The Future of The U-534!

May I take this opportunity to thank everyone who has showed their overwhelming support for the U-534.

I have been in contact with Merseytravel, who are a Public Sector Body responsible for co-ordinating Public Transport in the Region.
 
Merseytravel have taken on the task of offering the U-534 a future.  There will be a fabulous new visitor centre developed within the site of The Woodside Ferry Terminal.  This beautiful historic building which is now over 130 years old will house the exhibition, including artifacts and information on the U-534.
 
Unfortunately money, logistics, safety and location issues, mean that the U-534 will be cut into five sections.  The only place that is available is just too small to house the boat in one whole piece and the logistics of moving the 1000 tonne boat to her new location, are vast.  Funding is an obvious factor.  If is was possible to house her as a whole, it would cost around £1 million to move her (the new site is just over a mile away from where she currently sits).
 
Many people see Merseytravel as the bad guys in all of this, as they are the ones that have proposed to cut her up. The Karsten Ree Group (Den Blå Avis) who own the U-534, started to loose favour with her a few years ago.
 
Atfer the closure of the Historic Warships Museum a couple of years ago, the search for a new home for the U-534 took place.  The Danish owners were not really interested in opening a new museum and they put a price of 5 million euros on her and all of her contents.
 
No buyers came forward.  There were a few proposals, but Mr Ree wanted cold hard cash and no one wanted to spend that amount on her.  Just over twelve months ago, the developers that own the land on which the U-534 sat, wanted her moved so they could build a parking lot!  The U-534 was moved a couple of hundred meters on to spare land (at a cost of around £1/4 million), where she still sits today. 
 
Having sat on the Developers land for twelve months or so, there was an issue of ground rent and the bill started to mount up.  At this stage Karsten Ree had had enough and it was decided that the U-534 would be broken up.  Cutting crews were assembled and her destruction was scheduled.
 
This was the stage that Merseytravel stepped in and offered up their new proposals.  So in fact, instead looking at them in a bad light, it should be quite the opposite.
 
The U-534 will be cut in to five sections using the latest cutting technology by Hilti.  Marine engineers have surveyed and studied both the U-534 and original plans, so she will only be cut in positions where she will not loose any of her integrity.  Also the method of which she will be cut is so precise, that it would be possible for her to be put back together at a later date.  If, in the future she has to be moved to a new location, this would be made far more easier whilst she is sectioned.  The U-534 will be sealed at the cut sections so that no further damage by weathering can take place. Work has commenced on some restoration work to the outside of the boat.  This will include rustproofing the exterior, patching the holed and pitted areas, priming and repainting the outside. There are also plans in place to replace the decking and restore some of the newly visible inside areas.

Of course everyone agrees that in an ideal world, she would be only displayed as a whole boat. The plans by Merseytravel are the ONLY ones that have been proposed and are workable.  No other interested party has stepped up to the plate and offered money for her or come up with any concrete or practical proposals.

I was originally very saddened to hear that she would be cut up, but I am a realist and I know that this is her only chance. These plans are actualy very exciting and I for one am looking forward to visiting the new U-534 Exibit.. Ten, fifteen years down the line, who knows.. Perhaps we will be in the same position again. One thing's for sure though, she IS going to be around for another ten, fifteen years +, which is a far better prospect than we had this time last year!

Thank you again for all of your support. I would also personally like to thank Mr Hall and Mr Scales who have been absolute gentlemen. Thank you.

 

The new U-534 Exhibition and Visitors Centre.

 

As you can see from the images below, the U-534 is going through a transformation and she looks all the better for it! She has been treated with red-oxide paint and has been primed to help protect her from further deterioration.

The first three cuts have been completed and on writing this, the forth cut is underway. On the third cut the cable hit an internal tank. Hundreds of litres of foul smelling black water gushed out of the hull and onto the machinery! There have been a few setbacks, but everything is on schedule. It's incredible that the U-534 keeps on throwing out little surprises along the way.

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Hilti control unit. Red gauge shows wire traveling at 9.9 meters per sec

If you could see how accurate the cuts are, you suddenly become aware that she COULD be stiched back together at a later date with ease. The gap that has been formed is approximately 10mm wide. You could probably run a weld down the line and not even notice! Ater all four cuts have taken place, the U-534 will be shortened by approx 6cm's! Not bad at all...

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Central rig which the wire passes through and runs up either side

The window for moving her down the river commences on the 10th of March, taking advantage of the high tides. There is a one hour period of slack-water, so it is critical that she is moved only at these times. The current in the Mersey is extremely strong, so it could be quite hazardous at any other time.  It is expected that it will take five days to move the five sections of boat.

After she is moved, the top section of the Hull will be strengthened with GRP to recreate a solid section and thus preventing future deterioration. There are plans in place to coat the top section of the Hull and redeck her. The U-534's future never looked so bright!

