Hidden away on the former military airbase at Wroughton – 4 miles south of Swindon in Wiltshire – is what we think must be the best storage facility in Britain. It’s not best because they have the most amazing customer service, or prices that are the most competitive you can find. It’s best because it is the large objects storage facility of the National Museum of Science and Industry. Or as we like to think of it – the ultimate ‘garden shed’ of big-boys toys.
It is home to around 20,000 objects – some of the most innovative design and technical achievements that mankind has so far come up with. Some, such as the MRI scanner, represent the best in human achievement. Others – including examples of the UK’s cold-war nuclear inter-continental ballistic missile arsenal (fortunately deactivated) – represent the destructive side of human endeavour.
We think such a storage facility warrants another ABC Selfstore series – where we take a look at some of the most interesting objects that are (or have been) in storage at Wroughton.
And first up (almost literally) – it’s the Flying Bedstead.
Or the Rolls-Royce Thrust Measuring Rig – to give it its official name.
The Rolls-Royce Thrust Measuring Rig (TMR) was a vehicle designed to test the principles of jet powered vertical flight. Quite literally it was two jet engines strapped to a metal frame with extra pipework to push the thrust in the right direction underneath. Two were built and the first flight (of XJ314) was on July 3rd 1953. XJ 314 is now on display at the Science Museum’s London Centre. It’s sister rig XK 426 crashed, killing the pilot and was destroyed in 1957. XJ 314 was stored at Wroughton while undergoing restoration in the early 2000’s.
Despite being widely regarded as the Great-grandad of the Harrier Jump Jet the Bedstead was actually quite different technically to the Pegasus ‘Vector Thrust’ engine developed for the Harrier by Bristol. By far the most significant contribution to future jet powered vertical flight was the TMR’s Reaction Control System to enable stable flight.