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-   -   How did Heathrow used to look ? (https://www.pprune.org/aviation-history-nostalgia/337032-how-did-heathrow-used-look.html)

diddy1234 29th Jul 2008 14:25

How did Heathrow used to look ?
I was wondering if anyone had old plans of Heathrow (or even old pictures).

I was wondering how many runways were active when Heathrow first opened and how long each runway was (I know that the main two runways have been extended).

When was the tunnel made (For car access) ?

What was present before T5 ?

Unfortunately Wikipedia doesn't cover much early history of Heathrow.

Thanks in advance.


treadigraph 29th Jul 2008 15:12

Original runway layout was a "Star of David" with parallel runways e/w, ne/sw and nw/se. There was originally a plan to add an additional runway north of the Bath Road, just about where BAA would currently like to build one!

Someone (Chevvron?) included an excellent link to a site plan from about 1945 a while back.

The T5 site was originally the Perry Oaks Sewage Farm. My company was part of the civil engineering team for T5 and my geotechnical colleagues helped prepare the site ready for construction, including remediation of the land! One of them does a good presentation on the subject.

Also, look back a few weeks to the Varsity thread - there was a cracking aerial shot of Heathrow in the 50s taken by one of our fellow forumites from a Varsity!

chevvron 29th Jul 2008 15:25

Nah wasn't me, but I remember the tunnel was put in about '54 or '55. My parents used to take me to 'London Airport' by bus from our home in South Bucks during school holidays (Greenline [713?]from Chesham to Uxbridge then red LT bus, returning by green LT bus to Slough then the 353 back to Chesham). In the early days before the tunnel we got off the bus on the Bath Road and would walk across a taxiway to get to the public enclosure; later we walked though the tunnel (it was allowed in the early days but not now).
The tunnel was I believe constructed using the 'cut and cover' method rather than by boring; I think there was an airborne illustration in the 'Eagle Book of Aircraft' c1956.

treadigraph 29th Jul 2008 15:32

Wasn't there a "pedestrian" tunnel parallel to the northern tunnel? I'm sure I rode me pushbike through it twenty something years ago! Has it been closed?

The SSK 29th Jul 2008 15:39

This from an immediately pre-war map (sorry for the poor quality)


WHBM 29th Jul 2008 15:45

The original plan was the 6 star-shaped runways on the present site, and another three proposed north of the A4, which of course were never built. The 6 runways was not completed for some years, followed shortly afterwards by starting to close them off for central area buildings, so the full set didn't last long.

The tunnels opened in 1955 along with T2 (then the Queens Building) and were originally the current dual carriageway, plus the two small tunnels either side now used for cars (provided you don't have a big roofrack), but one was originally for pedestrians and the other for bicycles. T3 (then the Oceanic Building) opened in 1962. Until these openings the relevant flights (European and Intercontinental respectively) operated from the north side, strung out along the A4.

S'land 29th Jul 2008 16:49

The attached shows work on "London Airport" in 1949.
YouTube - London Airport (1949)

Like Chevvron I remember taking a similar route to Heathrow, but from Amersham, not Chesham. This was in about 1963 - 1964. I used to go with my father as my mother and sister were not interested in aircraft. I used to use a "Coronet 4/4" camera using 120 black and white film to take photographs. It was a very simple camera that I had had since I was seven years old (Christmas present). All the photographs were destroyed in some floods at my sister's house about ten years ago.:(

chevvron 29th Jul 2008 18:16

Queens Building was the original central area terminal, but I don't think it was ever called Terminal 2; T1 was built to the north of it then T2 to the south, then QB became airline offices, crew reporting and flight clearance/AIS etc. There is a film occasionally shown on TV called 'Out of the Clouds' (starring the formidable James Robertson Justice as the captain of a BOAC Stratocruiser) which I believe depicts the interior of QB.
The original pedestrian tunnel which we used to walk through was the one now used for cars/taxis to the east of the 'main' tunnels.
S'land, you appear to be about the same age as me; I went to Chesham Tech from '60 to '67.

India Four Two 29th Jul 2008 18:55

A very nice aerial photo taken in June 1956, from the recent Varsity thread:


I've just noticed on The SSK's map, that pubs are listed very prominently :ok:

treadigraph 29th Jul 2008 20:00

I've just noticed on The SSK's map, that pubs are listed very prominently
I noticed so much, it took me a while to realise that there was no airport, just a piddly little grass airfield... :}

PaperTiger 29th Jul 2008 20:43

Weren't there seven runways ?
2 x 09/27, 2 x 05/23 and 3 x 14/32.

WHBM 29th Jul 2008 20:48

Originally Posted by chevvron (Post 4296740)
starring the formidable James Robertson Justice as the captain of a BOAC Stratocruiser

Modelled on BOAC Captain O. P. Jones I believe.

The SSK 29th Jul 2008 21:01

Queens Building was the original central area terminal, but I don't think it was ever called Terminal 2; T1 was built to the north of it then T2 to the south, then QB became airline offices, crew reporting and flight clearance/AIS etc.
When I started with BOAC in 67 there were two terminals, Europa which became T2 and Oceanic which became T3 departures. The Queens Building was the BEA ops centre, also the entrance to the roof gardens which stretched across T2 and to the 'corner' where you could get a view of the nearer T3 stands but not the further ones. The next central area buildings were I guess the BOAC cargocentre just to the west of the tunnel entrance - I was working there by late 68 - then T1 which probably opened in 69 (at which point the other 2 were renamed/numbered) and also the T3 arrivals building, around the same time.

