In 1912, Mr. F. Lankford began buying land around the train station. Although the true purpose was kept secret, there were many rumours about the intended use of the land, including the construction of a major ranch, or a large goat farm. Once 5000 acres had been secured, it was announced that Canadian Explosives Limited (CXL) had been the purchaser and they were building a dynamite and gelatin production plant on the land.
The site was well chosen. Mining operations were increasing to the north of Sudbury, the rail line was open from Toronto to Sudbury and on, water was accessible from Simmes Lake, and Georgian Bay would provide access for shipping. Parry Sound was close enough to provide a labour horse, but far enough away to be protected from any possible explosion at the plant. Another factor was the talk of the possibility of a canal being built, connecting the Ottawa River to Georgian Bay. Building the canal would require explosives, and the company realized that if they were close to the proposed route, they would have a greater chance of being chosen as the company that would provide the explosives. The canal, however, was never built.
By 1914 the plant was completed and producing dynamite, gelatin, and cordite. (Cordite is a gunpowder made from gun-cotton and nitro-glycerine.) A village was started on company-owned land. Because the company owned the land, the town was not recognized as such. People living in the village paid rent to their landlord, CXL. The name of the town was changed from Ambo to Nobel, paying tribute to the inventor of dynamite, Swedish Scientist Alfred Bernard Nobel (1833-1896).
The plant thrived during wartime. Between 1915 and 1918, a gun-cotton plant, a shrapnel-loading plant, a cordite plant and a TNT plant were built. The shrapnel operation was closed shortly after it opened when a fire and explosion killed seven people. A second larger cordite plant, built across the highway from the main operations, was owned by British Cordite Limited, but operated by CXL. After the war, the cordite, gun-cotton and TNT plants were closed and the company concentrated on the production of dynamite and gelatin. In 1922 these remaining plants were closed.
In 1927 the plant reopened under the name of Canadian Industries Limited and began, once again, to produce dynamite. A new plant was constructed in 1939 on the site of the old British Cordite plant. Here Defense Industries Limited, a crown corporation operated by CIL employees, erected buildings for the production of nitro-glycerine, TNT, gun-cotton, cordite, nitric acid and sulphuric acid. Up to 4300 people were employed at DIL. At the end of the war, the DIL buildings containing explosives were destroyed. War Assets Disposal Corporation took over the former DIL land. CIL continued its production of dynamite and gelatine on its original site.
Dynamite was being replaced by new products and CIL closed down in 1984.
--Parry Sound Public Library
I hadn't been involved in this hobby for very long before hearing about this location, and the Orenda Engines site across the highway near Nobel.
I knew there wasn't going to be much left to see, but sometimes there's a certain charm in that too. So, one warm morning, I drove south on Highway 69 to see what I could find.
The perimeter fence was still standing, and there were signs adorning every so many feet. I found many electricity poles scattered throughout the bush, and evidence of some of the bunkers.
While there may not have been anything as exciting as many of the other sites I've visited, I still enjoyed my morning here.