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Cell 4 (635): Then And Now

Whilst Cell 3 could test supersonic gas turbines in isolation, the behaviour of the gas turbine with its air intake and exhaust (known as the power plant) also needed to be tested. Therefore Cell 4 was built; the final say in free jet testing.

It was designed around Concorde’s power plant (the Rolls-Royce Olympus 593), with air being supplied (and sucked) from the Air House. The power wasn’t sufficient so an additional exhauster (Number 9 Exhauster) was added to the building housing Cell 4.

Unfortunately the cell was far too specialized. After testing the Olympus engine and a few other gas turbines used for supersonic aircraft, the cell was gradually wound down, being mothballed in 1980.

The area around the eastern side of the building was once dominated by the Cell 3 Air Heater, a towering cylindrical furnace with small control room. The original photographer was on the top of the Bramshot Cooling Tower and captured many of the surrounding buildings including (clockwise from bottom left) the Computer Building, Air House, Cell 3 and Cell 4. This had long gone by the time we exploded the site, but the mounting plinth remained, pinpointing its exact location.

Cell 3 Air Heater

The eastern flank of Cell 4 as seen from the Computer Building. The plinth for the former Cell 3 Air Heater can be seen centre-left.
05|05|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

Oddly the originally photographer took this rather unflattering view of Cell 4, which many would consider to be the ‘rear’ of the machine. However, the various engineers working on sections of the cell give an excellent indication of its enormous size.

I took the same shot in 2007, perched up high along a catwalk which traversed the western end of the building. The view is much the same. I believe the lighting was removed by the Sahara set-dressers (the fixtures can be found under parts of the test cell) whilst the huge pile of scrap metal bottom left was the remains of the ‘office’ built by the Sahara crew.

General view of Cell 4

Another general view of Cell 4

Almost identical view from 2007.
21|04|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

To photograph the plenum chamber (which I consider to be the 'front' of Cell 4), the original photographer took this shot. However, even though I climbed the ladder to the crane gantry at the eastern end of the building, I was unable to exactly match the original.

Again, there has been little change over the years. (In fact, the door on the side of the testing chamber is open in both shots).

Cell 4 plenum chamber

Almost identical view from 2007.
24|03|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

The supersonic blowing nozzle was originally housed in the plenum chamber, as seen in this shot where the front dome of the test cell has been unbolted. Unfortunately this has been removed, and the plenum chamber is now just a large empty space.

Further modifications were made by the Sahara film crew. The section of pipe between the dry air injector and the plenum chamber was removed (allowing the machine to belch fire as seen in the film) whilst the dry air main was cut outside the cell allow the actors to crawl through the pipe and into the building.

Cell 4 carriage assembly and supersonic blowing nozzle

Central view with the front cover still in place.
24|03|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

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