Thieves have stolen up to £10,000 worth of brass and copper fittings from East Lancashire Railway, after a devastating weekend which saw it forced to close due to COVID-19.
The charity is appealing for the public’s help to give it a future after closing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, shortly before they were burgled.
The theft – at the railway’s Baron Street site – is no small loss to the East Lancashire Railway, which has already been thrown off track by social distancing and the public being urged to stay away from public gatherings.
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The railway announced it would close from Saturday 21 March to all visitors until further notice. This applies to all services, including dining trains, and all station facilities.
East Lancashire Railway is set to face a heavy financial burden as a result of the closure, set to last until the end of April at the earliest.
However, the £10,000 theft has now left the heritage site – which is a long-standing favourite for children and adults alike – in an even worse financial crisis.
As well as the replacement of the brass and copper fittings for the railway line, East Lancashire Railway will have to find additional resources to step-up security at a time when they should be planning for the future.
Bosses are encouraging the public to give its support in ‘paying it forward’ and book to enjoy the railway at a later date so that the site is protected for generations to come.
An East Lancashire Railway Support Fund has also been set up for the community to show its support with any donations to help protect the railway through these difficult times.
Mike Kelly, Chairman of East Lancashire Railway said: “Like every other events organisation, Covid-19 is having a dramatic effect on our operations. We are a charity, staffed largely by volunteers, and have to prioritise the health and safety of both the public and our team, including many in high risk groups.
“We didn’t take this decision lightly and we know it will impact a great many people’s lives, to then be hit with such a huge theft over the weekend was just gut-wrenching.
“We are trying our very best to maintain this heritage railway as a destination for generations to come and things like this have a massive impact.
“The closure and theft really do threaten our existence, so we would appeal to people, now more than ever, to support us and ensure we can reopen when this difficult period ends.
“We appreciate that times will be hard for everyone in the coming months, particularly our volunteers, and as a railway community we are doing everything we can to reach out to our older volunteers and make sure they are supported in any way they need.
“This is a constantly evolving situation and we hope with the public’s continued support to be able to open our doors again soon.”
Anyone with pre-booked tickets will be contacted directly by the East Lancashire Railway Passenger Services team with details on how they are impacted and to rearrange or refund their visit.
For more information on how to support East Lancashire Railway in this difficult time visit: www.eastlancsrailway.org.ukEnjoy more Heritage Railway reading in the four-weekly magazine. Click here to subscribe.