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Nobel is located in McDougall Township off Highway 69 just slightly North of Parry Sound. The area began as a farming community with the first church built in 1878 and a school in 1877.
In 1907, the railway line was extended from Parry Sound and a small train station built seven miles north. That station was named Peart until the year 1911 when a post office opened under the name of Ambo.
In 1912, a man named F. Lankford began buying up properties in the area. Curious locals wondered if he might be opening a ranch; others thought perhaps a goat farm. It was eventually realized, when the deal was done, that Lankford purchased the land to house Canadian Explosive Limited (CXL). Lankford had bought up nearly 5000 acres of property that took some considerable negotiating given the secrecy he was required to abide by.
The location of the future CXL site was ideal as the railway extended from Toronto to Sudbury, Sudbury had mining operations and the Georgian Bay offered shipping possibilities. Parry Sound would offer a workforce yet should an explosion occur, Nobel was far enough away The site would also be ideal for supplying explosives should a proposed canal between Georgian Bay to the Ottawa River be built. Plans for the canal were never finished.
Plans were laid out in 1913 to build a dynamite and gelatin plant. The area's name was changed from Ambo to Nobel at the request of CXL. This was in honor of Swedish scientist Alfred Nobel who invented dynamite. By the summer of 1914 the production of dynamite had started. CXL also constructed a small town on the company land in which to house workers and their families.
As for the plant itself, it was known as "Nobel Worls". This plant employed approximately 150 people.
The production of dynamite changed to the production of munitions for the First World War with gun-cotton plant, TNT and shrapnel-loading plants being built. The shrapnel plant was closed not long after it opened as the result of an explosion in which seven workers died.
A second cordite plant was constructed on the other side of the highway. British Cordite Limited owned the plant but CXL operated it. When the war ended, the cordite, gun-cotton and TNT plants ceased operation and production focused on dynamite and gelatin once more.
By 1916 it became apparent that more accommodations for the increasing number of employees were necessary. As a result the "New Village" was built approx. a mile south of the plant. It contained 26 homes, a bowling alley, rifle range, clubhouse and recreation center. There were also docks for pleasure boats.
The remaining Nobel plants closed in 1922, when demand for explosive products had decreased. CXL made a wise business move, diversifying their chemical production to now offer paint, varnish and plastics. To reflect the diversified product line CXL reopened under the name of Canadian Industries Limited (CIL). The former British Cordite plant on the other side of the highway saw a new plant constructed in 1939. Here, Defence Industries Limited (DIL) produced nitroglycerine, TNT, gun-cotton, cordite, nitric acid and sulphuric acid. At it’s prime the DIL plants employed up to 4,300 people.
The DIL buildings were destroyed at the end of the war and production of explosives resumed at the formed CIL site.
After the war, in 1946, A.V. Roe of Canada Ltd. took occupation of many of the buildings. The DIL site was ideal for their needs as it allowed them to test the noisy jet engines, necessary high voltage power lines and water from the CIL pumphouse. The former workers homes could be used to house the engineers and technicians.
In July of 1541, A. V. Roe was incorporated into Orenda Engines Ltd. Approximately 125 people worked at the location until February 20, 1959 when Prime Minister Diefenbaker cancelled the Avro Arrow contract due to exceeding costs.
As for the CIL plant, it closed in 1984 when dynamite was replaced with more advanced explosives. The train station was demolished.
As you may see from the photos, this is still an interesting area to explore.
The Avro Arrow testing grounds are on the Eastern side of the highway while the CIL plant is on the Western side. Look for the gate and fencing as you exit Nobel, heading North from Parry Sound.