Swedish Steve 29th Jul 2008 21:27

Weren't there seven runways ?
2 x 09/27, 2 x 05/23 and 3 x 14/32.
Yes but not all at once.
According to my Ian Allen London's Airports which was published about 1959
The RAF built 3 runways, an inverted triangle. A second triangle was imposed on top of this and during this work the original 32L was decommissioned and a new 32L built. The original 32L passed through what is now the T2 car park. By 1959 32R was not in use leaving 5 runways.
At this time the only passenger building in the central area was called the Short Haul Building, or the Nbr 2 passenger building (now T2). The new long haul building was under construction and was to be called the Long haul building or the Nbr 3 passenger building.
The Queens Building was never a Terminal, although there were two jetties leading to four gates on its airside, pax walked there from T2. There were three more jetties leading to six ground level gates on T2.

I used to cycle to LAP in 1963, cycling through the tunnel to the Central Area. Cycling was later banned, and a special bus was put on which carried bikes in racks at the back from the Northside area.

S'land 29th Jul 2008 21:44

I lived in Holmer Green from 1963 until uni took me away. I used to bike around the Chesham, LEY Hill, Latimer area a lot.

pax britanica 29th Jul 2008 22:37

I liked the old map of the Heathrow area. I grew up in Stanwell 1957-1973 and lived 100yds from the prominantly featured Wheatsheaf PH. Not sure why thats highlighted as there were several pubs in Stanwell and Wheatsheaf was the smallest.

Used to ride bke from there to Cains Lane Bedfont which is shown on the map on the Heathrow side of the A 30 but at that time only the section east of the a30 survived. A great spotting spot and a popular one. If on Easterlies a much nicer place to watch the world go by was in Stanwell between the longford river and the duke of northumberlands canal which were diverted from the courses shown on the map to run parallel to the southern perimeter road which ran throw open countryside that was the SW corner of LHR down by the 10R as it was hold and 'block 79' where 10L originally started before the extension .
Happy days really quite a rural area in those days pre cargo village.

Oddly enough hardly ever went to the central area- a long long way round ona bike or a really poor bus service to Hounslow and thena connection to the north side and then another connection to the central area.

As to the runways 23R was often used for take offs witha strong SW wind -not uncommon and the flight path was just to the west of my house-some fantastic views as it was not ovr long and the big props didnt climb too quickly- exhausts flaming in the evening sky looked very dramatic. 08L also used quite a bit for landings and also great views .
Can remember 08r being used for take offs- smultaneous with 10R .

The SE -NW runways however seemed to hardly ever be used and were the first to disappear. I do remeber seeing a few landings on the more easterly one -perhaps around 1961 but never saw any landings from the NW.

So from my recollection LHR may have had six runways but it very seldom used more than 4 ( the two 10/28s and the 05/23 pairing.

I later flew numerable times from LHR but only once used anthing other than the main pair and that was returning from my honeymoon in a freezing March 1977 where our Trident 3 landed on 05R.

Bit of a ramble but for me a very interesting thread and one to reflect on just how much that little part of England changed in my life-the Wheatsheaf is still there though!

overfly 29th Jul 2008 22:39

Ach, we're all of an age, I was at Windsor GS from 61 to 68; used to cycle or hitch to LAP, remember the tunnels, pretty sure both side tunnels had a cycle way and a raised fenced footpath to one side. My memory of the terminals agrees with SSK; when I started with BEA in late 68 shorthaul cargo was still in Hangars 7 & 8 near Hatton Cross. Cargocentre opened in what, 71?

Warmtoast 29th Jul 2008 22:45

Heathrow - 1950's

Reference has been made earlier to my 1956 photo of Heathrow which I have now copied here:


This shows the layout in June 1956 taken from 10,000ft looking east. The newly completed Europa Building, later Terminal 2 is in the centre island, whilst alongside it the Oceanic Terminal; later Terminal 3 is under construction. In 1956 until at least 1960 transatlantic traffic departed from the North Terminal alongside the A4. (I saw a friend off who flew PanAm to Baltimore from the north terminal in early 1960).

The Bath Road (A4) shows up on the left as the dark strip running top to bottom parallel with the north main taxiway & runway. In 1956 the M4 was but a gleam in the planner’s eye - the London bit of the M4 westwards opened nine years later in 1965.
On the right the A30 (the lighter of the two darkish strips) wends its way through the (then) rural delights of Middlesex towards Hounslow and London. Straight ahead and beyond the airfield boundary, just beneath the cloud line the A312 can be seen running left to right.

The pre-war map in post # 5 shows the adjacent roads layout.

Three years earlier on 8th October 1953 I visited London Heathrow to watch the start of the London to Christchurch (New Zealand) air race and took the following photo which shows one of the competitors, the first licence-built Royal Australian Air Force Canberra serial number A84-201.
Interestingly the background shows the girders for the new ‘Europa Building’, which was actually the first true terminal building and was opened by the Queen two years later in 1955. The higher girders outline what I think is the ATC control tower under construction.


phil gollin 30th Jul 2008 07:42

Well - Heathrow used to look like this (well sort of) :-




The Megalithic Portal and Megalith Map:

The Megalithic Portal and Megalith Map: Heathrow's archaeology, including Stanwell Cursus is finally announced

mustpost 30th Jul 2008 08:50

This might be of interest - while reseaching RAF St Mawgan, I came across this which gives an indication of what the 'Very Heavy Transport Stations' control tower at Heathrow would have looked like...
RAF St Mawgan airfield

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