Small lighting and charging plants

Posted by Chris Graham on 12th January 2022

Patrick Knight takes a look at some of the small lighting and charging plants being exhibited by stationary engine owners these days.

Small lighting and charging plants

Small lighting and charging plants: This somewhat strange looking lighting/charging set was manufactured by the Matthews Engineering Company of Sandusky, Ohio, USA. Rated at 1hp, it’s an example of the smallest in a range of lighting plants produced by the company. It was capable of illuminating 15, 20W bulbs and battery charging duties – but not at the same time. (Pic: Mike Milestone)

I’m sure that we’re all aware of the growing trend for rally-field engines to be displayed driving some items of equipment appropriate to those they would have driven when in everyday service. We have covered water pumps in the past, so this time we take a look at a selection of small lighting/charging plants that you might encounter on UK rally fields.

Small lighting and charging plants

A great many of the little Westbury, 80-watt lighting sets were supplied to various branches of the military.(Pic: Steve Stuart)

In this day and age, we take the availability of electrical power at the flick of a switch for granted, and when, god-forbid, there’s a power cut for more than a couple of hours, everyday life becomes extremely difficult. However, two or three generations back, to have electrical power was something of a luxury that few people could afford, and then only those who resided in towns and cities where power companies existed.

Small lighting and charging plants

A Stuart Turner R2 lighting/charging set.

In rural areas, for properties from the largest estate down to the humblest of homes to have electrical power, it had to be generated ‘in-house’. Indeed many of our major engine manufacturers were offering lighting sets in various sizes to suit all requirements.

Small lighting and charging plants

The JAP 2A-powered generator/charging set is possibly among the more numerous to be seen on UK rally fields. This example was supplied to the RAF, hence the blue livery. (Pic: Kevin Sanderson)

The examples featured here represent some of the smallest production generator/charging sets marketed in the UK in times gone by. The number of bulbs (lamps) these small units could illuminate was limited but, in many cases, was still better than the smelly oil lamp or candle alternatives.

Small lighting and charging plants

A great many of these BSA/Johnson Iron-Horse generator/charging sets were supplied for military use during WW2.


Manufactured in the USA, this little 24-volt ‘Onan Powerlite’ generator/charging set was shipped to G&M Power Plant, Magnet Works, Whitehouse Road, Ipswich around 1940, and supplied to the military. (Pic: Mike Milestone)


This Norman T300 generator set, s/n TA5819, was supplied to the military and used to power a 10-inch searchlight. (Pic: Mike Milestone)


This BSA power unit is possibly the smallest generator/charging set you’re likely to see on the rally field. (Pic: Alan Cullen)


A Villiers engine-powered Allam generator. (Pic: Alan Cullen)


Powered by an unknown make of engine, this Swan generator/charging set was supplied through Engine Applications Limited of Banbury, Oxfordshire. (Pic: Alan Cullen)

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