M/S Factory Dalbeattie Electricity Substations ...
The five major service requirements for the cordite factory were railway access, water, coal for generating steam for
process heating and electrical power for lighting and motor power. The other three were manifest, but electricity supply
was less obvious and harder to identify. Two unidentified structures unsuitable for transport, shelter or storage,
existed in Unit 1 opposite the site of the Boiler House, so it was several months before the accumulation of evidence
and site visits threw light on the structures.
The revelation came with a visit to the Milk Link works (formerly the Stelrad Radiator Factory) in Edingham Industrial
Estate by the writer and Matthew Taylor on 13th July 2006. It was found that a mapped structure externally similar to the
one across the goods yard from the Unit 1 (Southwick) Boiler House, was in use by Scottish Power. The main sub-station
had been noticed in the adjacent field south of the former railway line. With this in mind, the Unit 1 structure was
Archaeological Evidence for the Electricity Substations :
The structure was not entered until 25th July 2006 but it revealed the following layout :-
- A basic rectangular brick structure with a sectional concrete roof and L-shape blast walls covering the doorways.
- Five chambers, one large one with ventilators and wide floor cable or drain channels at the front, two smaller
one flanking it, two larger rear chambers ones facing them and the passages into the main front chamber.
- Low concrete bases for large and heavy mechanical or electrical equipment were visible in the rear chambers.
- The western rear chamber had the remains of two timber racks with three wall-mounted distribution pipes running up to ceiling
level, presumably for gas bottles.
- Cableways into and out of the structure were not positively identified, but the main chamber did have a large cast iron
fusebox for the domestic electrical supply of the building.
Interpretation of the Features in the Electricity Substations :
Taking the interpretation of the Unit 2 structure as an electrical sub-station, that drew the writer to consider the
features seen within the Unit 1 equivalent. The bottle-rack could be for an early-model Halon, Nitrogen or Carbon Dioxide
fire-suppression system, whilst the bases could be for transformers. The front chamber might be for switchgear routing
power within the works. The massive enclosed construction in effect gave the substation equipment protection from anything
but a direct hit by an aircraft bomb. The writer has not previously identified any wartime substation, but this sensible
'hardening' of the electricity supply would have beenessential in wartime.
The location of the Substation near the Boiler House may have been provisional during early site design for two reasons :-
- Both Boiler House and Substation were a fire hazard that had to be kept clear of the Guncotton Station and the
Acetone Plant, both vulnerable to fires.
- Some munitions works had installed electrical generation capacity as a backup to external electrical power supplies.
In that case, putting the Substation near the Boiler House integrated the power service. However, the remoteness of
Dalbeattie and the excellent power supply from Tongland hydroelectric station near Kirkcudbright would have made a
coal-fired power station uneconomic.
Scottish Power are being contacted to check the information and to ensure that they did not take over a structure with
a different use.
Other Electrical Power Transformers in the Factory :
The site has a number of signs and a few structures indicating that small step-down transformers, pole-mounted, on
concrete bases, or possibly inside small buildings, were in use throughout the Factory. Unfortunately, wooden poles,
copper-filled transformers and copper power cables, are attractive for re-use or scrapping. It is possible that some older
equipment standing in the perimeter of the former Stelrad works date from the 1945-1960s Royal Navy Armament Depot, but
to prove this would need an historian of industrial electrical power supplies.
The Unit 1 Pre-War Substation :
A very fertile visit by Mr. Christopher Edkins, the writer's uncle, brought a fresh mind to the problem. He noticed a
telegraph-pole stay actually built into the rail-side wall of the possible substation to the east of the protected wartime
substation. In addition, he realised that the four walls had each been deliberately built with central 'splits'; this would
have given strength to resist an external explosion such as that of a near-miss by an aircraft bomb, but an internal
explosion would have felled one or more of the wall-sections. This and the concrete pad base beside the odd screen wall
argue that a large and very powerful transformer was there before the war. The site had to be hurriedly protected from
damage. A sign beside the south (rail-side) wall for the Stewartry Power Company also indicated that it was a civil and not
a factory structure. The trackside factory fence actually bends inwards to allow the barbed wire fence-brackets to be mounted
at the wall-top. It is suspected that the local power supply for Southwick may have crossed the railway at this point as
there is the stump of a telegraph pole and two stays on the south side of the main line, directly opposite the now-wrecked