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GES060 - Gas Turbine Test Plant, Hampshire - Trip 1

October 2009

The National Gas Turbine Establishment (N G T E)  in Hampshire, part of the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE), UK was the prime site in the UK for design and development of gas turbine and jet engines. It was created by merging the design teams of Frank Whittle's Power Jets and the RAE turbine development team run by Hayne Constant. N G T E spent most of its lifetime as a major testing and development center, both for experimental developments as well as supporting the major commercial engine companies, including Concorde. N G T E  closed down in 2000, it's work mostly carried out by computers now. It's future is that of a Tesco distribution centre. Source: Wikipedia

The site - Copyright Bing Maps. In the first two trips to the N G T E, I only covered the top left half of the triangle, such is the sites size and interest level.

The advice I'd received from GE092 didn't seem to make sense to me, basically park up near security and look for a hole in the fence. I decided to go my own way, and parked in Fleet itself. I wandered through the Hampshire woodlands and came upon the high fence. Hmmmm. I scouted out my prey like a Lion circling a herd of Zebra, looking for weaknesses. Confident I'd done so, I went for the kill. Once in, I was more worried about adders than security. I eyed up the nearest building, and tackled some heras fencing to get into the derelict area, and looked around for somewhere out of site to sort myself out. As I looked across the open area to a huge blue structure, a crappy small cabin in front of it had two faces looking out of the smashed glass.

I went across to introduce myself, hoping they weren't connected to the site. They turned out to be fellow West Country boys, GE031 and GE033. We went to check out Exhauster No.10. Exhauster No. 10 was built to help with the stresses of Cell 4. Exhauster's 1-8 are in the Air House, No. 9 sits directly next to Cell 4.

Getting into an out-building at Exhauster no.10 wasn't a problem, although there was nothing of interest there. Getting into the main building towering over us like some B&Q warehouse for giants, was of interest. I figured out how to do it, but need some accessories, and went in search of them. When done, GE033 helped with some strength, and we were in. I worked my way up to the roof gantry, and began looking for angles. The others broke out their cameras on the lower areas.

In the top corner sat a two floor extension into the building (top left in above photo). It housed a collection of strange locker like sections with large turn handles to alter the electricity. Upstairs is the control room, where gauges and dials feedback to the engineers the information they wanted.

From Exhauster No.10, we followed the road towards Cell's 3&4. This passed underneath N G T E's famous blue tubes (Exhauster vents for Exhauster's 1-8 in the Air House).

We came across a low building that appeared to offer a way in, so we all bundled in. It had bits and bobs here and there, and appeared to be a place where tools were stored maybe, and things repaired.A rather phallic piece of metal was on display.

At the back was a tunnel that appeared to lead to a smashed up mesh door, through which one could squeeze into the next bit. This being Cell 3.

Cell 3 was a replacement for the smaller Cell 2, allowing the testing of engines that were achieving supersonic speeds.

I walked up the steps and into another huge hangar like building, with a large hole in the floor. In the hole lay Cell 3. On ground level was a crane and lid to go on top of the cell when in use. This shot taken from the offices section that rises on one side, hole to Cell 3 in the foreground, Lid cover in the background. Mr.GE033 takes a swig of refreshing Dr.Pepper while Urbanity takes his turn snapping in Cell 3 below.

In the offices I spotted an old tannoy I rather liked.

Down some steps near where we entered Cell 3, was the entrance to the actual Cell. Beside it was a mass of spaghetti wiring carrying information back to those running the tests in Cell 3.

A classic shot from inside Cell 3. It's hard to keep still for 30". The jaw like doors are actually a prop from the film 'Sahara' that was shot here.

I didn't get the feeling I was welcome traipsing around after the guys, and I also was getting bored waiting around, so I said my goodbyes and went to look at Cell 4.

Cell 4 was built in 1965, at a cost of £6.5 million, as part of the Concorde programme but also to test the increasingly larger supersonic jet engines that Cell 3 couldn't cope with. It consumed inordinant amounts of power requiring special agreements with the National Grid. It also utilises the 10 exhausters on site and the huge blue pipes at this end of the N G T E site.

