Vandals have smashed up a model railway show, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage and leaving exhibitors “devastated and distraught”.
Members of Market Deeping Model Railway club were forced to cancel their annual exhibition at Welland academy in Stamford, Lincolnshire, after the break-in and rampage in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The club’s chairman, Peter Davies, 70, told BBC News that the exhibits, including a locomotive unit worth around £8,500, had been smashed, thrown around and stamped on.
Four youths who were arrested on suspicion of burglary and criminal damage have since been released on conditional bail pending further inquiries.
Club members had spent Friday setting up scale models on tables in the school’s hall for their annual show, which was due to open on Saturday and had expected between 500 and 600 visitors.
Photograph: Market Deeping Model Railway Club/SWNS
“I trained as a teacher and a youth worker, but I’m in total confusion,” Davies told the BBC. “Models that were made over years were trodden on and thrown around. It’s a total wanton destruction of the highest order. I’ve never experienced anything like it. A hurricane would have done less damage.”
Some of the models had been thrown through basketball hoops by the vandals. Davies said one club member had spent 25 years working on an exhibit that had been wrecked, adding: “It’s just horrendous.
“We will never have the time to build the sort of layouts again. That’s where the anger comes from.”
Davies said the club had received offers of support from across the world, including New Zealand. A crowdfunding page set up to raise money to salvage the exhibition had gained more than £30,000 in donations by the end of Sunday.
“We will rise from this, no question, we will be bigger and better. But we will never get the years back it took to build those exhibits,” he said.
Davies told the Rutland and Stamford Mercury that the incident was “heartbreaking”, adding: “There were grown men with tears in their eyes because of what had been done, and I was one of them.”
In a statement, Lincolnshire police said: “On arrival at the school we arrested four youths, who were on the premises, for burglary and criminal damage. We are continuing our investigation and confirm damage was done to model railway exhibits which had been set up in the school for a display today.”