The Western Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society is in cleanup mode after its train cars were hit by vandals for the second time in a month. Only this time, two of the vandals were caught in the act.
“One of our guys went down there to do some work and heard breaking glass,” said Pete Geddes, president of the IHS.
“He was unlocking the door to the roundhouse. He heard some glass breaking and saw someone in the cars.”
The volunteer, who Geddes declined to name, called 911 and Port Alberni RCMP apprehended two youth as they exited one of the rail cars.
This is the second time in recent weeks that passenger cars at the IHS roundhouse have been vandalized. Two of the open cars were damaged when someone kicked a plexiglas poster-holder and used the pieces to slash a number of seats in the cars. Only one of the five cars was not damaged.
Volunteers also discovered someone had been squatting in one of their boxcars. All the cars are in the roundhouse yard, but are out in the open.
“They only broke two windows last time but today they broke just about every one that was left.”
Several fire extinguishers were also expelled and damaged and will have to be replaced.
There are five passenger cars that the No. 7 steam train would pull to take tourists to McLean Mill National Historic Site. Three of them are open air cars and the two that were damaged on Monday were both enclosed cars.
“It’s hard,” he said. “If the city ever decides they want (the train) to run we will have to replace the seats anyway.”
Geddes said he hasn’t been able to have a conversation with City of Port Alberni staff yet about the damage, but he thinks any insurance deductible will be in the thousands of dollars. Replacing the broken windows will cost approximately $6,000 and a number of fire extinguishers were expelled in the train cars so will have to be replaced.
City of Port Alberni CAO Tim Pley said the rail cars are city assets, so should be covered by the city’s insurance. He said historically the IHS has been responsible for paying any deductible if they are involved, but that was when the city had a contract with the IHS.
“We have no agreement with the IHS to maintain that stuff so it’s likely the city’s cost,” Pley said. He didn’t have details on what the deductible limits are.
Of the two youth apprehended in the incident, Geddes said at least one of them will be returning to the roundhouse to help clean up the mess they left behind. “I got a call from the mother of one of the kids and she was quite upset,” he said.
A gofundme account has been set up in response to people calling and asking how they can help. Anyone wishing to help the IHS defray repair costs to the passenger cars can go online to www.gofundme.com and search ‘vandals hit Alberni Pacific Railway.’