1016 mm) Height: 4' 5 1/2" ( 1358 mm)
Object Registration
puffing billy, lister, lister auto truck, monowheel tractor
Historical information
The Lister Auto-Truck was a small monowheel tractor built for moving light loads around factories, railway yards and similar sites. They were built by R A Lister and Company of Dursley, Gloucestershire, well known for their range of small stationary engines

The Auto-Truck was one of several monowheel tractors to appear in the 1920s and '30s, with the availability of small, reliable petrol engines, as developed for motorcycles and the stationary engines for which Lister were already known. These were tricycle vehicles, with the single leading wheel used for both drive and steering. Their simple construction carried most of the mechanism on this wheel as a single unit, the chassis with the trailing wheels being little more than a trailer for balance. Simplicity was a key feature. The engines were single-cylinder and air-cooled. Ignition was by magneto, rather than requiring a battery and electrical system.

One of these designs was produced in the 1920s by George Grist of the Auto Mower Co., Norton St Philip, Somerset. The engine was a JAP 600 cc four-stroke air-cooled sidevalve, a typical small engine of the time. The Auto Mower Co. were Lister agents and when Lister heard of this 'Auto-Truck' they bought one for use in their own factory. It was used to carry heavy engine castings from the foundry to the machine shop. Lister customers saw them and there was such interest in wanting to buy them that Lister negotiated with Auto Mower to build them under licence. Although Lister were already well known for their small petrol stationary engines, these were heavy cast-iron engines with water hopper cooling and unsuitable for vehicle use. Lister remained with the JAP engine for the Auto-Truck.

The Auto-Truck was designed for use in factories or other places with smooth surfaces of concrete or tarmac. This allowed the use of small solid-tyred wheels with only simple suspension, making the vehicle simple, cheap and lightweight. They had little ability on soft surfaces though and could even topple over if driven carelessly across slopes.

Their design was a compromise between the top-heavy nature of the tall engine grouping above its wheel and a well thought-out chassis for stability. The bearing between them was a large diameter ring roller bearing, mounted at the lowest part of the chassis. This gave rigidity and stability, even after long wear. A ring of rolled channel girder was attached to the engine group and rollers on the chassis carried the load upon this. On early Auto-Trucks this bearing is set very low, in line with the chassis members, and is covered by thin steel plates. The front panel of the engine cover is distinctive with large ventilation holes and a Lister signature cut through it. Strangely this panel is made of thick cast iron, providing substantial weight high on the engine and only adding to its top heaviness. To improve visibility of moving vehicles in noisy factories, this panel was often painted white, the rest of the vehicle being Lister's usual brunswick green.

The driver was seated on a Brooks bicycle saddle, which in recognition of the lack of vehicle suspension, was carried on the end of a cantilevered bar that acted as a leaf spring. A wide handlebar on the engine group was used for steering. A squeeze bar the width of this handlebar engaged the clutch. Controls included a hand throttle, a gear lever with two forward and one reverse gears, and a large handbrake lever. The engine unit rotated freely for a full 360° rotation. When used in reverse, the Auto-Truck could either be driven from the saddle, looking backwards over the driver's shoulder; or they could dismount, swivel the engine unit around and control it as a pedestrian-controlled truck from behind.

Under the engine cover were two equal diameter tanks, a fuel tank for petrol and a shorter oil tank. Engine and chain-drive lubrication used a total-loss oil system, controlled by a small pump and needle valve.

Info Ref: Lister Auto-Truck - Wikipedia
Made By
R A Lister and Company (Maker)
Historic - Industrial monowheel tractor for moving light loads around factories, railway yards and similar sites.
Inscriptions & Markings
Last updated
23 Oct 2019 at 1:44PM