Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Richmond Naval Air Station

Off topic but the Gold Coast Railroad Museum is located at the old base. Zoo Miami is also located here, University of Miami has used parts as a research facility ("South Campus") since 1948 and the CIA had a facility from 1961 until 1968. The base has a rich history but unfortunately all three hangars were destroyed by a fire that broke out during a hurricane on September 15, 1945. All the blimps, 366 planes and 50 cars were also destroyed.

The Huge Airship Hangars

From a sign below the picture. 
What would fit in each hangar: Easily, 4 Boeing 747's, or over 1,200  parked automobiles could be placed on the open floor space of any one of these amazingly huge hangars. The total interior floor space of each hangar covered almost seven acres (297,000 sq. ft.). Four massive concrete door supports located at the corners of Hangar #1 were 148 ft. high and had a base of 28 ft. wide x 50 ft. long. They were one-of-a-kind, huge thick columns with a door pocket 12 ft. wide x 37 ft. deep. Only one of NAS Richmond's great door support columns remains - the east corner of "A & R" Hangar #1. It now "towers" over the Train Display Building and Museum Store of the gold Coast Railroad Museum. On the northwest face of the massive east door receptacle (the tower now remaining) you can see a long black arc. The arc traces the point at which Hangar #1s outer roof covering met the concrete face of the tower. Project this arc up beyond the concrete and you may imagine how the roof extended twenty-two feet above the 148-foot height of the concrete door pocket. At their highest point, the hangars were the height of a seventeen-story building, the fifty-one parabolic; wooden trusses in each of the three hangars contained approximately 2 million board feet of Oregon Douglas Fir. The use of wood saved over 16,000 tons (32,000,000 pounds) of war needed steel on this base alone! Roof construction of each hangar was facilitated by the use of a "Traveler", a huge mobile, wooden scaffold 150 feet high that spanned the inside width of the hangar. It moved along the hangar's roof and could have built approximately 250 three-bedroom homes. The openings at each end of the hangar #1 were 121 ft. high, and 197 ft. wide. To secure these huge portals, a set of six separate steel sections together formed the doors for each opening. Each of the six sections were 122 ft. high, 35 ft. wide and 4 ft. thick. Door sections weighed 39 tons each. Under the base of the doors the concrete was poured five feet thick. Hangar #1 was the first of these mammoth hangars to be completed. The first airship, "K-46", occupied hangar #1 on June 9, 1943. Hangars #2 and #3 were completed and in use shortly thereafter. 


East door receptacle on the remaining tower. Museum store also shown.

Above two photos show the concrete bases for the hangar wood structure.
The trains are in the structure on the left.

Gold Coast Railroad Museum web pages about the base. Includes some first person accounts and photos from both before and after the hurricane.

An outstanding paper on the history of the base written by David Macfie, 23,
is a Senior at Florida International University, Miami, Florida, majoring in English. He is a native Miamian.


  1. Super post! - Going to have a lot of interesting reading to do!!!!! (again) :o) Have you ever noticed that once you hear the sound of a 'blimp' you never, ever forget it? That deep whirring sound is so distinct! No other aircraft sounds come close to sounding like that! We used to see them all the time when we were kids.

  2. I grew up in Miami and fondly remember the Goodyear blimp that was based on Watson Island on McArthur Causeway between Miami and Miami Beach during the winter. It is based near Ft. Lauderdale now.
    My father was in the Naval Air Transport Service during WW II but flew out of the airbase in the north end of Dade County.
    I also remember when the CIA was there. Not exactly a big secret if you paid attention.
    Glad you liked the post. Enjoy the reading. There will be a quiz later. :)