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What did Gatwick used to look like

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What did Gatwick used to look like

Old 6th Mar 2009, 12:41
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What did Gatwick used to look like

I was wondering if anyone had early pictures / maps of Gatwick.

I know that there is the 'beehive' building but today it looks very remote from the runways.

Were both runways built at the same time ?

What terminal was built first (north or south) ?

and where was the train station located (I would imagine somewhere near the beehive building) ?
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Old 6th Mar 2009, 14:11
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In the beginning there was a racecourse (yes, honestly), and a special train station was built for it, called Gatwick Racecourse.

Then it got turned in the 1930s into an airfield. Grass of course. The Beehive building got built close to the train station, which got a new name. But the ground was not drained enough, and the operators that moved in there in the mid-1930s (like the original British Airways) moved on elsewhere after losing too much winter ops to waterlogging.

In the 1950s there was another go, same overall airfield but with the facilities built on the northern side. New train station was built north of the old one (this latter was on the site of today's train sidings where trains wait between trips, about 1/2 mile south of the current station, still known to railway staff as the "Racecourse Sidings"). New terminal building (now buried in the middle of the South terminal) linked to the station by a footbridge. New runway, hard of course, which forms the east end of the present main runway. Proper drains doubtless put in. All very much extended since it reopened.

"Both" runways were built at the same time, because one is an actual runway from the 1958 rebuild and the other is an emergency use of the taxiway opened at the same time. Renumbered to two runways following a couple of misunderstanding close-calls in the 1980s when the adapted taxiway was in use, its transition from taxiway was gradual, in stages.

The Beehive was left out on a limb after all this.
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Old 6th Mar 2009, 14:37
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What did Gatwick used to look like.

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Old 6th Mar 2009, 15:39
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Gatwick station(s)

Actually there were two railway stations at Gatwick. As a lad in the late 50s I used to cycle to the airport to watch the Jersey Airlines Rapides coming and going. If we were lucky we might catch an Attacker heading to/from the Airworks hanger, occasionally a late mark Spitfire would turn up. The station was opposite the beehive and a short distance north was the then derelict Gatwick Racecourse station. Of course the airfield was a grass strip in those days, re-inforced by metal plates.

When the new airport was built they abandoned the Gatwick Airport station and refurbished the old racecourse station, renaming it in the process. If you travel that line you can still make out the base of the platforms where the other station used to be.

P Mills
Gatwick Aviation Museum - Charlwood
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Old 6th Mar 2009, 20:13
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Not particularly of high quality, but this is a screen grab from some 8mm cine film I shot of the Gatwick departure hall as it appeared around lunch-time on 19th April 1960. I’m precise about the time and date as my log book records we arrived at Gatwick 13.05 and departed at 15.00. The occasion was when I and my crew were tasked at very short notice to fly Julian Amery, the then Colonial Under-Secretary of State, to Nicosia for talks with Archbishop Makarios and Mr Kutchuk. These talks led to the creation of the Sovereign Base Areas.
Note the ‘busy’ departure check-in desks on the left. With what appears to be just two pax checking in!

Postcard of Gatwick dating from around the same time.

Last edited by Warmtoast; 18th Sep 2012 at 09:37. Reason: To restore formerly moved images
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Old 6th Mar 2009, 20:33
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warmtoast, that's a really nice postcard picture of the airfield.

I was wondering if the runway was in the same location when it was a grass (steel matted) airfield ?
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Old 7th Mar 2009, 16:41
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Gatwick in the 1970's

Hope these are of interest:

And some years later



Last edited by Opssys; 12th Mar 2009 at 18:51. Reason: Picture 1 Mysteriously Dropped!
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Old 7th Mar 2009, 17:21
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There was a short article in Flight circa 1946 with a diagram of the metal mesh runways. I have the cutting somewhere but a look in the online Flight archive would be quicker than finding it. As I recall, it said that Gatwick was unlikely to come to anything!
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Old 8th Mar 2009, 10:56
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1936 Flight Article On Gatwick and more

Although we have drifted into the 'second Gatwick Airport', diddy1234 Mentioned the Beehive and as Flight used to produce serious articles about such things the following Article from the 4th June 1936 is of interest - Spread over three PDFs:

Page 602:
Modern Airport - Features of Gatwick, London's Latest Terminal : Rational Building Layout, Ground and Air Traffic Control : Ancillary Services
Continuation Page 603:
Continuation Page 604
Illustrated with Flight Photographs

The Old Gatwick Airport Railway Platforms 'hung around' until at least the late 1980's. But by 1995 only rubble remained. BUT Nick Catford contributing to the
excellent Subterranea Britannica web site took some pictures back in September 1995 - Whilst Pictures of a derelict subway connecting the Beehive to the Old Station may not be of too much interest, The Photo: Inside The Beehive, the steps on the left lead to the tunnel on this Page may be of interest:
Site Name: Gatwick Airport - Passenger Subway
If you do look at this page, you might as well check out:
Site Name: Gatwick Airport - Passenger Subway Page 2

In another Beehive Thread there was a small picture of the Beehive Model (by Alan Marlow) at the Victoria and Albert Museum:
Here is a larger picture from a different perpective:

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Old 10th Mar 2009, 19:46
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I first visited Gatwick in, I think, 1973 and seem to remember that spectators could walk on the roof of a "finger" and get quite close to the parked aircraft. Is my memory accurate?

