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RAE Bedford 8x8, 3x3 Windtunnels and RAF Thurleigh Tower - Apr/Dec 15 The Explores The first visit was intended to be a quick recce as there had been nothing from the place for a few years, so naturally assumed it was sealed tight... but bloody hell are we glad we checked the place out! Explored with @Session9 and @The Lone Shadow over 2 days last April and accessed the 8x8 tunnel building and the ATC tower at Thurleigh the next day. The 8x8 building complex itself it situated within a live industrial area complete with active security driving/walking around and people/cars generally coming and going constantly. Even the main test area had live offices at one end with PIR’s covering that part stopping me from getting to the bottom of the massive ladders that led to the roof. I found out months later that these were inactive, twat. Various companies have warehouses or office space pretty much encircling the target building so access was lets just say a little tricky! At one point we squeezed and shuffled through pigeon shit and wheelie bins only to find it eventually led back outside again much to our amusement. A bit of perseverance and we were in. The History The origins of RAE Bedford date back to 1944, and Aeronautical Research Committee Report No. ARC 7500 which recommended the setting up of a National Establishment for aeronautical research and development. The Government, in accepting the report, decided to set up the Establishment at Bedford. The NAE became the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) Bedford in 1955 1. Authority to proceed with the construction of the 8x8 Tunnel was given in 1949 and it achieved its first run in 1955. Capable of operation at subsonic speeds and at supersonic speeds from a Mach number of 1.3 to 2.5, the air was driven by a 12-foot diameter, ten-stage axial compressor powered from an 80,000hp [60 Megawatts] electrical source. The advanced aerodynamic capability and quality of the tunnel was such that it was extensively used over a period of forty-six years and served many overseas customers, both military and civil, as well as meeting the British need. Finally surplus to requirements in 2002, its 10,000 tons of steel have hopefully been usefully recycled. All that remains today is he empty infrastructure that contained the tunnel and compressor.... Aerial stock image of the now 'Twinwoods' site.. 2. 3. The first control room we were excited to stumble across, a series of blinded viewing windows allowed personnel to monitor the main compressor hall. Hadn't a wide angle lens then so only a couple of iPhone pano's really and i wish i'd spent a bit more time photographing this bit.. 4. 5. 6. So, i took a wander down the hallway and came across a load of empty bland offices on the left and some interesting bits on the right.. 7. Supply area.. 8. 9. Further down the corridor (which myself and @Urbexbandoned found sealed on a visit months later) I got excited when i read this sign.. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. Moving on from the main site lies the old RAF Thurleigh ATC tower. The Airfield is now packed full of vehicles, new and old, some of the older ones victims of the scrappage scheme but i wasn't hugely interested in these and we headed towards the tower itself via a few other barrack shaped buildings and a wooden radar pylon... 15. These didn't look worth the effort... 16. The tower... Jumping back to Apr 15…we decided to take a look at the ATC tower which was basically situated on the same site but on the other side of the massive multi-runway airfield. A long walk past some smelly sheep and a few dives into the bushes thanks to some farmer spreading equally smelly shit around the neighbouring field, eventually we were at the tower. On first inspection the place looked like it had been recently sealed with nice fresh looking boards all around but with a bit of head/ball scratching and a leap of faith from The Lone Shadow, myself and Session9 were in… We didn’t bother with zillion cars parked on the runways as there were transporters and humans in hi-viz kicking around most of the time.. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. Fast forward to November 2015, Myself and @Urbexbandoned returned once again to check out the 3x3 Tunnel building.. 23. 24. 25/26. 27. 28. 29. 30. The 3x3' Control Room.. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. As always thanks for looking and feedback always appreciated : )
History The wind tunnel provision consisted essentially of four large high-quality research facilities, which would allow the testing of aircraft configurations and components at speeds from around eighty miles per hour up to a Mach number of 5, or five times the speed of sound. These were (in order of completion) the 3x3 supersonic tunnel, the 13x9 low speed tunnel, the 8x8 supersonic tunnel, and the 3x4 high supersonic speed tunnel (HSST). The numerals identify the working section dimensions in feet, width by height. The 8x8 and the 3x4 were the largest tunnels in their Mach number range in Western Europe. A low speed tunnel was also provided specifically to study the spinning characteristics of aircraft, which was a little understood phenomenon at the time. Explore Visited with my better half, @hamtagger. Now I had a bit of unfinished business with this little beauty! I first visited in May after seeing it pop up on the radar again and with it being just 8 miles from the area that I grew up, it was inevitable that