Satisfying photos of control rooms that once ran the world

(Pocket-lint) – Over the decades, all across the world, important rooms have been built stuffed full of computer equipment, machinery and important controls for monitoring and managing various facilities. Some of these are utterly impressive works with satisfying lines and eye-pleasing panels. 

We’ve collected some of the very best for you to enjoy and marvel at. 


Hydropower plant controls

This image shows the colourful and brilliantly lit control panel of the hydropower plant at Boguchany Dam in Russia.

This plant was originally opened in 2012 and continually built upon with the ninth and final generator coming online in 2015. This power plant is responsible for producing 17.6 TWh (Terawatt-hours) of power annually. An impressive feat for a water-powered plant. 

Will Pearson

Battersea power station control room

This shot shows a taster of the delights of machines, dials and equipment that used to run Battersea power station. This is a power plant that originally began construction in 1929 and was decommissioned in the early 1980s. Located on the south bank of the Thames in London, the external view of the power station is fairly iconic, but the internal view is something truly special too. 

We’d highly recommend taking a look at Will Pearson’s virtual tour of the power station for an even closer and more interactive view of the innards.  


Mission control at Johnson Space Centre

A much more modern view from NASA shows the control room at the Johnson Space Centre. This room supports missions for the International Space Station and has also recently been involved in control and support of the various SpaceX missions too. 



A much more modern view of an equally important control centre shows the brains of AT&T’s Global Network Operations Center. Massive amounts of data flow through this system every single day. In fact, in 2016 Fortune magazine reported that at least 100 petabytes of data were handled in this room. 

It’s certainly an impressive control centre with banks of large screens displaying constantly updating visualisations of the data for the control centre staff to view and manage. 


The European Space Operations Centre

Old control rooms used to be walls of massive machines and old-fashioned computer boards and dials. Now modern control centres are mostly banks of monitors attached to masses of networked computers.

This image from the European Space Operations Centre shows that modern view but also tells a story of upgrade and change. After all, this centre was originally formed in 1967 and has no doubt seen plenty of enhancements since it was first set up. 

NASA/Glenn Research Center

Central control room at the Glenn Research Centre

Say what you want about NASA, it sure knows how to build an awesome looking control room. This photo dates back to 1968 and shows the central control room in the engine research building at Glenn Research Centre. 

Based in Cleveland, Ohio, this centre was built to help with the design and development of new engine technology to help NASA get into space. The campus includes world-class facilities for testing and development including everything from wind tunnels to vacuum chambers and research hangers. 

An awesome looking view shows a single control desk with two wired phones overseeing an ultra-wide bank of technical displays. 


A nuclear-powered ship

It’s not just land-based control rooms that look awesome. Nautical ones are pretty special too. This image shows the control room of the first nuclear-powered merchant ship the NS Savannah. This is a ship that first launched in 1959 and cost a whopping $46,900,000 to develop. Incredibly $28,300,000 of that cost came from the nuclear engine and fuel for it. 

This colourful and beautiful looking control room gave the engineers access and ability to control both the nuclear reactor and the steam-powered engine plant. The NS Savannah was taken out of service in 1972, but 1991 it was designated a “National Historic Landmark” and represents a tribute to the history of nuclear power plants. 


Simferopol power plant

In the heart of Crimea, there used to be three main thermal power plants, one of which is Simferopol power plant. This image shows the control centre of that plant and the area where engineers monitored the temperature of the water entering the combined heat and power plant. 

These power stations were operating at almost full capacity recently and this has led to Russian authorities planning two new power stations in the area. 

Martin Shahbazyan / TASS photo chronicle

Metsamor nuclear power plant

Managing a nuclear power plant is obviously serious business and one that requires a lot of buttons and safety switches.

This shot shows the Metsamor nuclear power plant, based in Armenia. This power station was originally constructed in 1969 and commissioned a few years afterwards. It’s still running all these years later, though it is thought it may shut down in 2026 – if plans for a new reactor don’t come to fruition. 

We’re not quite sure why there are chefs running the show, but it’s a mighty impressive control room for sure. 


CERN control room

CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, is a fairly important body with a long and interesting history that dates back to 1954. It’s perhaps most famous for the work with the Large Hadron Collider but also plays an important part in “uncovering what the universe is made of and how it works”. 

To that end, CERN’s control room tech has to be the very best. We can only imagine the sort of things that go on here and there’s no doubt it’s incredibly impressive. 


A turbine power plant control room

Another classically beautiful and satisfying view of a control room from a Russian power plant. This one shows the control panel of a turbine powered plant with instruments and panels designed to help monitor and control the vital systems. 

Rosskam, Edwin

Waterworks control room

It’s not just nuclear power plants that require massive monitoring and all-powerful control rooms. This vision from the past was snapped in 1940 and shows the control room of the waterworks in Washington D.C. A classically satisfying bank of controls for keeping an eye on all the important systems. 


Kennedy Space Center

This shot shows the Kennedy Space Center during the 1960s. This was perhaps the most important era of space travel – at least it represented the beginning of our adventures in space.

From this room in 1969, employees of NASA watched as the Apollo 11 mission launched off through the atmosphere to take astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin to the moon. 


Chernobyl unit 3 control room

Chernobyl is one of the most well-known power plants of all time. The site of the 1986 disaster which led to a massive restricted zone in the Ukraine and the estimated deaths or ill health of as many as 93,000 people.

This view though shows the control room of unit three. There were actually multiple reactors that made up the main power plant and it was reactor four that caused the disaster. A catastrophic power increase resulted in explosions in that reactor’s core which lead to the spread of radioactive materials into the surrounding lands. This sort of disaster shows the importance of these control rooms. 

Writing by Adrian Willings.

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