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Inchindown Fuel Depot

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Main portal
Main portal
© Mike Ross

Inchindown fuel depot lies in the hills some four miles north of Invergordon, and was constructed in the period 1939-1942, during World War II, as a bombproof fuel oil store for the Royal Navy, and was connected by pipeline to the Royal Navy dockyard, fuel depot, and port facility at Invergordon. The depot was also referred to as Inchindoun, and the Inchindown Admiralty Underground Storage Depot.

Reports indicate that five such stores were constructed around the country at the time: Inchindown, Copenacre, Hartham Park, Monk's Park and Portsdown. Had the German Navy blockaded Britain's ports, these depots would have been called on to provide fuel for the Royal Navy.

Secondary portal
Secondary portal
© Mike Ross

The depots stored Furnace Fuel Oil (FFO): Medium viscosity, boiler NATO Code No: F-82; Joint Service Designation: 75/50 FFO. FFO is basically the residue left behind after the fractional distillation of crude oil, and resembles treacle when at room temperature. Phased out by the Royal Navy in favour of diesel fuel in the late 1970s, it was last used by Leander class frigates, Falklands veteran aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, and the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Tomich pump house, 2008
Tomich pump house
© Anne Burgess

While the depot could rely on gravity to carry fuel from the depot to the Royal Navy fuel depot at Invergordon, the reverse trip required the use pumps for the uphill journey, and a major pumping station was installed at Tomich, together with two minor stations, one halfway along the A9 Tomich Road, and the other where the pipeline crossed Scotsburn Road.

Not found on the Portsdown pipeline, the more northerly Inchindown pipeline had electrical heaters fitted at intervals of around 200 yards along its four mile length, to reduce the oil's viscosity and improve its flow.

The fuel depot

Acces tunnel
Lined access tunnel
© Mike Ross

Externally, there is little to reveal the location of the depot, although the view from the track at Inchindown Farm has improved since the surrounding trees were felled in 2006. The main entrance portal lies to the south west, near a covered reservoir. To the east of this portal, a small building housing an electricity substation remains, complete with its camouflage paint scheme still intact, and is still in service. At the northeast end of the access track, the smaller secondary access portal is hidden from view by trees and undergrowth.

Please note that this site has a private owner, and is both locked and secure. Serious visitors should consult Mike Ross's site regarding access, and not jeopardise the goodwill of the owner.

Interior

The depot contains six storage cells, five being 237 metres long and 9 metres tall/wide (roughly 800 feet long and 30 feet tall/wide), holding up to 5.6 million gallons, and a smaller sixth tank, 170 metres long. The first tank carries a plaque commemorating the date February MCMXLI (1941). The access tunnels are a mixture of lined (from the portals), and unlined construction at the rear of the cells, where the access panels are located.

According to a report describing the cleaning of the cells in 2003, the larger main portal served as the piping tunnel. During the same works, the secondary was found to have suffered rockfall in three areas.

Tank access ports
Tank access ports
© Mike Ross

Minutes of a council meeting held in 2005 (being discussed in 2006) described the Seabank Tank Farm (the fuel storage tanks at the Invergordon end of the pipeline) as a "blight on the community", preventing lucrative land and housing development, while another speaker queried its use as a Highland fuel distribution centre. No conclusion was reported in the minutes.

Invergordon Naval Museum and Heritage Centre has further information regarding the depot.

All images of the depot used to illustrate this page are courtesy of Mike Ross / http://www.corestore.org who carried out the main survey, and we are grateful for permission to use them. High resolution versions may be accessed from his Inchindown site, listed in the Links below.

External links

Related Canmore/RCAHMS and ScotlandsPlaces (SP) entries:-

 

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Aerial views


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