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These towers stand either side and the wire is fed through the pulleys

In the background of the right image, you will notice a tanker. The U-534 was only one day into her final journey when she was lost. As a result, she still had all of her fuel in her tanks. Three tankers removed 15,000 litres of fuel oil! It is incredible that it was still on-board and had not leaked into the Sea.

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Wintergarten, Compressed Air Tanks and Flak! Tanker in background

In the above right image you will also see the Wintergarten, Flak and Compressed Air Cylinders removed. This is to help reduce the weight for her transport and will be replaced at a later date.

Spending so much time with the U-534, you cannot help but be amazed at these fantastic machines. Given that she sat at the bottom of the Sea for so long, she is actually in remarkably good shape. These machines were certainly built to last!

This cutting equipment is truly amazing. The diamond laced cable slowly and surely cuts through the steel with laser-like precision. Each cut will take between three and four days to complete. The cuts have to be seen to be believed.

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The incredible Diamond encrusted cable that cuts through the hull

On the right is a sample of the Diamond Wire that is being used to cut the boat. The cable itself is made from strands of steel wire, covered in coil wire and then coated in rubber. The Diamonds are encrusted into the knuckles which are set approximately 2cm's apart. The cable is 40 meters long and is threaded around a series of pulleys to take up the tension. It's a fantastic piece of machinery.

I have been so privileged to have been given the chance to take these latest images and I would again like to thank Mr Hall and Mr Scales for their kindness, hospitality and generosity.

Below is a short video of the cutting process (it's not very good, but you get the idea)

 

 

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All four cuts have now been completed. There was a slight delay on the final cut as the wire became snagged on the propeller shafts, but it was resolved successfully. The U-534 sections will now be moved towards the Quay side, ready for her journey down the Mersey.

The Mersey Mammoth

The trip down the river will commence the week of 10 March 08 (weather permitting). As stated earlier, there is only a one hour period of slack water in which the Mammoth can sail. It is quite likely that the move will cover a five day period. Hopefully, when the U-534 sections are removed at Woodside, they will be placed in their permanent positions and will not have to be moved again.

I will update this page as and when I have new images of the U-534 move. Please come back soon!

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The U-534 has now been completely moved from her previous location. There were a few hic-cups along the way, but nothing too serious and all were resolved. The operation to move her was a vast one and it all ran to schedule with absolute precision.

The sections were moved from Mortar Mill Quay (her home for the past 2 years) to Woodside Teminal, which is approximately 1 mile down the River. The journey although relatively short, took Mammoth about an hour to complete. This was due to a series of locks and a swing bridge that she had to negotiate along the way.

The loading and unloading of the sections was done quite quickly. Towards the end of the week as the Skipper of Mammoth became more confident, they were loaded on and off in a flash (30 minutes from docking, unloading and sailing away)! Due to the high winds and choppy water earlier in the week, some of the larger, heavier sections proved a little tricky to load on the 16 wheeled SPMT's (Self Propelled Modular Transporters) which are an amazing piece of equipment! No sections moved on Wednesday, due to the severe weather.

The SPMT wheels turned 90° and the vehicle slowly crabbed towards and down the makeshft ramp. The sections were then placed in their permanent positions. The ramp will be removed and the sections lowered. The large ramp in question was originally planned to be at the other end of the site, but this had to be moved for logistical reasons. As a result the SPMT will have to be removed by crane and lifted over the top!

Now that the sections are in their new location, they will now be lowered. This will be carried out using a series of hydraulic jacks, to lower the sections one bit at a time until the framework is flush to the ground.

The new Visitor Section will slowly start to take shape....

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Looking into the sections of the U-534, you start to understand and appreciate the workmanship and technology that went into creating one of these fabulous boats. Viewing the intricate workings of the vessel, it becomes far more clear how these machines actually worked! We can all look at a solid ship or U-boat and be amazed at the size and how they are put together, but the work carried out by Merseytravel and their dedicated team of true professionals has given us all an exclusive look into the workings of some outstanding 60 - 70 year old technology. If only for that we should be truly grateful. Let us not forget though, that they have also saved this magnificent U-boat!

Thank you to all..

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The sections of the U-534 have now been lowered onto the ground, so we can get a better idea of how the boat will be seen. The open ends have been covered up with sheeting. This is to prevent further deterioration and to keep unwanted visitors at bay (visitors of the feathered variety!).

Work at Woodside is progressing steadily and at a good pace. On each visit, there is always some major change with the boat or the site itself.

One last note. The final colour of the U-534 has been finalised. The colour will be a darker grey similar to the paint schemes used later in the War.