I visited. It was hamtagger who had helped me with details back in May on the place. Going in May with someone who had no idea about this place, no idea about access, the location nor any history it was nice to come back feeling confident and knowing about what the site meant, what history it had and what exactly happened here. After leaving the site the last time and doing a report it was brought to my attention that there was a 3rd control room/observation room. Now there are 2 in the 8x8ft tunnel building and when I went one of the doors was locked so I missed out on that. I was set on seeing the 3x3 control room at some point. It just took some time, fast forward to July when me & @hamtagger were in the area again. We checked out the 8x8ft building and at that time it had a film crew there. We managed to sneak in to the control room that I had seen and hide behind the control panel for a little while. We left and checked out the building I had been told the 3rd room was in. Thanks to @darbians for his help, really really helpful It seemed that as much as it had been open it seemed pretty tight on this visit. We left it and decided to come back yet again. Since the July visit I have done some research on this place and seen that not only is there a 3x3ft supersonic windtunnel built, there was also a 3x4ft high supersonic wind tunnel built. This was quite confusing for me. Were they in the same building, were they in separate buildings?! Trying to tie up the interior of buildings with photographs I had seen on the internet was getting a bit anal. The vertical spinning tunnel is still in use at the flight centre and the largest wind tunnel is used by RedBull Racing. Fast forward to November and we decided to check it out yet again, arriving really early was the key here. Entry wasn't hidden and the later it become it would have become impossible with the amount of people around. Needless to say and I couldn't quite believe it but we were in! Greeted by this lovely corridor, wooden parquet flooring and lots of peeliness. After 5 minutes, there it was.. This little room we had both wanted to see. Walking in everything was tinged with a greeny blue, a colour I associated to the military infact. It is a shame people go to some lengths to get in places, we found the wood that had been used to secure the door to the room pulled off and on one side the whole doorframe had been pulled off. I was pretty impressed by the whole building to be honest, it was somewhere I had really wanted to see and it didn't disappoint. The decay in some areas was really nice and natural and in others looked like there was nothing. Some of the building is quite open to view of those on site so had to be careful when taking a few pics. The areas where the windtunnel was had some nice little features left behind, which was nice to see. As much as it pains me to say,I still think I have unfinished business with this place. I am sure there is more here, infact one of the other buildings that housed another control room is in use as a company so time will tell I guess. Anyway, on with the pics. I loved this, the fact that it says 'Required Attitude'... None, fuck off! This little tag stood the test of time for 45 years! And a selfie to finish the report...
This is the only history I could find which I can happily say I never stole from Session9 or Hamtagger The site had several reasonably large windtunnels, one supersonic and one large subsonic. It also had a 'drop tower'. The drop tower is now used as a skydiving training venue. The supersonic tunnel was dismantled by 2005 and the building which held the fans and driving motors is now used as the set for the BBC popular science programme, "Bang Goes The Theory". The subsonic tunnel is sometimes used for testing cars on a rolling road.In March 1967 the U-2 flew out of RAE Bedford. It was often touted as a possible site for the third London Airport (long before Stansted Airport took on that role). The local community was strongly opposed and many rural buildings were adorned with slogans such as "Thurleigh -NO!", "No! No! No!" and "Maplin Now". The Explore Well, I have to say thanks to Hamtagger first, if it wasn't for him I would have been wandering aimlessly like a raver in a trance! So cheers mate! After seeing the boys visited this a few weeks back I decided to go, I liked what I saw and I know the area well as I come from Bedfordshire. Access was interesting, I had 2 options, the first was a no go so on to the second, lets put it this way. I did struggle, the only way I can put it is that basically anyone with a large chest would struggle. But anyhow I got in, unscathed and everything intact! I was confronted by that fan, something I ended up with over 50 pics of haha. Got a bit snaphappy. There was lots to see here, lots of really loud noises too, birds which had nested and I kept thinking they were inside the building but no just the echo coming from outside. Found the first control room, door wouldn't open. Carried on, now I know that I probably just didn't push hard enough so a great excuse for a revist! Then after some exploring found the other, was quite nice, a LOT of dial/button/switch porn. I actually spent over an hour in here. After this I ventured back down to the main bit, found some old paperwork, some test tube thingymabobs which made a nice pic and then carried on snapping. All in all quite a relaxing explore. I loved it. I am really sorry if you get bored with the pics LOL! If your not asleep by this point, thanks for looking!