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Vandals failed to halt Tenterden's heritage railway

An historic steam railway manager has described the "quite extraordinary" response from the public to the wrecking of a railway carriage made in 1926.

The Pullman car Theodora on the Kent and East Sussex Railway was targeted by yobs who inflicted damage costing thousands of pounds to repair, smashing doors and shattering windows.

Vandals stole a few bottles of alcohol and a float containing spare change in the attack.

The train door was battered down
The train door was battered down

But since the vandalism at Tenterden station, which was discovered by a steam railway volunteer on July 1 and reported on KentOnline, the railway has seen donations and offers of help flooding in.

"The support we have had from the public since Theodora was vandalised has been quite extraordinary and very heartwarming," said Kent & East Sussex Railway's commercial manager Andre Freeman.

He said he had received an offer from a Kent firm to carry out the carpentry and re-glaze the original door for free.

Meanwhile members of the public have been chipping in with donations that had reached £1,000 from various sources.

Kent and East Sussex Railway commercial manager Andre Freeman standing next to Theodora. Picture: Paul Amos
Kent and East Sussex Railway commercial manager Andre Freeman standing next to Theodora. Picture: Paul Amos

Determined to not let the vandals stop the service, which was fully booked for its trips, the railway was able to take a door off another unrenovated Pullman carriage to replace the smashed one.

Mr Freeman said: "We had a spare door from a Pullman carriage that we had bought from a enthusiast in Devon. It's probably about 80 years old but we have made it fit and re-painted it."

A team of six volunteers cleaned and polished the carriage to return it to its pristine condition and stocks were replenished in time for the weekend's visitors.

Speaking when the vandalism was discovered, Mr Freeman pledged that yobs would not halt the heritage service.

"We’re very disappointed that there are people who’ve chosen to steal from a charity operated by volunteers for the benefit of our visitors - but we won’t be beaten," he said.

The railway first bought the carriage in 1963 when it had been little more than a shell.

Kent and East Sussex Railway commercial manager Andre Freeman standing next to Theodora. Picture: Paul Amos
Kent and East Sussex Railway commercial manager Andre Freeman standing next to Theodora. Picture: Paul Amos

Theodora was only returned to service in 2005 after volunteers spent thousands of hours on its restoration in a project costing £150,000.

General manager Shaun Dewey added: "Everyone at the railway feels sickened by what has happened. It's horrendous that an historic carriage has been so badly damaged."

Anyone with information is on the vandalism is ask to contact police on 01843 222289, quoting reference ZY/037299/18.

A dedicated fundraising appeal for £5,000 has since been launched to raise money to repair Theodora and to make a donation click here.


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