Imperial Chemical Industries

Location type


Names and dates

British Dynamite Company (1871-1877)
Nobel Explosives (1877-1926)
Imperial Chemical Industries (1926-)


This was a major explosives and chemical factory.

The site was developed by Alfred Nobel who developed Dynamite, a stable version of Nitroglycerine. Nitroglycerine was used in the quarrying and construction industries but was difficult and dangerous to transport. This was not Nobel's first works, but building it in Britain, the product was exported all over empire and beyond. Due to the inherent dangers in the manufacture, the site at Ardeer was chosen for the sand dunes, remoteness and also chosen for the ready access to the coast.

At its outset this works developed close to the Lucknow Pit, served by a siding from the Ardeer Iron Works. Initially it consisted of a single 'hill'. Here Nitroglycerine was mixed with Diatomite (Kieselguhr) to create a more stable product which could be shipped at considerably less risk.

Diatomite was sourced via the Lealt Valley Diatomite Railway on Skye (after 1886) and the Monandavan Diatomite Works near Dinnet in Aberdeenshire. Sulphuric acid was delivered to the site from the Westquarter Chemical Works, (near Polmont), which were later absorbed by the company.

The site expanded; blasting gelatine was made from 1879, a second 'hill' and a nitrocotton and gelignite plant were added in 1881, a third 'hill' in 1882, ballistite plant and branch from the Glasgow and South Western Railway in 1887, guncotton in 1892 and cordite in 1895 and three further 'hills' by 1900. A private station was built in 1896.

One of the best records of the site is provided, ironically, by the Luftwaffe reconnaissance photographs. Ardeer was characterised by the Luftwaffe as being divided into three type of area;

Ardeer Peninsular;
Type 1. central area explosives processing, large factory buildings (filling stations), boiler and power houses with chimneys.
Type 2. all surrounding areas, except far north east part bordering River Garnock, were explosives depots. 170 ammunication stores with blast walls.
Type 3. far north east bordering River Garnock. Warehouses, 31 buildings.

Type 2. southern portion of site, with bridge across River Garnock to another type 2 area on Ardeer Peninsular.
Type 3. northern portion of site, with second bridge across River Garnock to another type 3 area on Ardeer Peninsular.

Much of the Ardeer site is out of use and the Snodgrass site is abandoned. Both are included in redevelopment plans.

A Nylon factory was established at the north west part of the site in 1969 and closed around 1981.

For details of traffic see Nobel Exchange Sidings.


Nobel Prize - Alfred Nobel in Scotland




03/09/1939Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway
With the outbreak of war regular Boat Trains cease. The line, with its local stations closed, was to become an important railway during World War Two. It served the Nobel Explosives and several munitions depots, and carried ambulance trains ('Ghost trains') at night.