I didn't know it at the time, but there was an easier way to get from Cell 3 to 4, but I went the hard way. Some people had made a hole through sheet metal, and then a precarious climb down inside the building to a regular floor. It was odd being inside a massive hanger with no one else about. I thought some work was going on to one side, and crept about to see, only to find water dripping from the ceiling onto waste metal below. More wires running about the place carrying that vital info.

The one end of the main Cell 4, taken from the middle top of it. The wires from the previous shot on the left.

The entrance to one section of Cell 4. A brief moment of a Red Dwarf Episode was shot here. A shot of the other side is here.

shot  taken on the other side of the above photo.

After looking over the Cell, I then went to look around the offices, again on one side of the Cell building. Some large lamps and unexplained holes in the floor.

Back of Cell 4 as the pipe continues out of the building.

And another pipe at the other end of the Cell 4 hanger

From here my next target was the Air House, yet another huge hangar like building.

The Air House was built in 1961 and houses eight identical GEC compressor/exhauster sets connected to Cell 4. Together they generated 352,000hp and wind speeds of 2000mph when combined with Exhausters No.9 & 10.

I didn't see an obvious way in from one side, but a rickety ladder lead up to the roof, so I gave it a shot. Squeezing my backpack up through the protective bands. It was only when I got to the top that I realised there was a set of stairs I could have easily climbed. I climbed up to the very top of the Air House, and carefully took some shots from here. The blue pipes in all their glory.

The Air House cooling towers.

The strange trumpet like blue tops on the back of the Air House (or front, depending on which is which really!)

A look over the Plant House area.

I spotted a group of young explorers coming into the site, and let myself be spotted by them, waving back. We met on the lower Air House roof, they sensibly using the stairs. It turned out they were locals, and had been here countless times. I was a little scared when they pulled out a host of tools they were carrying. One of the group kept camcorder filming me which I wasn't keen on, another took photos of me. I was really keen not to be photographed, as if they got busted for carrying tools, it might look like I was one of their group.

They went off to look at getting into the Plant House, as they said it was impossible to get into the Air House. As I descended the steps to group level again, within 5 seconds of walking about, I had spotted a way into the Air House. I told the group, and we all piled in. I made for the top of the crane that overlooks the huge hangar.

And from a different angle, showing the compressor/exhauster sets. The control room is the yellow fronted section.

Getting down from the crane, I walked among the sets, and then down into the trenches between them, where various brightly coloured devices were present.

And a shot through the middle of the sets

The local bored teenagers, had left long ago thank god, and I opted to have a look around the Plant House, where I was lucky enough to have found them again. Joy!

The Plant House was built in 1951 and was mainly an area for carrying out numerous tests on individual components or scaled-down gas turbines, in cubicles built around the centre of the building. In the centre ran two valve bays running the length of the building. One cubicle was built larger than all the rest and named the Aero Cathedral, 4 times the size of the other cubicles.

Inside the Plant House, taken from the precarious roof of the control room down the centre of the building. Two exhauster/compressors in red in the centre, a crane also in red sits above and at the back.

The Plant House control room

Walking around the Plant House, there were numerous control panels.

Some proper heavy metal heaven, the combustion valve bay.

A line of yellow topped wheels that stem the flow of something.

As I emerged from the Plant House, now alone again. I grabbed a shot of the trumpet like back of the Air House where the famous blue vent pipes end.

I had a quick wander further on to try to carefully ascertain where the security hut was. I didn't find it, but passed the Bramshot Cooling Towers looking great in the dusk sunlight.

The Anechoic building behind the above building also looked good in this light.

In fact pretty much everywhere looked good in this light, Weir Road which runs between Cell 3 & 4.

And coming down the other side

The side of the Air House near Cell 3

Finally a N G T E explorer tradition, having one's photo taken in Cell 3 West.

And with that I scampered off to my access point, and then walked off into the woods, relieved I'd had another successful explore and not been caught by the ex-Gurkha security guards. Although amusingly I was stopped on the M3 going home, when the Police pulled me over to see if my scooter was legal to be used on the Motorway. Cheeky sods!

The most informative website about N G T E is Simon Cornwell's, although it's a work in progress and not complete. Linked here.