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It has been a good few weeks since the last update and I apologise for the delay. The start of a new job (sadly unrelated to my love of U-boats!), has meant that I have had less time to visit Woodside. With the initial pressures of starting a new job over, I am hoping that I will be able to visit the U-534 a little more often and in turn update this site with news and photos.

I am always so thrilled to visit the U-534 at her new home at Woodside and this last visit was no exception. The framework for the new Visitor Centre is in place and the concrete was being poured in as I was there. The whole site is starting to resemble the Artist's Impressions pictured above.

The U-534 is looking as good as ever. I am always blown away when I see her and looking at the work that is progressing is very exciting. The supports that she stands on have been secured and I have to say, that some of these look like pieces of Art in themselves! Some of the GRP panelling has been secured in place above the free flood vents on the upper hull. They have not been finished off yet, but she just looks so solid with them attached. When they are finished, it would take a keen eye indeed to spot them. Fantastic job! She has also had some GRP patchwork done on the hull. This also looks pretty good and it had to be pointed out to me to actually spot it!

Two things that I would like to mention, that I was really excited about (apart from the Visitor Centre, GRP and other items mentioned). As long as I have known the U-534, the large cast support that holds the Port Screw in position has been broken in half. I am unsure if this happened as a result of her hitting the Sea bed 63 years ago, or the result of her being raised 15 years ago. Which ever it was, I was delighted to see that the prop had been placed back into position and the cast support repaired. Great stuff! The other thing that I was delighted to see was the fact that the Aft section had been stitched back together.. Now I know that there were many people who thought that it could and would not be done, but they were wrong! The rear section was cut into two pieces to enable it to be safely carried by Mammoth. They have now been stitched back together with amazing accuracy. When she has been GRP'd and repainted, you will probably have to look extremely hard to see the join.

This entire project has been an emense and amazing feat of Engineering. This Team has not just cut up a boat and stuck it in the ground. So much thought, knowledge, experience, effort, skill, blood (hopefully not too much blood) and sweat has and is still going into this Project. I can not stress that enough. I have never met a more Professional and yet friendly bunch of people. Their courtesy, warmth and generosity is astounding and I feel so privileged to have had played a little part in the U-534's new future.

Thanks again to Neil, Roger and Gary and indeed everyone envolved in this Amazing Project.

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It has been a good couple of months since I have visited the new U-534 Exhibition Centre. I drove down on the second week of September to meet my good friend Roger on the site.

My first treat was being wisked into a secure unit, to see something that I never even knew existed until that moment. On entering the room as was met by a couple of new friendly faces who showed me some items that blew me away.

Torpedos!! I always thought that all of the munitions on the U-534 had been destroyed. I was wrong. Standing next to a couple of Warheads and a Tail Section was amazing. In fabulous order was a G7A/E T1/2 Warhead. This one had the top screwed open, ready to accept a Magnetic or Contact Pistol. The other amazement was being able to put my hands on a G7s T5/11 Acoustic Warhead with the sensor bars still intact! Both Warheads stand at over four feet tall and are an amazing piece of kit. The Tail/Motor Section was like a piece of Art! Standing at six feet tall... Wow! Also in the room was a selection of weapons, including barrels and a 20mm Deck Gun! The center section of the torpedo is also intact. Hopefully it will be displayed as a whole unit.

The display in the museum is going to be fabulous. The old display at the Historic Warships will not be a patch on this one. The guys have got their hands on some amazing, never seen before artifacts. The displays will be changes every few months, so I would definately recommend regular visits to the Centre.

The Centre and U-534 Display are certainly coming along. The U-534 has almost been patched up and I can tell you, it is going to be pretty hard to spot where! The wooden decking is coming along nicely and if you take a look at the latest photos, you will get an impression of how it is going to look. Steelwork was being prepared that will support the huge glass panels that will help to seal the inside of the boat. The decking on the actual boat should also start to come online n a few weeks time. It is all coming together very nicely.

The completion of all the works is set for December. The offical opening time has not yet been announced, but I will let you know that when it is confirmed.

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It was a beautiful, cold and crisp late October morning and I was privileged to visit the U-534 Visitor Centre once again. It has been a few weeks since my last visit and as you can see by my latest photos, things have certainly progressed since then. 

As I write this, the Centre is almost complete and the works on the actual U-534 only a couple of weeks away. I have not displayed any photos of the actual Visitor Centre, as I want this to be a surprise to all that visit. There are some amazing things happening in there, including some items from the U-534 that have never seen before.

I have to say at this point,. every time I have visited the U-534 (from the very beginning), I have felt a sense of excitement and elation.  As the Visitor Centre is almost complete, this feeling is even greater.  I am writing this now with genuine excitement about the entire project.  The people that I have met along the way have been true Professionals and absolute Gentlemen.  I know that I have repeated this many times before, but I really cannot stress this enough.

