It’s been a while since I’ve written anything up as I’ve been well busy and well lazy. Rather than jump straight back into tales of adventures in, on and around city infrastructure at ungodly hours of the morning, I thought it’d be nice to take a trip back down memory lane. Most societies and workplaces have a Christmas do, which normally consists of going to a venue around December to eat drink and be merry among your collegaues. The SNC is no different in this respect, and for this years annual Scottish power station Christmas outing, we had chosen the unique diamond that is (was) Inverkip powerstation.
Inverkip is/was an oil fired powerstation sat on the west coast built in the early 70s in the heyday of cheap oil. The 1973 OAPEC Oil embargo and resulting soaring price of crude basically consigned Inverkip to the fail bin, only reaching full capacity for a brief blip in the mid eighties after the miners strike cut off the UK coals supply. The huge 778ft chimney is actually the tallest thing in Scotland, but it wont be long before they blow it up and turn the whole site into a new business park and housing estate.
Im not going to pretend to understand Scottish law. Half the people say you can basically do what you like and the police can’t do anything, the others say you’ll do 3-5 if you drink the wrong kind of irn-bru. As far as Inverkip went though, we knew that the people who had been caught here had all been nicked and faced criminal proceedings, which for a uneconomical mothballed facility scheduled for demo with 4 foot holes in the walls sounds rather harsh indeed. “Ahh well”, we figured. “Lets just not get caught.”
Oh. my. fucking. days. Not a chance
After a loooonnnng drive up the M6/M74 we arrived at Wyrness bay. The snow had recently fallen and the nocturnal temperature had dropped well below zero, the icy icy wind making its way from the bay seemed to be getting into every bit of my coat that wasn’t wrapped, zipped and locked down to keep out the breeze. Bloody ‘orrible.
Slowly, and with a lot of complaining about the freezing weather, the 8 of us made out way down the road and into the woods surrounding the power station. There is a tendency when in big groups, to forget about the ridiculous situation you’re in and act as if you’re on a normal stroll through a lively bit of town on a friday night, not trying to gain access to a mothballed powerstation protected by some stupid special law. Some of us were taking this super stealth mission seriously, carefully avoiding twigs and speaking under our breath, while the others were laking a much more relaxed attitude to the whole affair.
“…put that fucking fag out dickhead, and watch the snow, you’ll make foot prints”…
“..there’s no one for miles, and if you think they’ll see this through all those bushes you’re mental. And it’s a joint anyway, want some?..”
“I’m not getting nicked because of you twathead..”
“Fucking shut up!, the pair of you!”
etc etc etc etc…
Anyway, we made the fence, jumped over and ran to the nearest bit of cover we could find. Knelt down behind a shrub, the vast expanse of the power station court yard lay stretched before us.
“Damn that looks like a long way eh?” Nothing to do but just run. And run we did.
Sprinting to the side of the building to get out of site of the cameras as quickly as possible, we skirted the outside of the main turbine hall and made out way to the smoke stack buildings, where we found a perfectly positioned ladder up to the upper gantries. The fact that this fucker had been filled with razor wire didn’t prove too much of a problem, and in no time we’d jolted up the girders and pipework and were stood on the first level of the steam outlet set. The wooden wall of the turbine hall had fallen into a pretty bad state since the place had been mothballed, and a way in through a collapsed set of boards was found in no time.
There is something I love about entering huge silent industrial spaces in the pitch black. The sounds these places make as you clank around them looking for your way, holding your torches on ultra low light to avoid being spotted from outside and disturbing pigeons left right and center make for a pretty unique atmosphere.
Anyhow, with a bit of pissing about we made it to the control room, and what a site it was. Thankfully, the electrics were still on, so we flicked the lights on and had a nosy round.
After all this excitement, we were all very very tired, and it was time for a bit of shuteye. It was still a good few hours before dawn, and a snooze seemed like the perfect way to kill some time. We all dove into our back packs and pulled out out massive 3 season sleeping bags, and bedded down.
It was at this point i noticed the Nick hadn’t sorted his sleeping bag out, but was messing about with a big sheet of tin foil.
“What. Is that?”
“I don’t need a sleeping bag man, i’ve got this survival blanket”
“…. …. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Its December in Scotland you div! You’re going to be absolutely freezing!”
“Nahh man, i’ll be fine..”
I could hear his teeth chattering all night.
I awoke around 8am, shouted to nick to confirm he’d had no sleep whatsoever, packed up my sleeping bag and made my way down the stairs to the turbine hall.
The yellow northern sun beating down through those windows was a pretty special sight indeed. Was going to be a good day this.
It’s easy to forget just how unusual it is for a person outside the select few in the electricity generation industry to glimpse the inside of a power station, let alone to have a full day mooching round at ones’ will. In the west, electricity is at the center of the vast majority of our daily work and leisure, but so few of us have seen exactly how we get it. I suppose this is due to the ultra-high security surrounding the facilities, exactly due to their central role in everything we do.
We made our way around the power station, getting to grips with how the thing worked, climbing in on and around its turbine sets, and having lunch on the roof by the big chimney.
We’d heard that access to the chimney had been sealed for a long time, but as we knew it was due for demo (and the fact we’d driven for 5 hours to get there) we had to give it a shot. Me and Gone shimmied off out across a metal girder and started trying doors, ledges and climbs up to weird upper gantries to see if we could find and in point. After being gone an hour, the lads were starting to stress a bit, but when we poked our heads back up through the hole we’d disappeared down 70 minutes previous, we had very big grins indeed.
Across this beam and down on the ground. Climb the outside of this ladder with the razor wire init to that upper pipe gantry. There is a vent there that you can climb in and climb down one story of girders on to a gantry in the flue building. From here you can make your way round, and using the ladder we found, climb up about 20 foot into the auxiliary exhauster flue and crawl along it till you get to a bit thats rusted away. You drop through the floor of the flue and can just reach a ladder you can climb down to the first chim section. You can then crawl underneath for about 20 yards until you pop up at the main stair case. Chill though, if you head round there we can open a door and you can skip all that razor wire. Right then – we ready?”
I was on top of the world. Crawling on my hands an knees through the exhaust vent of a power station, about to get up the highest thing in Scotland. Just goes to show, people will say things aren’t doable all the time but there is ALWAYS a way.
I won’t lie.. It was pretty knackering getting to the top. The chimney at Inverkip actually consisted of 4 chimneys with a sectioned staircase running up the middle. Staircase after staircase after staircase after staircase, breathing in more and more fibreglass insulation with every foot we ascended. Eventually, we got to a rusty ladder at the end of the last section. We popped the lid and hopped out to a gorgeous northern sunset over the bay.
We watched the sunset, finished off our lucozade, and headed back down for some deep fried haggis, chips and the long drive back to civilisation.
Good trip lads!
oh yeah – we also filmed this : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJMIUYkHwOc
Got to start taking this shit more seriously.