Croydon Airport Terminal

This model is an ‘airside’ elevation of the then Imperial Airways terminal building in Purley Way, Croydon, which operated from 1928 to 1959. It is now a listed building.

A military airfield was established at Croydon in 1915. Designated London’s civil airport in 1920, it moved to new buildings on Purley Way in 1927–28, comprising a pair of double hangers, a hotel, a porter’s lodge, and the first airport terminal in the world.

Being the first of its kind, all involved — planners right through to operating staff — had no option but to make things up as they went along. What experience greeted the early air travellers, and how did the terminal work?

Departing passengers entered the booking and the waiting hall, went to the airline’s enquiry counter, gave up their luggage and sat on the scales themselves, brought a newspaper from the bookstall and a coffee from the tiny buffet, and waited. When their aircraft was ready, they were conducted to it by a traffic hand.

Arriving passengers were escorted into the customs examination hall, where they were reunited with their luggage, and thence to the booking and waiting hall, from where they were free to leave.

The model is built using the Bayko Bakelite toy construction system, invented by Charles Plimpton who set up Plimpton Engineering in Liverpool in 1933. It is supplemented by Meccano parts and a few from other metal systems. Bayko was taken over by Meccano and was marketed by them from 1960–1967.

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