#242 – Loch Long Torpedo Testing Station

For a good period of my career, I worked in a compact disc manufacturing plant. Thanks to continuous investment, the factory was arguably a world class facility with excellent yields, excellent quality and the capacity and expertise to be highly responsive to customer demands. Despite all this, it closed in 2009. CD’s were rapidly becoming an obsolete technology, with consumers and record labels turning to the massively more convenient downloads.

That’s the thing with technology, it’s constantly evolving. Such was the fate of the Arrochar Torpedo Testing Range. Opened in 1912, it was ideally situated close to the Clyde naval bases and the Admiralty torpedo factories at Greenock and later Alexandria.

By the time it closed in 1986 (ironically, around the time the first CD’s were being pressed at my former employers), torpedo technology had moved on and were capable of operating in greater depths than afforded by Loch Long, and were not restricted to going in straight lines. In short, the geography of the area played against it.

Although I visit Scotland regularly, I didn’t get the chance to visit this place until 2009, two years after demolition had started (and then stopped). We were staying further down the Loch in one of those Victorian pseudo-castles so beloved of Victorian industrialists and financiers who had pretensions of being a country gent. Excusing myself for a couple of hours, I hot-footed it down to the top of Loch Long, although this took twice as long as envisaged due to the fact that Loch Long is a) long – hence the name, and b) surrounded by narrow, badly maintained, and windy roads.

Still it was an uncharacteristically sunny day, and by Scottish standards, quite warm. Set against the backdrop of the green Arrochar hills and still waters of the Loch, this was without doubt the most idyllic explore I’ve ever done. Sure there have been other rural explores, but the barren, windswept moorland around Grove Rake was not comparable to this.

Although the site was well fenced off, as you would expect of a former military installation, a wander round the beach and under the pier enabled me to get on site easily, once I’d figured out where the gaps in the fence were. As always,if at first you don’t succeed, go round the back for a look.

The place had been partially, actually, mostly demolished. It looked like the demolition contractors had stopped for the night, and then just lost interest and took their machines home. The control room at the end of the pier had been torched a year or so before, and while probably accessible if I’d been minded to, the idea of picking my way through a fire damaged building twenty or so feet above water was not that appealing.

Reading up on the excellent online history of the place here, helped give some context to the remaining features. All in all an interesting way to pass a spare hour or so.

Slipway up to the sheds. The rails would indicate that whatever was being pulled up (or down) would have been on a cradle, and as the gauge is quite wide, I’m guessing it was for a boat.

Looking south down the Loch. The burnt out remains of the control room can be seen at the end of the pier.

This remains one of my favourite urbex photos.

Not so much a narrow gauge railway as a method of moving torpedoes round the place on their cradles.

A half arsed job of demolition.

Winch for what I’m guessing was the boathouse.

View of the pier from the other side. Not sure why they left some of the buildings partially intact during demolition.

Looking throuigh the locked gates to the burnt out end of the pier.

The timbers of the pier were substantial and in good condition.

Opposite the site, were a number of old prefabricated houses, I think these were for visitors or admiralty personnel on secondment.

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