Vandals destroy vintage rail stock


VINTAGE railway stock valued at £500,000 has been destroyed in an arson attack at Whitehead, Co Antrim. Vandals broke into the Railway Preservation Centre and set fire to five 1930s coaches.

The fire on Wednesday night was discovered by an RUC patrol. Two firefighters were slightly injured while fighting the blaze.

Two Great Northern first class coaches used for the Belfast Dublin express and two Great Southern coaches used for the Dublin Cork Express were among those destroyed. The coaches were being restored.

The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI), which runs the centre, said that if another shed had been set on fire, valuable engines would also have been destroyed.

The scene of the blaze was still sealed off yesterday as forensic experts searched for clues.

Mr Sullivan Boomer of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland said it was heartbreaking that historic vehicles had been lost and the efforts of society members to restore them wasted.

An Alliance councillor, Mr Sean Neeson, condemned the "act of mindless violence". He said "I don't know why a facility of national historic importance would be targeted. The fact that two firemen were injured makes it an even more serious offence."

He expressed hope that the authorities would offer the society whatever help it required.

The RPSI has 1,100 members and has used the Whitehead yard as its base for 30 years. Its carriages are used for excursions throughout Ireland and for Sunday train rides in Whitehead during the summer.

A planned trip to Dundalk on the Carlingford Express will go ahead, Mr Boomer added.