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Report - NGTE Pyestock, Fleet - 06/02/2010

Discussion in 'Industrial Sites' started by clebby, Feb 7, 2010.

  1. clebby

    clebby ( . Y . )
    Regular User

    Aug 25, 2008
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    NGTE, Pyestock

    To tell the truth, I was pretty disappointed with Pyestock and thought it was boring and frankly, a bit crap.

    Only joking! :gay This place is up there with the likes of British Cellophane and Cwm Coke in terms of epicness, vastness, and filthy industrial porn, and has got to be one of my favourite explores to date. It's taken me a while to get round to seeing it which is surprising as it's almost an urbex mecca, but I've finally been, visiting with Paskey and ImmortalOwl.

    The History

    In 1918, the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) was founded in the Hampshire town of Farnborough and by 1928 the RAE was venturing into turbine development, and a new branch was founded headed by a man named Hayne Constant. In January 1936, RAF officer Frank Whittle founded Power Jets Ltd, which designed, tested and manufactured jet engines and gas turbines including the worlds first turbojet. In 1946, just after the end of WW2, the RAE turbine branch and Power Jets Ltd merged to form the NGTE, which stands for:

    National Gas Turbine Establishment

    Like many companies at this time, the newly merged venture was nationalised, and the search for a suitable site for turbine development began. Pyestock, a former golf course in a secluded wooded spot between Farnborough and Fleet was chosen, as the activities at the NGTE would be top secret and (I presume) the surrounding woodland would dampen the phenomenal noise. Construction began in 1949, but the site was not as we know it. Instead of the massive test cells there today, testing was done on a much smaller scale in test "cubicles" inside buildings like the Plant House. When the possibility of supersonic jets arose, the site underwent a massive expansion to the north west, with the massive Air House and several huge test cells being built circa 1961.

    For over 50 years Pyestock was at the forefront of gas turbine development and was almost certainly the largest site of its kind in the world. V bomber, Harrier and Tornado engines were all rigorously tested on site, the power of the air house allowed Concorde's engines to be tested at 2,000 mph, every single gas turbine installed in the Royal Navy was checked here, captured Soviet engines were discretely examined - and all this terra firma, without a single plane taking off.

    But as computers advanced, and tests could now be simulated on computer programmes without the need for energy-hungry test cells, the site became less and less economical and slowly emtied and ran down. In the 1990s Pyestock was still used by DERA (the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency) and the MoD but not nearly as much as the site could cater for, and when DERA became the privatised QinetiQ in 2001, it was fully decomissioned aside from a small QinetiQ facility to the south.

    The Explore

    Having heard tales of "massive fences", "Ghurka security gaurds" and "constant patrols" we were pretty apprehensive when we arrived, but access was easy(ish) and we didn't see a soul all day. We started off in Cell 3 West before moving on to the good stuff, getting around a good portion of the highlights. However, there is still so much left to see so, like most places, a return visit is on the cards. But anyway, here's some pics:

    Cell 3 West

    Cell 3 West is one of the more recognisable buildings at Pyestock despite its comparatively small size, due to the large blue and white round opening on the front of the test chamber.


    The last altitude test cell built on site, Cell 3 West is just that - west of Cell 3. Although not as physically large as the other cells, it was one of the largest internally allowing icing tests (testing to see how ice affects a turbines performance) to be carried out on engines and helicopter rotors. Behind the large white opening on the above picture is the test chamber, a large round space full of pipes, wires, nozzles, control panels and air vents.


    The engine or turbine would be suspended from the black structure on the roof of the cell, and the air would be blasted through the the black pipe at the rear. This is an old photo showing a jet engine being prepared for testing:


    Although the cell was by no means the largest it still had a fairly complicated control room. Judging by this 1980s photo, it would have been awesome in its day:


    Unfortunately a good deal of the contols were ripped out upon closure. That said, it's still pretty good and there are a few buttons knocking about to press: :cool:


    Cell 4

    Well what can I say. Wow. The size, the sounds, the smell... everything about it reeks of epic.

    The largest test cell on site and also the most featurless (externally, that is!), Cell 4 was built in 1965, at a cost of £6.5 million, as part of the Concorde programme but also to test other supersonic jet engines. The massive test cell, unique in the world, takes up most of the huge steel clad structure and looks almost unreal with its mass of pipes, blast doors and electronics. It is connected to the Air House by those notorious blue pipes and was designed to simulate Concordes flying conditions - Mach 2 (1522 mph) at 61,000 feet, but could test Concorde's engines at a maximum wind speed of 2,000 mph. Woah!

    The sheer ammount of energy required to run the air house (see below) at the speed needed was too great for the sites small power station to cope with. This meant that, although the power station could be used as an additional "top up", electricity had to be taken from the National Grid - an exceptionally difficult task. By the early 1970s, Pyestock had to negotiate with the CEGB, that's right, the Central Electricity Generating Board - the national electicity supplier - simply to have enough electricity generated. :eek: So as not to put such a strain on the grid, Cell 4 could only realistically be powered up at night.

    Inside, it's largely complete, with the main test cell taking up most of the massive building.


    And from the crane gantry visible in the first picture (you seriously don't get a sense of scale in this picture; it's soo much bigger than it looks!):


    I'll try and give you an idea of size. See that round pipe to the left of the above picture? Well, this is what's inside that pipe.


    It's the massive test chamber, where Concorde's engines would be suspended. Considering I'm 6'3", and the chamber carries on both above and below this picture, it's pretty massive. Concorde is an icon, so I felt somehow privileged to be standing where it was tested all those years ago. And here is the engine, a Rolls Royce Olympus 593, during one of those tests:


    Access to the test chamber was through one of these massive, thick blast doors, another shot everyone takes at Pyestock but one you can't get bored of:


    Another photo of Cell 4 in its day:


    More massive pipes; I could have walked in these:


    And finally, one last shot of the whole cell before we headed next door to the Number 9 Exhauster


    Number 9 Exhauster

    Pyestock's designers built the Air House (see below) on a huge scale, thinking it could supply adequate suction for the supersonic test cells. But they could not have anticipated the phenomenal force required by Cell 4 - even with all eight exhausters running the suction was insufficient. Their solution was to build another exhauster set (an exhauster is a large turbine that sucks air at very high speed) directly next to Cell 4. As there are eight in the Air House, this one was named number 9.

    It is a Parsons "multi-stage axial-flow exhauster", whatever that is. It was used mainly by Cell 4 but also occasionally by Cell 3 and Cell 3 West. It was driven by a 6,000 horsepower synchronous motor, with power being taken first from the sites Power Station, and then when 3,000 rpm was reached it was synchronised with the National Grid.


    Here's a "then and now" shot, both taken from the same position on the crane gantry. The electric motor is the part in the foreground. It was shit-scary up here; no handrails and a 40 foot sheer drop to the concrete floor below.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    And some close ups of the exhauster:



    There was also a separate control room housed within the building, used to control the exhauster and synchronise it with the grid frequency.


    More photos below.
    #1 clebby, Feb 7, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2010

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