A Year of Little Change at the Ammunition Plant

It has been a year of little change at the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant.






It has been a year of little change at the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant. A few buildings have now been emptied of their contents, cleaned, and prepped for eventual burning and subsequent demolition, and some more ground has been cleared of vegetation, but not much has changed. This is the second post in a series on the ammunition plant, which ended with the Ether-Mix House. This thread continues on, traversing somewhat in reverse in the powder production process with the Dehydration Press House (Building 202) that pressed the cake of nitrocellulose into a powder form.

The Blending and Wringer House (Building 113) was part of the nitration process and was located a step backward in the powder production process. To obtain a uniform propellant and ballistic characteristic, portions of batches with a high nitrogen content were mixed with portions with a low nitrogen content. Slurry from the poaching tubs in the Poaching House was fed onto vibrating screens where nitrocellulose was blended, which then passed into collecting boxes. The boxes were emptied into tubs where guncotton and pyrocellulose were blended. If the sample from the tub had satisfactory nitrogen and solubility content, the slurry was pumped into the Wringer House. At the Wringer House, the large amounts of water used throughout the process to move the nitrocellulose were removed. The containers of partially dry nitrocellulose were transported to the Dehydration/Press House via lag cars.

The poaching process was conducted to reduce the acidity of the nitrocellulose. It also reduced the fibers remaining to minute fragments in a mechanical operation. Hot water washes in sodium carbonate, an alkaline solution, further reduces acidity. The nitrocellulose was then bathed in cold water under mechanical agitators to purify the nitrocellulose and ensure a longer shelf life. Samples were sent to a nearby laboratory to determine the nitrogen percentage, the ether-alcohol mixture’s solubility, and the fineness degree. The following are from the Poacher House (Building 112).

The Pulping House, located adjacent to the Poacher House, features machinery similar to that found in paper mills. Nitrocellulose fibers were cut into short segments to open the embedded fibers, exposing any remaining impurities in the capillary channels. During this process, a very large amount of water was used, resulting in a slurry that was pumped into the Poaching House.

We went to the Nitrating House (Building 105), skipping over some buildings. With shredded cotton being blown in from the Cotton Dry House, 32 pounds of cellulose fiber were mixed in stainless steel nitrators that contained 1,500 pounds of nitric and sulfuric acids that were blended together. The treated nitrocellulose and spent acids were then discharged from the bottom into centrifugal wringers that removed most of the acid through the exterior of the wringer. The acid was used in the production of pyrocellulose or fortified for reuse. Wet nitrated cotton was immersed in water and the slurry transferred to the Boiling Tub Houses.

The Cotton Dry House (Building 104) is where cotton linters, or short fibers that cling to cottonseeds after the first inning were delivered in 150-pound bales, or wood pulp was delivered in rolls of 700 pounds, where they were shredded. They were then pretreated in large ovens to reduce the moisture to less than 1% before being blown to the Nitrating House in ducts.

Next door was the Warehouse (Building 101).

The Process Engineering Division (Building 706) has recently been cleaned out.

The Sulfuric Acid Concentration Plant (Building 303) produced sulfuric acid by melting and burning raw sulfur, which produced sulfur dioxide gas. The gas was then passed over catalytic beds that produced sulfur trioxide gas, which was absorbed through distilled water to produce sulfuric acid.

No visit is complete without stopping at the one of the two power plants (Building 401-1).






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Every time I see your shots of the power plant I just get depressed knowing they’re not there anymore. The big empty gravel lot that remains just makes me sad they would destroy such a huge piece of history for Charlestown and the surrounding area.

During the early 1970's I was an Army Captain stationed at IAAP. Your pictures are very nostalgic and bring back great memories. I'm really sorry to see the old place rot away. Thanks for the great history via photography.

Yeah I live right down the road from the ammunition plant and I've always wondered how you got in there to take photos? I'd love to be able to run around inside the plant and take pictures and tour all the buildings.

I'd love to have some information on how to get in! Please respond to this or email me personally: heraldoflight@att.net

Are there tours or access to the plant? I have a rich military history with my family and would love to see the plant.

The explorer in me loves the timelessness and industrial decay, while the steampunk in me is screaming about the sheer amount of raw material waiting to be "reinvented," and lamenting that most if not all will end up in a scrap yard when the building's demolished. Of course, I'm a little surprised this hasn't happened already; where I live the scavengers don't even wait for a place to be abandoned first. D:

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