|The Black Powder Mill History|
The following text was provided to us by the Friends of The Black Powder Mill.
The Black Powder Mill
The Black Powder Mill, Building Number 745, built in 1942, is the only surviving building of around about 400 buildings of the Albion Explosives Factory, formerly a significant and important defence production facility.
The Mill Machinery
A unique safety-related design
The Black Powder Mill is a small triangular building. Its peculiar design is intriguing. It has two massive concrete walls and a third timber frame wall facing Kororoit Creek. In the event of an explosion the blast and fragments would be directed towards the creek away from the rest of the production facility and those working there in. The internal walls are of malthoid or other non-friction materials. All internal gaps and joints were taped and sealed. Only approved tools were permitted in the building and these were accounted for by use of a detailed shadow board.
Black Powder may also be known as Gunpowder or Fuze Powder. These are all essentially the same material - an intimate mixture of saltpetre (potassium nitrate), sulphur and charcoal. The black colour comes from the charcoal. Gunpowder has been used in China since the 12th century. It has been produced in Europe in plants similar to this from the 16th Century. In Australia, early usage was on the goldfields and in other mining, quarrying and construction work.
Stages of manufacture
Preparation of raw materials
Fuze Powders, the main product from the Albion Black Powder Mill, were used in time fuzes in artillery ammunition, bombs, and mines. These were set by using trains of compressed gunpowder in adjustable rings. Innovative experimental work conducted on the site used Australian timbers to produce the charcoal, instead of the more difficult to obtain imported timbers.
Albion Explosives Factory
The Albion Explosives Factory, was a key element in Australias munitions industry from 1939 to 1986. Originally built on farming land as No 5 Explosives Factory for the Commonwealth by ICIANZ Ltd, it covered over 500 hectares and employed approximately 1500 people during World War Two and then up to 350 in peacetime. During the World War Two, it produced large quantities of TNT and nitroglycerine-based cordites, as well as a wide range of various armament chemicals. Significant amounts of Fuze Powder were produced at the Black Powder Mill.
The Albion factory was closed in 1986, mainly because of residential and community pressure resulting from the development of the surrounding suburbs and to achieve a reduction in operating costs by combining the production processes with those already existing at the Mulwala Facility in southern NSW.