The volunteers who’ve worked tirelessly since the ‘90s to restore the Ladysmith Tourist Railway have had their project ground to a halt by brazen thieves.
At their meeting on Saturday morning, February 10, they discovered nine tonnes of sleepers had been stolen.
“I felt sick … I noticed things looked different and I thought I can’t believe this, shocking, they’re gone,” treasurer Wally Bell said.
“And I thought of the money, because we haven’t got it.
“It’s a low down thing to do to an organisation that’s not-for-profit.”
About 130 sleepers were cut out of bundles and stolen from the side of the heritage track, with the team only able to lay 10 last year before the thieves got to them.
A police investigation is currently underway, with witnesses reporting they saw a white dual cab ute being loaded with the sleepers on Tuesday, February 6.
It’s understood the perpetrators may have been wearing high-vis clothing, masquerading as railway workers.
Another witness allegedly saw a ute carrying sleepers heading in the direction of Wagga.
The club paid $5500 to have the sleepers delivered from an Orange supplier, and still owe them $3800 for wood they are unlikely to ever see again.
They now face the massive challenge of raising the funds to repurchase the sleepers, needed in order to pass safety requirements in their journey to get the track back up and running for the public.
“We purchased the sleepers and inserter to bring the track up to standard for public running,” Richard Goodman, the group chairman, said.
“We’ll have to fundraise more, have BBQs, we’ve been collecting the cans and bottles for money but it’s going to take a long time to raise that much.”
It’s a big blow for the few thinly spread volunteers.
The group, formerly Tumba Rail, took out the lease for the strip in 1995 and started restorations, but their project was stalled in 2003 due to an insurance company collapse.
In 2013, it recommenced running but purely for maintenance purposes, celebrating its centenary on May 14 last year.
If you’d like to help, you can contact Wally Bell on 0458 263 443 or 6926 3446.