THE INCHINDOWN TUNNELS

Highland Story
Hidden beneath the Hills near Invergordon is the fantastic place known locally as the Tunnel.

Built between 1938 and 1941 for use during World War Two, the Inchindown oil storage facility comprises six monstrous tanks – 778ft long, 30ft wide and 44ft high.

The now-empty tanks are accessible by two tunnels – providing you can stomach the stench of oil vapour while navigating your way through complete darkness.

The purpose of the storage depot was to provide a vast bomb-proof reserve supply of furnace oil for the warships of the home fleet.

There were many battleships, carriers, and cruisers at that time, and they consumed thousands of tons of oil.

With war looming, the huge above-ground tanks constructed at Invergordon in 1913 were vulnerable to air attack.

Construction at Inchindown, along with the four miles of the trench for the large diameter oil pipes to the pier, provided much-needed work in the area at a time of high unemployment.

A camp for travelling workmen was built at nearby Castle Dobie.

The workmen from local towns and villages cycled to the site, not a pleasant journey in the severe winters of that time.

The trench from Inchindown to Invergordon was dug by hand – there was no JCBs at that time.

Inside the Tunnel, the work was dangerous and unhealthy.

There were no safety helmets in those days, but paper masks were issued.

Some of the workers contracted lung and chest problems and were unable to work in later years.

It is believed that there were some fatalities and other men injured by rockfalls.

There was little in the way of health and safety measures in those days.

Some of the workers contracted lung and chest problems and were unable to work in later years.

It is believed that there were some fatalities and other men injured by rockfalls.

There was little in the way of health and safety measures in those days.

The rock excavated from the Tunnel was taken to a tip at the foot of the hill by a small railway.

Inchindown consists of six caverns or cells excavated in the rock together with two access tunnels.

Each cell is 237 metres long x 9.14 metres x 13 metres and has a capacity of 5.6 million gallons.

The cells are separated by 15 metre thick walls of intact rock and lined with an 18-inch thick layer of concrete.

The above-ground tanks at Seabank were bombed in February 1941 by a low-flying German aircraft.

Fortunately, only one tank, no. 13, was hit, causing the thick black oil to flood the railway station and temporarily disrupt railway services.

A bomb was also dropped at a farm near the pipeline to Inchindown, killing a sheep.

Following this, the fuel tanks were protected by thick blast-proof brick walls, with large numbers of bricklayers being engaged on this task.

After the war, fewer naval ships used the Cromarty Firth, and not so much fuel oil was required, although oil continued to be stored at Inchindown until 1982.

By then, the Tunnel had served its purpose and was sold off.

This little known site, together with the Seabank and Cromlet oil tanks, played no small part in the war at sea by providing the fighting ships of the fleet with the fuel they needed to perform their duties during the difficult years of World War 2.

It really is a fantastic place and should be opened up regularly to allow people to see the Tunnel etc.

Now the Tunnel lies still but has one other fact to its Name.

The Inchindown Tunnel holds the World Record for the Longest Echo ever recorded.

A Brilliant Video well worth a watch is a documentary that follows film photographers Simon Riddell and David Allen as they try to turn an underground WWII oil storage facility in the Scottish Highlands into what may be the world’s largest darkroom.

This project also involved the two photographers sleeping in the tunnels overnight until they could come out with a 120cm gelatin silver fibre print. Tired, overcoming obstacle after obstacle, in a less-than-ideal location for darkroom printing, Simon and Dave wondered if this whole thing was a wrong decision. One-Shot: features a music score by Inchindown local Lucie Treacher, and sound effects captured on-location by sound space acoustic researchers and architects Mathias Klenner and Sophia Balbontin from Chile.

It also features the only comprehensive tour of the facility ever filmed.

Location

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