In the week where four people in the Downpatrick area were arrested for metal thefts, the Downpatrick & County Down Railway discovered it too had been targetted again by metal thieves.
A volunteer spotted people in orange high-visibility clothing out by some of the engineering vehicles stored off-site and raised the alarm, knowing that none of his colleagues were working on that section of line.
Railway Chairman Michael Collins said, “Our volunteers then went out and discovered that the buffers – basically the shock-absorbers – had been cut off an engineering flat wagon we use to transport sleepers around our line to where they are needed”.
He continues, “Not only does this render the vehicle useless, as it prevents us coupling it up into a train, but it’s also incredibly risky as these buffers are sprung and can be under tension, and to released that tension not knowing what you’re doing could’ve caused serious injury.
“It is also very difficult, if not impossible, to source replacements”.
Mr. Collins adds, “We suspect that the culprits thought that if they disguised themselves in high-visibility clothing, any members of the public would have assumed them to be railway volunteers”.
The criminals also attempted to take a length of steel cabling from a steam crane currently stored out the line while a new track layout is being laid in Downpatrick Station yard, but were unsuccessful.
Mr. Collins goes on, “We immediately contacted the police, who have been down to take forensics, and they have also notified local scrap dealers to be aware of persons trying to sell items that are quite clearly of railway origin – there would be no doubt what these came off.”
Local Downpatrick Cllr Cadogan Enright was also disgusted by this theft, and met PSNI officers on-site and later took a team of CSI officers to the scene for a thorough investigation of the site where tyre tracks and other evidence was gathered.
Cllr Enright said “The side entrance to this site has now been secured, the local landowners have promised to keep a look-out and the details of vehicles using the lane are being reported to the police. The PSNI are now including the security of this entrance in their routine patrols.”
“PSNI officers have told me that they have notified all local and regional waste metal processing plants including those at Mallusk in Belfast to watch out for railway-related metal being handed in, and have confirmed to me that all waste sites now have mandatory CCTV in place for eventualities like this.”
“The people of Downpatrick have a real affection for the teams volunteers who are restoring our railway legacy, and are hugely supportive of the amazing work the railway society have done over the years. The recent expansion on the railway project and the re-laying of tracks to reopened stations is widely supported across the community, and I would ask anyone with information to pass it on to the PSNI.” concluded Cllr Cadogan Enright.
The Downpatrick & County Down Railway is calling on people who may have seen suspicious activity near the Downpatrick Racecourse area of the Ballydugan Road, or the actual incident itself, to contact Downpatrick Police or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.