Belfast Telegraph

Windows broken in Northern Ireland train carriage earmarked for Santa ride

By James Gant

A gang of youths have been blamed after hundreds of pounds worth of damage was caused to a heritage train carriage in Co Down.

It was vandalised in daylight on Halloween by youths who threw stones through its windows as they fled from police.

Three windows were smashed during the incident last Wednesday.

Repair work to the carriage, which was unattended at Loop Platform - a facility owned and operated by Downpatrick and Co Down Railway - is expected to cost hundreds of pounds.

When challenged, the youths were alleged to have shouted "train w******s" before they escaped across some fields.

Robert Gardiner, chairman of the Downpatrick and Co Down Railway, said: "We were setting up for our last night of Halloween ghost trains and there was a crowd of youths on the track at the platform.

"The police were called to disperse them, but when they (the youths) disappeared, they decided to smash one of the trains by throwing stones at it.

"When the police arrived, they went in different directions, so we just encountered them on the line and it was like we were interrupting their fun. So they took it out on us. I have no idea why they would be on that bit of track. Sometimes they do just go for wanders, but I have no idea why it was that spot they went to.

"It's desperate, you just can't leave anything out there - they'll smash it."

The Downpatrick and Co Down Railway was set up in 1985 to create a working railway museum, with aspects of Northern Ireland's railway heritage.

The project is the only Irish Standard Gauge railway restoration project in Ireland.

There are around two dozen carriages at the railway yard in various states of repair.

The carriage was due to be a tea and coffee cart as part of a Santa's grotto ride on the train this Christmas, but the windows may not be repaired in time. The glass is expected to take longer than usual to replace as it was toughened safety glass.

But Mr Gardiner said: "Santa won't be put off, there's no risk us cancelling Christmas on anyone.

"We may have to rethink how we're doing things - but they'll still have Santa."

PSNI Inspector Moore said: "Enquiries are continuing and police would appeal to anyone with any information to contact police in Downpatrick on 101, quoting reference number 846 31/10/18."

Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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