What an amazing place the RAF museum reserve collection is! It’s a real Aladdin’s cave for any aircraft or aero engine enthusiast. I was lucky enough to be allowed a visit in my quest for information on the Bristol Hercules engine and surviving examples. The collection is basically stuff that would normally be on display at various museums, but isn’t at the moment. Down to a lack of display space and the need to keep things interesting by varying the exhibits, they store a lot of stuff out of the way in the reserve collection. It’s not open to the public except by invitation.
I’d been in contact with the museum to see if I could source some drawings, or take direct measurements from a sleeve drive crank if they had one. They put me in touch with Ian Alder, manager of the collection. You couldn’t find a more helpful person! Ian invited me down and took time out of his day to show me all around. He seemed genuinely interested in my project and was able to put his hands on a crank for me to measure. Unfortunately there wasn’t an easy datum to measure from, so while I have an approximate value I’m still chasing a drawing. Ian was also able to help there with some contacts at Rolls-Royce Heritage, who may have some original drawings.
The collection is a mind blowing array of interesting and well preserved articles, particularly engines! How about a NEW Bristol Hercules in a crate, as delivered but never fitted? Or one removed from an aircraft still in the nacelle? Sitting right next to…. a Centaurus in nacelle as remove from another aircraft! How about a motorised cut-away Hercules then? It’s all there! I saw Gnome engines in crates, Rolls-Royce Eagle engines in housings – part of a replica Vickers vimy (the whole thing), a couple of Merlins (or Griffons maybe?), Pratt and Witneys…. The list goes on. Then there are lots of aircraft (complete but disassembled), ejector seats, lifeboats – you name it.
Very interesting indeed! The collection is well cataloged with exhibits all photo tagged and computer logged, so I don’t fancy my chances of getting any bits. But that’s not what it’s about. I was looking for information and fresh leads, and Ian was kind enough to provide them. Thanks very much!