ICI Nobel Explosives Part IV

Another visit back to the enormous Ardeer site, this time to have a look around the wooded area that contained the gunpowder works. First, though, I passed through the nitroglycerin section – it’s a bizarre landscape of steep hills, tunnels, berms and these corrugated-iron blast walls:

Nitroglycerin was transported along open lead-lined troughs – it just ran down under gravity as pumping it would be a really bad idea. In the above picture you can see the remains of a bridge which carried the NG over a train line – and some of the wooden trough supports are still in place:

Right, onto the blackpowder works, and an incorporating mill (I think):

Next, in a very heavy-duty bunker with camouflage netting still in place, a huge hydraulic press, probably used for pressing gunpowder cake before incorporation.

Onto a powder magazine – there used to be dozens of these, each inside it’s own berm, but the lightly-built buildings have mostly gone leaving only the ring of soil. This one, unusually, was still intact, and even had the markings on the floor where boxes were stacked.

Next, the testing station, and the detonator labs – there were shoes scattered everywhere. In explosive factories, workers wore rubber or leather overshoes to prevent sparks.

Onto the ballistic mortars – I’ve photographed these before, but I can never get enough of these:

A new find, though, crammed in the back of a drawer – a slide-rule for working out the power of an explosive from the angle of the ballistic mortar.

In one room of the labs is box after box of glass plates – most are not that interesting (high-speed images of explosions) but some are very cool – with a portable lightbox I went through every box. A few examples:

Nearby, a detonator and a set of warning flags.

Then a long walk northwards to investigate some crescent-shaped buildings on the satellite view – they turn out to be test-firing cells. The first one is for testing rocket motors.

The next one, I think, was for testing quarrying charges – this was a plastic tip of a charge.

Finally onto a building I’m not sure about – it’s got a blast wall on three sides but the fourth is lightly built, it has what could be presses in it, driven by belts in a narrow chamber behind the wall.

Go to the next installment…

All images:


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