Your location is set to Dartford
Published: 17:57, 07 April 2008 |
Updated: 17:12, 08 April 2008
Kent Police have confirmed a fire that seriously damaged Margate’s historic scenic railway is being treated as a possible case of arson.
Samples have been sent off for analysis following work by specialist police and fire teams.
A police spokeswoman said: "It is believed this fire was started deliberately."
Detectives are appealing for witnesses and anyone with any information is asked to contact them at Margate Police Station on 01843 222076 or Kent Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
The iconic historic wooden structure went up in flames just before 5pm on Monday and by 5.30pm the wooden rollercoaster’s drop collapsed.
Hundreds of people crowded around the disused fairground in the centre of Margate to watch as the historic ride - which was built in 1920 and was Grade II listed - gave way to the flames.
More than 60 firefighters from across the county attended the scene and at one point fire officers had to ask the water board to increase the water pressure as they struggled to get the fire under control.
A thick plume of black smoke and ash drifted over Margate and the fire was visible from as far away as Birchington.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Chris Newberry said: "About 40 per cent of the structure has collapsed but we have managed to save the rest of the Scenic Railway.
"We are keeping an eye on a small section which is in slight danger of collapse, but the rest of the structure appears to be stable."
The main section of the structure and the train shed was the most badly damaged, and the railway cars have also been lost.
The Scenic Railway has not been in use for two years, but it was hoped that it would eventually reopen to boost tourism.
The ride was to have formed the central plank of all the regeneration plans for the Dreamland site.
As he watched the smoke billowing 60ft into the air over the town, Thanet council leader Sandy Ezekiel refused to accept that it was a funeral pyre for the hopes and dreams of the town’s seaside regeneration plan.
He said: "This is not the end of the road for Dreamland. And neither have we seen the last of the Scenic Railway. I sincerely hope that it can be repaired and if this is viable, it will be done.
"In common with everyone who has worked so hard to rebuild Margate’s tourist industry, I am devastated by what has happened."
The Margate scenic railway is believed to be the third oldest example of this kind of rollercoaster left in the world after Melbourne, Australia (1912) and Copehagen, Denmark (1914).
Local councillor and former Margate mayor Mick Tomlinson said he was “devastated” by the fire.
He said: “It is unbelievable. Just when we start something new in Margate, we lose something else. When I saw all the smoke billowing up and realised it was the Scenic Railway, I was devastated.
“I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, like many of the others who watched the fire take hold.
“It is very sad for Margate, especially with the summer season so close.”
He added: “I am positive that the ride must be rebuilt, and let’s just hope it is back up and running again soon.”
Every morning at 10am we play you an hour of tunes from the 90s. We call it, #WeLoveThe90s.
Play 'Say It' with Garry and Laura on kmfm Breakfast and you could win £1,000!
Wake up to kmfm Breakfast with Garry and Laura - it's Kent's alarm call.
A guide for your future. For year 11 students in Kent and Medway. Click here for the e-edition.
Education, Training & Childcare is a special supplement published by KM Media Group four times a year. Click here for latest e-edition.
This is a brand new online resource covering every aspect of owning and improving a home in Kent and Medway.
Get the latest food and drink news, recipes from some of the nation's top chefs plus updates from Kent's vineyards and breweries.
Search in your local area to find your perfect partner in Kent, with FreshStart Dating! PLUS, register for free!.
Neil Miller, Hever Castle head gardener is new gardening blogger.
Buy pictures that you've seen in a KM newspaper, or send in a picture and we will place it on our photo sales website so that you can purchase a super, unique gift.