Ravenscraig Pumping Station
Ravenscraig pumping station lay on the northern bank of the River Clyde, to the south of the town of Motherwell, and extracted cooling water from the river, which was then pumped uphill to the Ravenscraig steel works.
The pumping station lay to the south of an area known as Muirhouse, located adjacent to a weir at the end of a gated track which follows the boundary between Easterbraes Plantation and Adders' Gill Wood. The weir acted to provide a reservoir from which the water could be drawn without the water level falling below the inlet to the pumps.
Examination of old survey maps for the area has revealed that this was not the first pumping station to occupy the site, with the 1913 map showing a pumping station there, together with the Lanarkshire County Council Sewage Purification Works, a few metres to the east of Adders' Gill Wood.
The later station used to be visible from the M74 motorway when the steel works was in existence, but was noted to have disappeared from view some years after the steel works was closed, and examination of later aerial views appears to confirm that the station to have been demolished and cleared from the side of the river.
Ravenscraig was finally closed in 1992, and the pumping station appears to have been removed as part of the clearance and recovery of the site. The integrated iron and steel works started in 1954, and the steel mill, which was built shortly after, was one of four in the United Kingdom. When it closed down, the plant had one of the longest continuous casting, hot rolling, steel production facilities in the world.
The pumping station was remotely controlled from a control room in the steel works, and contained four huge centrifugal pumps, driven by matching electric motors.
Control system upgrade
Shortly before the plant closed, the control gear was updated, and replaced by modern thyristor control systems incorporating microprocessors. This presumably replaced an original older star-delta system which would have been used to start the very large motors fitted to the pumps. The new controller used firing angles or times stored in pre-programmed memory chips to control the thyristors, and allowed the motors to be soft-started. This procedure means that power is applied to motors gradually, allowing them to start slowly and build up to running speed, and avoids the high stresses, loads, and power consumption arising if power is simply applied directly to the stationery motors. Unfortunately, a programming error meant the wrong values were stored in the memory chips at the factory, and rather than starting smoothly, when the motors were energised, they simply shook and vibrated, while their isolators were overloaded and their contact began to smoke.
Attempting to test run the system in order to locate the fault was best described as exciting, as the automatic control had no local over-ride, and power had to be applied and removed by the control room in the main plane, in response to land-line requests. Those working at the station had to attach their test equipment and then retire behind the brick walls separating them from the control gear and motors, as the ground shook and the noise from the control cabinets suggesting that something might blow itself apart. Tests only lasted for a few seconds before the noise and vibration became excessive, and those present had to trust the operators in the control room were paying attention, and would shut off the power as soon as the order was shouted down the land-line.
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