RAILWAY enthusiasts have been left devastated after a fire gutted a 140-year-old carriage in Ripley.
The Midlands Railway Centre at Butterley had been planning to restore the 1873 Pullman coach with the aid of a National Lottery Heritage grant.
But on Saturday a blaze completely destroyed the wooden rail artefact - which was one of only three in the world.
Business development manager at the centre Allan Calladine said: “It won’t be a huge financial loss to us , but there’s nothing we can say or do about it now - it’s gone.
“It’s the historic value of what’s gone.
“It’s a carriage from the 1870s - it could have been restored and put back to its former glory.
“Now it can’t.”
Fire crews from Alfreton and Ripley were called to the centre at 9.45pm. A passing member of the centre spotted smoke coming from the wooden carriage. The crews stayed at the scene for more than two hours putting out the flames, which also caused damage to a nearby model railway storage room and spread dangerously close to a storage area for propane gas cannisters.
The Pullman coach had been at Butterly for 25 years.
Originally it was bought from the US based Pullman company in parts and was shipped in to Derby Locomotive Works to be assembled.
The carriages, which were used as dining cars, with berths for passengers to sleep in, went out of service in the 1920s.
As the News went to press, police investigators said they had no cause to believe the fire was caused by arsonists.
But Mr Calladine , who is not sure whether insurers will pay out to repair the fire damage, believes it could have been started deliberately.
“It has stood there for 25 years and has not set on fire,” he said “I can’t see how it just combusted.”
“Only last week we were commenting on how wet it was - it would have had to get very hot for it to burn like that.”
Following the fire, trains have run as normal at the centre.