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Ministry of Supply Factory, Dalbeattie -
 View of Nitration Hills, Unit 2 (Edingham)

Ministry of Supply Factory, Dalbeattie
World War II Cordite Works

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Guncotton Unloading Station :-

Key Points :-

  • Surviving example beside Platform in Unit 1 (Southwick) Goods Yard.
  • Open-plan block with veranda for Narrow Gauge bogie railway.
  • Large doors to unloading platform on Goods Yard.
  • Floored with gritless acid-resistant asphalt.
  • Safety lighting in walls.
  • Station office adjacent.
  • Similar building existed in Unit 2 but only the platformside wall and platform remain.

Unit 1 Guncotton Unloading Station - exterior
Unit 1 Guncotton Unloading Station


Guncotton Unloading Station :

The single-storey building with acid-resistant flooring beside the Unit 1 Goods Yard presents a serious problem. It is obviously designed to avoid the risk of sparks whilst unloading something presumably dry and probably inflammable or explosive, but it is also close to potential sources of ignition. Its size would be appropriate to the Guncotton Unloading Station, as would the evidence from the Acid Plant that trains from M/S Factory Dumfries at Drungans did unload other raw materials there.

The platform wall of the Unit 2 example also survives, but the remaining structure has been replaced by storage areas formerly for Stelrad and now for Milk Link.

Archaeological Details of the presumed Guncotton Unloading Station :

The Unit 1 Guncotton Unloading Station do have their original layout. Large double doors opened onto a concrete platform. Inside was a two-room open-plan area with acid resistant gritless asphalt floor and safety lighting. On the far side of the building was a veranda similar to those in the Cordite Milling and Stoving Houses, with a low platform for loading the bags of guncotton onto Narrow Gauge railway bogies. The sleepers of the railway are set into concrete and would match a 2' 3" or 2' 6" gauge system.

To the northeast of the Unloading Station there is a small building that appears to be the offices and toilets of the Station. It is probable that the paperwork for goods unloaded from the Goods Yard would be checked centrally. It is also possible that this is where staff with Guncotton duties would have changed into overalls and felt slippers for the unloading of Guncotton and other explosives.

Unit 1 Guncotton Unloading Station - Narrow Gauge bogie platform
Unit 1 Guncotton Unloading Station - Narrow Gauge bogie platform
Unit 1 Guncotton Unloading Station - Platform and Goods Yard
Unit 1 Guncotton Unloading Station - Platform and Goods Yard
Unit 1 Guncotton Unloading Station - Interior of Station
Unit 1 Guncotton Unloading Station - Interior of Station

Possible Interpretations :

The building is self-evidently intended to safely transfer some dry or semi-dry explosive or inflammable substance from railway goods wagons to local and brief storage, then after checking, to transport them on the 2 foot 6 inches narrow gauge site railway to processing or storage. The same care is taken with regard to shock and ignition as is found during the Stoving and Drying of the finished cordite.

The only materials that match the requirements are :-

  • Nitrocellulose (guncotton) from M/S Factory Dumfries for incorporation into cordite. Allan Barber of Dupont Teijin Dumfries has confirmed that the Guncotton was shipped in a damp state in bags with waterproof liners. This would have prevented dust from forming that could be ignited by friction or a spark.
  • Nitroguanidine from another source, incorporated in the cordite as an anti-flash and anti-corrosion agent.

Nitroguanidine would have arrived in comparatively small quantities, so one is led to Nitrocellulose as the principle material for which the building was intended.

Guncotton Storage and Alternative Delivery Point :

The main problem with the presumed Unloading Station is that the location is beside other inflammable processes such as the Acetone Plant and is near the Canteen, instead of being safely separated. The better alternative might have been the Cordite Loading Station south of Unit 2 and with access to two areas of magazines or storage buildings. This is discussed in more detail in that page.

Field surveys of Unit 1 near the NG Hill (Nitroglycerine Section) have revealed two fairly extensive embanked structures that may be The Guncotton Expense Magazines for the Burette Houses. If this is correct, then the Unit 1 Guncotton Unloading Rooms would only have been a short trip away by Narrow Gauge bogie.

Further information and research is needed to resolve this problem. Carsegowan Black Powder Factory (M/S Factory Carsegowan) had a Loading Station between its two production units, but Dennis Sawden's booklet on that Factory indicates that it was preferred for the gunpowder to be removed by steam train from sidings further away. With delivery of all raw materials to the Goods Yards, it is possible that the Unloading Station were indeed used for their design purpose, as damp Guncotton may have been considered safe to handle.

Station Office :

This small building between the Guncotton Unloading Station and the nearer Store has offices and toilets but few other indicators of its function. However, it is centrally located for administering the unloading of goods of all kinds and is most likely to be the staff changing area for those working in the Guncotton Unloading Station and the Station Office for the paperwork and administration of delivered or returned goods into the station complex.

The most notable internal features are the toilets and a Fire Point that had a Stirrup Pump and Fire Buckets.

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© 2006 Richard Edkins, Dalbeattie Internet.