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Cells 1 & 2 (561)

Built: 1957
Decommissioned: 2002

As the "new site" took shape and the futuristic steel-framed brick buildings of the Power Station, Admiralty Test House and Battle Test House were completed, building started on one of the oddest looking constructions on the site. A huge steel shed sheltered a number of buildings and two, parallel steel tubes, whilst an enormous concrete wedge-shaped structure rose up at its rear, dominating the early site.

It was almost the complete opposite to the huge, squat blockhouse of the Plant House next to it, another example of the architectural quip that "form follows function." The Plant House was dedicated to the specialised testing of discrete components and its structure encompassed an array of testing rooms; whilst Cells 1 and 2 was designed to fire up and run a whole gas turbine and so it only required two large test cells, control room and exhaust silencer. It was also the reason why the “new site” was originally constructed.

Sunset on the western flank of Cells 1 & 2. The Silenced Exhaust can be seen to the left.
03|03|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

Cells 1 and 2 was the first altitude test cell to be completed at Pyestock in 1957. Tasked with the competing requirements of both free jet testing (where the engine intake performance could be tested under supersonic conditions) and connected jet testing (where the engine was connected directly to the air supply and tested for integrity and combustion), the early designers elected to build two similar, parallel test cells. Cell 1 would be used for free jet testing whilst connected jet testing would be undertaken in Cell 2. Costs were saved by sharing facilities such as fuel and water supplies, exhaust silencing and control room.

A large steel framed shelter was built under which were located part of the tubular test cells, the brick blast-proof control room which separated them, and the fuel and water supplies. Both cells were 3.7 metres in diameter and 35 metres in length of which a 2 metre diameter section of 8 metre length was available for engine installation. Glass viewing windows led into the control room where the engine under test could be observed.

The massive concrete exhaust stack was unique to Pyestock and allowed the exhaust gases to be vented safely and relatively silently.

Cell 1 and 2 control room looking south.
21|04|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

Air supplies originally came from the neighbouring Plant House but limited connections were added when the Air House was built several years later. The air could be preheated in a 3MV heater to a maximum of 350°C. The minimum temperature was 70°C, but extra plumbing to the Cell 3 Air Cooler, allowed this to be dropped to 30°C (and during a particularly cold winter snap could be expected to drop to 10°C).

The fuel system could pump fuel to the engine under test at 16000 gal/hour at a pressure of 1500 lb/in.

Layout of E.T.F. Cells 1 and 2

The cell had its own a re-circulating water supply for cooling the exhaust gases via direct water injection through spray nozzles. Two systems were available giving a maximum injection rate of 180000 gal/hour from the water storage tanks which had a capacity of 600,000 gallons.

All engine test information was fed through to the on-line SDS 9300 computer (with its peripheral PDP7 for data acquisition) in the Computer Building where results could be collected and analysed. The same system was retained when the computers were upgraded to the ICL 1904S main computer and its PDP 11/10 data slave. Experimental information could also be obtained by photographic means.

Interior of Cell 1 looking north-east.
21|04|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

The area was originally known as the Ramjet Testing Area as ramjets were initially tested in Cell 1 – but both cells were fully capable of testing gas turbines. The naming of the test cells soon reverted to Cells 1 and 2 when they became eclipsed by their successors, the massive Cell 3 and equally huge Cell 4. Cells 1 and 2 did not fall into disuse though and were used for full-scale testing of turbojet and ramjet engines and for component development work under sea level and simulated altitude conditions. It doesn't look like the cells were mothballed either (unlike Cell 4) and the upgrading of its control room suggests that it remained in use until the majority of the site closed in the early 2000s.

Cells 1 & 2 Walkthrough...

Looking east along the trench connecting the cell to the suction mains. Looking west towards the vertical exhaust duct which rises up to connect to Cell 3 West. Taking the stairs parallel to the vertical exhaust duct. Southern side of the exhaust duct connecting to the back of Cell 3 West. Northern side of the exhaust duct connecting to the back of Cell 3 West. The sloping concrete wall at the back of Cell 3 West by the vertical exhaust duct. Eastern view of vertical exhaust duct. Looking east along the side of Cell 3 West by the Engine Control Room. Elevated view east along the back of the cell including the vertical exhaust duct. Elevated view east along the top of the back of the cell.
View west towards the covered section of the cell. Looking west along the southern half of the roof of the Engine Chamber. Detail of wiring connected through the roof of the southern part of the Engine Chamber. Standing on the top of the Engine Chamber looking east towards the suction mains. Elevated view west towards the Air Intake Cooler. Detail of the crane controller booth by the northern wall of the cell. Interior of the crane controller booth looking east. General elevated view of Cell 3 West looking east along its southern flank. Southern flank of the Air Intake Cooler and Cell 3 West looking east. Looking east along the southern flank of Cell 3 West.
The front dome of Cell 3 West looking east. Looking east towards the front dome of Cell 3 West from the Air Intake Cooler. Looking west towards the Air Intake Cooler from the front dome of Cell 3 West. View east into the Engine Chamber from the front dome. Looking south-east across the Engine Chamber of Cell 3 West. Low view west along the floor of the Engine Chamber. Looking north-east across the Engine Chamber of Cell 3 West. Looking north-east across the Engine Chamber from the southern walkway. Looking north-west across the Engine Chamber from the southern walkway. General view north-west across the Engine Chamber.
View west along the Engine Chamber from the exhaust duct. Gradually moving into the exhaust duct, view west. View west from halfway along the exhaust duct.

Further Reading