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Cell 3 West (649): Then And Now

Cell 3 West appears to be well represented within the photographic record. Not only was it photogenic (with its striking front section and impressive superstructure), but the variety of testing (from gas turbines stress tests through to helicopter fuselage icing tests) meant the photographer was often required.

Cell 3 West allowed a multitude of differently configured tests to take place, although the testing of gas turbines under various weather conditions was its primary function. In this shot, two engineers position a Rolls-Royce RB211 engine for testing.

The original photographer was crouched in the south western corner of the cell. Luckily I also took a shot from exactly the same position.

Installing a Rolls-Royce RB211 engine in Cell 3 West

Almost identical view from 2007.
05|05|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

I believe the original photographer took this elevated view of the northern area of Cell 3 West from the external stairs of Number 10 Exhauster. In doing so, he captured the end of Cell 3 West with its connecting pipes in place, the massive air cooler, and the two tanks (which each held 500 tonnes of aqueous ammonia).

When I visited the site in 2007, the connecting pipes had been removed, and could be found scattered around the area south of Number 10 Exhauster. Unfortunately I never took a shot from the external stairs (as Id have been seen by the employees working in Sigma), but I had this ground level shot for comparison.

General view of Cell 3 West

Taken at a lower elevation, but almost the same view. The connecting pipe is missing.
24|03|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

This first shot shows another gas turbine installed in Cell 3 West. However, its an interesting picture as the front dome of the cell has been removed allowing the original photographer to capture the entire width of the cell and the end of the walkways.

The second colour shot shows a different turbine being installed, but taken from within the cell itself.

Fast forward to 2007, and the dome was fixed in place (although I did at times wonder how easy it would be to decouple it and slide it back on its tracks). So, my comparison shot was taken where the man was standing in the original photograph.

View of Cell 3 West engine chamber with the front dome removed

Inspecting ice formation around the engine intake of a helicopter

Engine installation in Cell 3 West

This shot was taken with the front dome still attached.
24|03|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

Cell 3 West was designed to accommodate ever larger gas turbines and even helicopter fuselages. To allow these large pieces of equipment to be installed, the front dome could be removed. Then, with the equipment in place, the front dome was latched back in place, and connecting pieces of pipe connected the end of the cell to the air cooler.

The original shot clearly shows the cell ready for testing, with all the constituent pieces in place. My shot shows an empty cell with the front dome in-situ, but the connecting pieces of pipe have been removed (presumably after the last test).

View of Cell 3 West engine chamber with the front dome in the testing position

Another view of Cell 3 West including the refrigeration plant to the right. The smaller cylindrical tank was the 'De-Frost Tank' whilst the two larger tanks were the 'Cold Store Tanks'. I believe this shot was taken from the small walkway outside Number 10 exhauster.

A slightly different view. The missing sections of pipe could be found to the south of Number 10 Exhauster.
31|03|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

I first thought this was another picture of the connected cell taken at the same time as the other similar archival shots. However, there was something which looked 'odd' about it - especially the mass of exposed pipework of the air cooler.

It then struck me that the cell and cooler were missing their cladding and roofing. Therefore I think this may be a test of the cell itself near the end of construction - and the exterior covering was still to be added.

My picture was taken at a higher elevated angle. I believe the originally photographer partially climbed the circular stairway of the nearest Cold Store Tank, while I was at the top of the second Cold Store Tank.

Cell 3 West under construction.

A similar view taken from an elevated position slightly further away.
31|03|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

The first photograph shows how Pyestock engineers were able to fit the entire fuselage of a Sea King helicopter into Cell 3 West and the second shows an RB211 turbine. Not only does this show the cell's flexibility, but also illustrates how it was the only cell which could accommodate objects as large as a fuselage.

The best comparison shot I could find is this angled shot of Cell 3 West with the front dome still attached.

Sea King installation in Cell 3 West

RB211 installation in Cell 3 West

Again, a slightly different view without the front section removed.
31|03|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

The control room was housed in a brick building situated to the north of the test cell itself and was packed with engineers and technicians when the tests were run.

Luckily I took a similar shot looking across the modernised control room. Some of the controls had survived the years; others had been updated. Unlike most of the control rooms at Pyestock, the control room for Cell 3 West had been partially stripped and vandalised.

Cell 3 West test control room

The dark and partially dismanted control room.
24|03|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

These two shots again show how the cell's front could be removed allowing ever larger turbines and scaled helicopter fuselages to be inserted.

A full scale model helicopter fuselage positioned in Cell 3 West for engine intake icing trials

Taken slightly further back and with the front dome in place.
31|03|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

The shot of the V.2500 engine suggests temporary scaffolding was erected around the turbine during the test. My comparison shot is completely barren by comparision.

V.2500 engine and intake assembly rigged for free jet icing tests in Cell 3 West

Taken from almost the same location.
05|05|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

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