March 21, 2023

If everything goes according to plan, the inhabitants of Cologne will be able to witness this unique transport project on May 12, Mainz on May 14, Mannheim on May 16 … sea. Here it will be delivered on a special pontoon from Kiel on the Baltic coast along a 100-kilometer shipping line. Kiel Canal (Nord-Ostsee-Kanal). The first photo was taken while the boat was being towed to the shipyard in this German port city.

Everything should start on April 28 – after many months of coordination and preparatory work. Even worldly-wise organizers themselves say that in this case we are talking about tasks on the verge of the possible.

Last route U17

Illustration for the project
Pontoon with boat U17 on the Rhine in Speyer – illustration for the projectPhoto: Technik Museen Sinnesheim Sepyer

The new exhibit is destined for the Technik-Museum Sinsheim, but the Technik-Museum Speyer will become an intermediate destination on the way. Both were created and managed by the Auto & Technik Museum, a club of automotive and technical history lovers, which has the largest private technical collection in Europe.

Speyer is located on the Rhine in Rhineland-PalatinateSinsheim is about forty kilometers in the middle of the hills and vineyards of the Kraichgau region in Baden-Württemberg. The submarine will have to make the last stage in Sinsheim overland on a car platform, but it is too early to talk about this second stage – the dates are still unknown.

In Speyer, museum specialists will have to prepare the boat for use as an exhibit, which will take some time. There is a workshop here where you can do it. Even now, before the start of transportation, the shipyard in Kiel carried out the dismantling of weapons and removed materials hazardous to the environment. Speyer itself already has its own museum submarine – U9 class 205, built in 1967. She was brought here, too, along the Rhine from Rotterdam on a pontoon in 1993.

Across the Atlantic after the war

Why did the Historical and Technical Society show interest in the U17 – why does this boat deserve a place on display? Diesel ship class 206 (206A) with a displacement of 500 tons was transferred to the German Navy in 1972 and was used until 2010. Then he was in storage at one of the naval bases, awaiting disposal. In total, three dozen ships of this class were produced in Germany, on which several generations of German sailors served.

Illustration for the project
The length and height of the boat in cars and residential buildings is eleven and a half and one and a half Photo: Technik Museen Sinnesheim Sepyer

The crew of the boat was about two dozen people. The length of the ship is 48.6 meters, the width of the hull is 4.6 meters. The maximum diving depth under water is 100 meters. The maximum trip duration is 30 days. The maximum speed under water is 17 knots.

In 1997, U17 became one of two German submarines to cross the Atlantic for the first time since the end of World War II. U17 and U26 then took part in international naval exercises in the Caribbean or near the east coast of the United States.

During this trip, U17, visiting Baltimore, became the first German submarine to call at an American port since 1916. The last then was the German merchant submarine “Deutschland”, built during the First World War to bypass the British blockade – the implementation of maritime cargo transportation between the German Empire and the United States.

The decision to donate the boat to the museum was made in 2017 by then German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. “It would be a pity if she went to scrap,” – said the chairman of the museum society Herman Layer (Hermann Layher). The decision was especially welcomed by former U17 submariners, whose veterans’ union will patronize this exhibit.

Previous projects

Rhine near Wesel
Transportation of “Buran” in 2008 Photo: Roland Weihrauch/dpa/picture alliance
Rhine near Altlusheim
Transportation of “Concorde” in 2003Photo: Uli Deck/dpa/picture alliance

The last time to observe the transportation of an unusual large-sized exhibit along the Rhine was a decade and a half ago – in 2008, when one of the prototypes was delivered to Speyer Soviet spacecraft “Buran” BTS-002 – an analogue aircraft, created at one time to work out the procedure for landing Buran on Earth.

In 2002, the local Boeing 747 was brought along the Rhine to Speyer. In 2003, the Concorde supersonic passenger aircraft of Air France made its last landing at Karlsruhe / Baden-Baden airport part of its way to Sinsheim along this river.

The pontoon is due to arrive in the river port of Speyer on May 16th. It will take several days to reload onto a car platform for further transportation to the territory of the local museum. It is scheduled for May 21st.

Project website “Unterseeboot U17” in German, English, French and Dutch:

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