I remember taking some 35mm slides but, sadly, do not know where they are now.
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Old 11th Mar 2009, 14:58
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You are quite correct the spectators area was over one of the 'fingers'

There were all sorts of interesting aircraft in the late 60s early 70s. All of which you could get decent photographs of, all with my little Kodak Instamatic!

Those were the days!
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Old 11th Mar 2009, 15:05
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I worked at Gatwick in 1966 and yes you could walk around the roof of the fingers in those days. All the BUA vehicles used to have 'things are looking up at BUA' painted on the roof so they could be seen from there. I even remember taking two passengers out to an aircraft in my Hillman Minx once and carrying a spare wheel for an Islander another time in the same car, you could drive private cars on the tarmac then under the right circumstances.

My father worked at Gatwick ( Beehive) in the 1940's and told me that at the end of the war there were a number of aircraft parked which were not fully operational and so they dug a big hole and buried them! Assumedly if true they are still there somewhere!!!
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Old 11th Mar 2009, 15:07
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Correct, I believe the spectators area was on the main pier.

I recall being there in about 1970 and looking down on various One-Elevens, and - guess what else starting up - a Piper Cherokee !! My guess is that it was the short-lived stand-in for a Westward Airways Islander on the Heathrow link (which in those days apparently quite often had no pax at all for a rotation).
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Old 11th Mar 2009, 15:16
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Originally Posted by Atcham Tower View Post
There was a short article in Flight circa 1946 with a diagram of the metal mesh runways. !
I believe this is what was known as Pierced Steel Planking, or PSP, steel plate, two skins pressed together with a lot of circular holes in it for drainage and lightness. My father laid plenty of it in Burma for DC3s in WW2 to reinforce grass strips during the monsoon season.
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Old 11th Mar 2009, 17:55
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Gatwick Piers

I was a frequent visiting spotter at LGW in the late 60s and worked there for a few years (Gatwick Handling and BIA) in the mid 1970s.

The North and South Pier roofs (not the Centre Pier) were open to spectators in the 60s but by the early 70s this was stopped due to a mixture (I believe) of security concerns and difficulty of access as the terminal/admin buildings were extended. The rather basic piers were then gradually replaced with more up to date structures.

It was a great place for spotting when the piers were available with close access possible to most of the aircraft and an excellent view of landing aircraft on 27 (now 26L). Probably hard to imagine now, but the biggest complaint from spotters then was boredom as there could often be significant periods with no movements at all (20 minutes between any activity was common - much longer sometimes) and then it was often just 'common' types like Morton Air Service Daks, Dan-Air Ambassadors, BUA Viscounts, BUIA Heralds, SAM DC-6s, RCAF Bristol 170s and Yukons, etc.

Aaaaahhh! 'You don't know what you've got 'til its gone!"
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Old 11th Mar 2009, 19:43
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Thumbs up

WHBM - in 1970 I was station manager for Westward Airways and you may well be right about thye aircraft you saw, most substitute flights were supplied by Southend Air Taxis and sometimes on a push/pull cessna ( don't know its proper name!!) If we only had one or two passengers across the whole Heathrow rotation we sometimes used to tell the pax the aircraft was tech and put them in a taxi!! Frequently only carried two or three passengers, five or six on a good day there was simply no advertising. The fare was four pounds each way and five for a day return between Gatwick and Heathrow.

Those were the days.....
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Old 11th Mar 2009, 20:20
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Hi Groundhog

I remember flying to Heathrow from Gatwick on the First flight on a Saturday we we charged 5 pounds for a family ticket

Fantastice flight low level over the route

Good old days

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Old 12th Mar 2009, 16:22
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Cherokee at LGW

WHBM: That Cherokee could have been me. I sometimes used LGW to clear customs on my way to France. There was no hassle in the early 1970s. Also Stansted and Luton were quite user-friendly for the private pilot.

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Old 12th Mar 2009, 18:58
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The Sout Pier Roof Spectator Viewing area was. from memory open much longer than the North Finger and at one time the S.Pier even had a snack/coffee bar (offshoot of Eddies?). The Centre Pier had the Control Box halfway down (BAA Apron - who moved out leaving the unit empty and BUA Service Control, then BCAL Service Control, until it too moved, this time to the Eighth Floor and change of Name to GOCC (The lift strike that occurred sometime after the move meant we were all very fit).
Anyway here is a rare view of the Terminal Building from the North Pier Spectators Terrace (Caz Caswell with permission):

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Old 12th Mar 2009, 19:15
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Lokking at Warmtoast's second picture, why did they build the runway so far away from the terminal?
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