U534 Installation Conning Tower. Modelartanddesign.com      20th May 2011


In early 2011, modelartanddesign.com, in partnership with Merseytravel and P.C. Engineering commenced construction of the U-Boat Story conning tower attraction featured here. Mersey Ferries stunning U-Boat story installation welcomes a huge number of visitors each year from around the globe, all of whom are eager to gain an insight into what life was really like for Submariners in World War Two.


After almost half a century on the seabed, the interior of U534 is currently unfit for the general public to engage with directly. Neil Scales, the Chief Executive of Mersey travel envisaged a re-creation of the U-Boat’s conning tower, as a means by which scholars, enthusiasts and the general public could gain an intimate experience of life aboard a U-Boat in World War Two, whilst maintaining the highest possible safety standards.


To P.C. Engineering, with a very tight delivery deadline, and with no margin for error, this was a job that was eminently ‘do-able’. The merging of modelartanddesign’s forward-looking design ethos, and the extraordinary convergence of P.C. Engineering’s project management and traditional metal-working skills, were always set to ensure the integrity of Merseytravel’s original vision. Collectively, all three parties worked in close partnership, to deliver the realisation of that vision with the minimum of fuss, and an ability to adapt/re-evaluate at every stage of the construction process.


The resulting photographs seen here cannot do justice to the experience that awaits visitors to the Woodside Ferry Terminal. Access to the conning tower enables the public to gaze out over the River Mersey to the Liverpool waterfront via modelartanddesign’s recreated WW2 ‘Attack’ periscope. Manufactured at our base workshops in Bury, the attack periscope and adjacent computer provide the real sights and sounds experienced by U Boat crews during an emergency dive sequence. The voice-over, which is activated by the torpedo ‘launch’ button on the Attack Computer, gives a thrilling account (in German) of the orders and procedures observed by crewmembers when emotions are running very high, at the point of submerging the vessel.


The bridge above the simulated periscope level is a faithful reproduction of that of an operational U Boat during WW2. It is a ‘tour-de-force’ of modelartanddesign and PC Engineering’s traditional skills base, and a testament to collective, applied work ethos and commitment to quality, no matter the time scales involved in project completion.


The pictures of modelartanddesign’s initial concept model shown here, give way quickly to photographs taken throughout the design and construction process. Whilst P.C. Engineering undertook construction of the framework and carcass, modelartanddesign busied themselves with fabrication of the binocular mounting, attack-computer, and a faithful reproduction of a wartime U-Boat periscope, based around the inner optical workings of a Chieftain Tank commander’s periscope.