When the Centre is complete and up and running, I would Urge anyone and everyone to visit.  There is something for everyone at this new exhibit, from young to old, the knowledgeable and not so knowledgeable.  You will be able to see and experience how the young Sailors had to live and endure life onboard a U-boat in the War, through the wonderfully designed Visitor Centre and thought provoking and interactive displays of the U-534 and her artifacts. 

The U-534 is an important part of our History and the Centre will be a great teaching tool.  In my eyes, the exhibit is not really about the German regime in the Second World War, but it is about the young men that served and lived onboard the U-boats.

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Just back from a tour of the New Centre, for an update before the Holidays.

All I can say is, "Wow!" I really would like to encourage everyone to make the trip out to visit the new U-534 Exhibition in the new year. I am certain visitors will appreciate all of the hard work that has been done. The detail and thought that has gone into this entire project is incredible.

Cast your mind back to the days of the Historic Warships just down the road from Woodside. There stood the rusty and deteriorating hulk of the U-534. Yes, you could take a trip inside and get a feel for what a U-boot was really like, but it was always a bit of a whistle-stop tour and several visits were needed to take in and appreciate the boat. A small number of artifacts were crammed into a few display cabinets in a converted portable office unit. The U-534 was never really cared for and over a period of a decade, parts were sadly looted and the hull slowly turned into an orange powder!

Don't get me wrong, I loved the tour and the exhibit, but I always felt that it should be so much more. I am so pleased that this was also the vision of Merseytravel, who have gone all out to make sure that this will be a memorable experience to all that visit. The Exhibit itself will be on par with many top Visitor Centres and Museums that I have visited. This is no Portacabin!

Yes, there will still be individuals who will not agree with how she is now displayed, that is inevitable. All I ask, is that those individuals who are quick to criticize, come down to the new Exhibit when it is open in Feb '09 and take a look for themselves. You will be presented with a very different and exclusive insight into how a U-boot was actually constructed. Sure you can walk though the inside of the 505 and 995 (albeit hightly altered to allow safe access), but you do not get a feel for the huge complexity and intricacies of these seventy year old boats. This will be an exclusive and one-off exhibition folks!

Please take a look at the latest gallery pics for a sneak peek..

Cheers!

 

 

Click for link to U-534 site

 

Well it has been a quite eventful and fascinating journey over the past twenty months or so, but the time seems to have flown. As from today (10th Feb '09), you will be able to visit the new Visitor Centre and stand in awe at the new look U-534.

Left unprotected to the elements!
How she looks today!
She has been transformed from this
...in to this!

The Centre has many exciting artifacts on display, including ones that have never been seen before! There are items that we will probably never see again (please take a look at the Gallery page links above). It is thanks to this Exhibition, that we now have the chance to see them.

There are still many artifacts that are not on display and remain in storage. Periodically the display will be rotated, to keep Exhibition fresh and hopefully encourage future visits.

I know that have have repeated this many times before, but Merseytravel have done this beautiful vessel justice. They have saved her from the scrap heap and have successfully breathed new life into her once again. All I ask is that you do not just dismiss the Exhibition for the way she is now displayed. I know that many individuals did not want her cutting into sections. I myself felt this way at the beginning, but I soon realised that this was her ONLY chance of survival. It would have been completely pointless and crazy, to work against the very people that were working hard to preserve her.

This a unique insight into the workings and life on-board a U-boat. I am sure that anyone visiting will appreciate what work has been done to keep the U-534 with us for the forseeable future.

Please visit soon and bring the kids! Spend some time to take in and appreciate all that the new Exhibition has to offer.

Thank you.....

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It was honoured to be invited to the Offical Opening of U-boat Story on the evening of 27th March. The new multi million ££ U-534 Vsitor and Exhibition Centre.

It was an excellent evening, filled with short speaches, readings and presentations, a nice buffet (great sandwiches!) and musical entertainment from The Swingcats. Karsten Ree was presented with the now famous 1€ (that the U-534 was purchased for), from the Chief Executive Neil Scales.

The Woodside Ferry Terminal building has been renovated and I have to say, they have done a fantastic job! The view across the Mersey in the late hours is incredible.

This was the first time that I have visited the U-534 at night and she does look fabulous in the dark! The lighting that has been used sets the mood and the U-534 does look very dramatic. The lights in the sections are extremely effective and there is a new 360° camera set up to take a closer look inside.

Please visit the Exhibition soon...

There was four and a half tonnes of artifacts that came over from Denmark for this Exhibition and there is only 1% or so on display! The rotation of artifacts will keep the Exhibition fresh and will urge you to come back for more. I also have to say, that the price to visit the U-534 is excellent value. You would pay the same for a McDonalds meal and this is certainly the healthier option!!

Thanks for saving the U-534....

 

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