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Report - Barnton Quarry Bunker, Edinburgh - May-November 2010

Discussion in 'Other Sites' started by Jaffy, Dec 2, 2010.

  1. Jaffy

    Jaffy 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    May 4, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Okay, so this is my first site report and I apologise that this isn't an account of a single visit, but a compilation of 3 visits to the same place! Twice in May 2010, once in November.

    Barnton quarry bunker is located just just to the west of Edinburgh city centre and is actually two separate facilities built side-by-side. The upper (older) section was built during the second world war and served as an Operations Room for the RAF and is relatively intact. The second bunker was built in the 1950s and was one of 6 ROTOR 'Sector Operation Command' posts, designed to process radar data and pinpoint incoming aircraft. The bunker is one of 4 R4 style bunkers built in the UK and was designed to withstand a nuclear attack.

    When the ROTOR system became obsolete in the 1960s, the lower bunker was then converted to a Regional Seat of Power, a secure location for high ranking members of Scottish Parliament to be transported to in the event of a war breaking out. The bunker was fitted with a BBC room for broadcasts to be transmitted should the country fall into crisis, as well as a rather sizeable telecommunications centre.

    The bunker was sold to a property developer in the 1980s with intentions to demolish the site and build a housing estate in the quarry. The site was put back on the market in 1992, and in 1993 the whole of the lower bunker was incinerated by a group of vandals, releasing a healthy dose of asbestos into the air(*). This bunker is a major health risk, even 17 years down the line, so I implore anyone who is looking to visit the site to look into asbestos and prepare accordingly! (P3/PP3 masks and disposable overalls)

    (*) Just as an interesting aside; between 1987 and 1992, a series of new laws were brought into effect regarding the handling and disposal of asbestos in constructions. I've spoken with my father over this and while I don't fancy point fingers arbitrarily, if it had been me in possession of the bunker, I would have had a hard time debating whether or not it was worth paying for the asbestos to be removed safely or to just cut my losses and try to claim on the insurance. This is all just speculation of course, but there are just a few things that I found in there that made me wonder about the nature of the fire.

    As you can probably tell from most of these, I'm an amateur photographer, so some of these are indeed a little arty-farty. I hope this isn't a problem for this board, but I think they really capture the essence of this place, as I'm sure those of you who have been will agree!

    So here's the outside of the bunker in all its glory! I didn't realise quite how easy it was to reach at first, so I found myself stood at the top of the quarry wall wondering how to get down!

    After a little bit of feeling foolish, we found a much more suitable entrance: the front gate.

    In May, the only way into the bunker was through this hole here. Since then, the owners of the Secret Bunker in Fife have come along and sealed it up. Trust me, there's no getting in this way now.

    Just a few metres into the bunker is the old canteen area. From here you can see quite clearly into the now flooded plotting room. It seems even the best bunkers aren't leak-proof!

    These are the stairs down to the plotting room, while plenty of people are mad enough to brave the asbestos-filled lower levels; I'm glad to see that these tyres haven't moved in the 6 months between visits. God only knows what ailments await anyone who steps into that mire.

    This is the view from the officers' mess across the plotting room. I would just like to point out to anyone who has not been down here that this place isn't just dark, it's black. My friend set his camera up here to just soak in ambient light for half a minute on the highest light sensitivity. Nothing came out. You can only imagine my abject terror when the circuitry in my torch started shorting down here, swiftly taking us from 1.5Million candlepower to 0.

    Just as a stab in the dark here, but I'm assuming these were either offices or living quarters based on their proximity to the officers' mess and their perch above the plotting room.

    I think this was the only clock in this whole complex, which I thought was pretty peculiar. I'd expect there either to be a few more about the place, or none what so ever...

    A shot from inside one of the many bathrooms in this part of the bunker. This damage was done by vandals over the years, the level of damage in this place varies far too much to just be accidental.

    Part of the original air filtration system. Although it's a good few years older than the kit downstairs, it still holds the same classy green paint job!

    For my first visit, this was the end of the road. I hadn't come prepared for the R4 bunker this time, but it was only a few days before a hearty box of PP3 masks came into my possession!

    The ROTOR bunker was a large 3-tier structure with what I'm assuming was a single central room on each floor, with smaller offices and living quarters located on the edges. The entire central section of the bunker has collapsed, leaving a huge pile of debris on the lowest level. I'm sorry I didn't manage to get any photos of this, I was only interested in looking around and getting out as soon as possible.

    Now, these were found just inside the bunker, not 50ft from the burnt out vehicle that guards the entrance. Just quickly scanning here I count almost 100 tyres in sight, not including the ones that will be buried under the mound. In the adjacent room I also counted another 100 wheel hubs, meaning these were planted to help the fire along, presumably using the vehicle to ferry them through.

    Leaning away from the conspiracy theorist in me, this section here was the kitchen for the bunker, complete with serving hatch and a tin of cleaning fluid on the counter!

    As we went around, I noticed some pretty unusual rust on the fittings. All of the wall mounted items (plug sockets, light switches etc.) were rusting as would be expected, but all of the ceiling mounted works (Light fittings, air ducts) had a fantastic crystal structure growing on them. If anyone can explain this one, please enlighten me, it looks fascinating!)

    As we reached the bottom level of the bunker, we came across the air filtration room. Huge pieces of machinery, control systems, turbines, the works. All painted this garish green!


    I'm not an engineer, (much as I try to sound like one) but I'm fairly certain that this was the main drive shaft for the filter system. I'm guessing that by the time they decommissioned the place, the motor that fed the turbines was still worth something and was cut away from the bottom right corner here.

    Last stop before getting the hell out was the communications room. The room is about 8x12m across with about a dozen or so stacks like this one. Most of them have been toppled and smashed to pieces; a real shame considering this equipment is pretty much one of a kind and will never be made again.

    I definitely have a little love for this place and I'm sorry to report to you guys that it may not be here for much longer! On my way out from my last visit, I ran into the owner who was coming down to do some routine entrance-blocking. I spoke to him a while about the bunker and it seems that the plans to have the place renovated and converted into a visitor's centre are well under way. In the last few weeks he's had a quote given for the removal of the asbestos and seems keen to take them up on it.

    It's a bittersweet end to such a monumental place, really. One the one hand, it's true heritage is being preserved, everyone who visits will be able to see what it was, what it was used for. On the other, the elements to it's history that brought it into our own light; the decommissioning, the fire that essentially made it indestructible, they will all fade into rumour and eventually just be ignored or forgotten. On the bright side: At least it's not a council estate!

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