By Sean O’Riordan

Magnificent large scale models of some of the world’s most famous ships have been unveiled in Cobh, Co Cork, as part of a drive to reflect its rich maritime history.

The ships, which were built by Polish brothers, have been donated to an exhibition/tourism centre which has opened in a former disused part of the town’s Victorian-built railway station.

Marak Czajor, with the help of his brother Artur, spent five years creating the models, which include the Titanic, its sister ship Britanic, the HMS Siruis — the first steam boat to cross the Atlantic — a Viking longboat, HMS Victory, and U552, the most successful German submarine hunter of the Second World War.

“We wanted to open our own museum but then we heard about plans to open this centre in Cobh and we said we’d donate them for a year. I don’t think anywhere in Ireland has such an exhibition,” said Artur.

They are also planning to create a similar 1:200 scale model of the Olympic, another sister ship of the Titanic; and as next year is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania, a copy of that as well.

With the help of their friend Jacek, they also provided the exhibition with maritime memorabilia such as old wooden luggage chests, ship telescopes as well as replica viking swords and shields.

The exhibition/tourist information centre was the brainchild of Port of Cork commercial manager Captain Michael McCarthy who wanted to do something with the station’s derelict former station master’s office and canteen area.

He formed Cobh Maritime Development Company Ltd and approached Iarnród Éireann for help. Then South and East Cork Area Development offered a sizeable grant to restore the platform-facing building to its heyday glory. Both Cork County Council and Cork City Council added money to the restoration fund.

“This will be complementary to the heritage centre. It will allow people waiting for a train to see what local and national heritage we have. We hope that it will become a major focus for exhibitions by artists and model-makers and for special cultural events,” Capt McCarthy said.

The first exhibitions in the centre, which will be known as the Cobh Maritime Building, include local involvement in the First World War and maritime history and railway memorabilia.

“The opening of the Cobh Maritime Building will provide stakeholders and members of the local community with an opportunity to showcase the rich and varied cultural, historical, tourism, and economic activity which can be found in East Cork,” said Ryan Howard, the chief executive of South and East Cork Area Development.

Iarnród Éireann business development manager Andrew Roche said CIÉ Properties had agreed to provide Cobh Maritime Development with a long-term lease on the building.

“It’s just another in a long line of reasons why people should come and visit Cobh. It’s a fantastic venture and I’m sure it will keep tourists even longer in the town,” Mr Roche said.

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