The great dynamite factory at Ardeer in Scotland, the
largest of its kind, is one of the most picturesque places in the world.
Considering the unique and dramatic conditions that prevail amongst its
workers, the neglect of Ardeer hitherto by novelists and dramatists is
surprising. This may be due, however, to the fact that it is exceedingly
a stranger to obtain access to the factory, while, once inside, the
surroundings are rather trying to sensitive nerves. For six hours a day and
two days in succession your life depends, at every moment, upon a
It is being draw off from large porcelain taps like ale, poured into boxes, and rattled along tramways. In the form of dynamite, it is being rubbed with great force through brass sieves, jammed into cartridges, and flung into boxes; and in the form of blasting gelatin, it is being torn by metal rods, forced through sausage machines, and cut, wrapped, and tossed into hoppers - all these processes proceeding as rapidly as if it were ordinary olive-oil instead of the deadliest explosion known to man.
All around you are big cotton mills and storehouses as full of fleecy, white cotton as ordinary cotton mills and storehouses, but every pinch of the cotton, still white and fleecy, has been nitrated into gun-cotton, and would suffice, if explode, to cut you off in the beauty of your youth. Death instantaneous and pulverizing, encircles you, in fact, by the ton; but the man and the thermometer surround you also. The man’s eyes never leaves the instrument.
Both are chosen for their perfect reliability; and endless precautions, innumerable rules, and the strictest discipline maintain Ardeer in a state of busy and peaceful security, and prevent it from being scattered periodically over the calm blue sea that widens endlessly on one side, or the hungry brown acres of Scotland which stretch away to the horizon on the other.
From the top of one of the Nitroglycerin hills the factory looks like an
enormous and eccentric landscape garden. In every direction rise green
embankments, square, conical, or diamond-shaped, from fourteen to seventy
feet in height, and covered with long rank grass. Many of them are faced
with corrugated iron, and look like high fences. From the top of each mound
peeps the red canvas roof of a white wooden house – a house within a hill –
which is from one to four stories in height. Every explosive structure is
surrounded by artificial banks, so that in the event of an accident all the
others will be protected from concussion or flying fragments.
Tunnels through the banks open everywhere. Tramways and lines of pipes on trestles cross each other diversely. This is the "Danger Area," the wide expanse in which the explosives are made and moved about. It is surrounded in an irregular semicircle by fourteen large groups of structures, from which rise fourteen large chimney-stacks.
If you would like to discuss this join our forum and share your ideas...