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Aluminium Works, Kinlochleven

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Comments (9)


Miles Oglethorpe, RCAHMS staff

Aluminium is not an industry for which Scotland is generally known, but in fact it was one of the most important manufacturing centres in the world during the 20th century. The earliest smelter was at Foyers on Loch Ness, which was established by the British Aluminium Co (BAC) in 1895.

The Kinlochleven smelter was completed by the BAC in 1909, generating the necessary hydro-electricity from water stored behind the Blackwater Dam. Much of the associated concrete infrastructure was built by Robert McAlpine (Concrete Bob), not long after the completion of the West High Railway's iconic mass concrete viaducts.

At the heart of the Kinlochleven plant is a power station (depicted here), within which there is a sequence of DC generators (built in 1907), each driven by Pelton wheels. The smelter operated until 1995, after which the power station was converted to produce electricity for the national grid.

The smelter was famous for the purity of its aluminium ingots.

11th June, 12:15 am

Tina Mckellar, Dumbarton

my dad worked in the smelter for many years. i also worked hear for a short time n loved it. i was verry sad to hear it had closed. i remember looking at old photoes from when it first oppened n before half the village was built.

7th January, 10:28 am

harry collins, glasgow

George Mc Quilken, I may have given the impression that I did not like Kinlochleven, but I must admit it had a lot going for it, especially the social life. being picked up outside the Tartan on a Friday night then whisked away on a bus to wee local halls for a dance. Helping to clean??? the Canteen on Sunday maybe buying a few drinks on the side. You would have been disappointed when you left the Factory at the working conditions you found as the Plant had the best conditions I`ve every worked under. I mostly remember my mate from Coe village, he was a giant of a man an ex-commando from Newcastle, who married a local girl after the war. He was full of good advise , which I completely ignored and wasted most of my good wages on drink.

5th December, 3:39 pm

GEORGE MC QUILKEN, KITCHENER ONTARIO CANADA

I SERVED MY APPRENTICESHIP IN THIS FACTORY IN THE EARLY 60S BEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE IN MY LIFE. WAS BORN IN THE VILLAGE IN THE MID 40S GODS COUNTRY.

3rd November, 10:49 am

harry collins, glasgow

At the side entrance to this Hall, connecting to the furnaces area, there was a 6 foot diameter wooden dial that was marked off in ft., and during dry spells, the furnace operators would come to check it before starting their shift, as it showed the height of water in the Blackwater reservoir, and, if the pointer dropped to a marked height, then they would be laid off and the furnaces banked. There was never any shortage of rain the 10 months I spent in Kinlochleven, though I was informed by long-time employees, that when the pointer reached the mark it fell rapidly.

28th October, 12:54 pm

harry collins, scotland

I worked in this plant for a few months in 1959, and was offered the job as maintenance fitter in this power house . the job entailed 24 hour coverage ,and the old chap that held the job pleaded with me to take it as he was 72 years old and desperate to retire. Kinlochleven in those days didn`t get their Sunday news papers until late Sunday afternoon; that`s how remote it was! but if I had taken the job, it would have been the only firm I could have spent my life working for as it closed on my 65 year. Every other firm I`ve work for has closed, and I`ve worked for quite a few, some in New Zealand.

23rd October, 12:07 pm

Mark Watson, Edinburgh

The power station and associated water system has been "saved" in that it now has been adapted to feed into the national grid. And the carbon bunkers are now the "Ice Factor" climbing wall, helping to regenerate Kinlochleven.

Scottish Industrial Heritage Society visited in the 1980s

2nd October, 4:22 pm

Miles Oglethorpe, Edinburgh

Yes, this is a superb specimen certainly does demonstrate the scale of electrical generating plant, but the great thing is that it dates from 1907, when the first units came into operation. Further north near Fort William, the Lochaber smelter's power house does date from the 1930s, is still operating, and is truly magnificent.

28th September, 12:29 pm

John Burnie, Dunfermline

There is nothing like this elsewhere in Scotland. All main electricity generating stations either have modern electrical equipment or are closed and demolished.

The imposing size and date (1930s) of this turbine/generating hall make it a superb site for understanding the necessary scale of electrical generating plant. It must be saved!

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Region: Highlands

This photograph was taken by RCAHMS in 1991

Votes: 11

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