Swanwick Junction arson attack ruins model railway

Vandals burnt down sheds containing model railways at Swanwick Junction in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The alarm was raised at 12.40am and crews from Ripley, Heanor and Ilkeston battled for three and a half hours to bring it under control.

Club member Sam Moss watched firefighters tackle the blaze. He said: “The old Allports shop to the right hand side also caught light but luckily was put out relatively quickly due to quick action by the fire brigade.”

By daylight members of Swanwick Junction Model Railway Club pronounced nothing was salvageable.

Two wooden sheds housing two 00 gauge, one N gauge and two large 0 gauge layouts, along with a container full of building supplies, burnt to the ground. The fire also melted a large electrical junction box causing power to be lost to various parts of the site.

Club secretary Dave Wragg said: “It has devastated us. One of our members was nearly in tears. That much has been funded by members. I looked at everything on Saturday night when we packed up and thought ‘We have a good display here.’”

Mr Wragg added the club had been hit by break-ins five times over the last 12 months. He said : “We put a lot of steel around the doors this summer. I think they tried to get in and couldn’t so they fired it. It was extremely popular with visitors. I think we were the only group who had over 90 per cent of the visitors looking in.”

The tourist attraction has been hit by arsonists twice already this year; a rare 1873 Pullman carriage, just one of three left in the world, was destroyed in a fire in March.

Alan Calladine, of the Midland Railway Centre, said: “This is very disappointing for the group involved - they had put a lot of effort into the displays.

“From our point of view it’s a good entertainment for the public. We’re completely disappointed.

“Going back about four years we had someone living in the site that was useful for security. Unfortunately we got on the wrong side of planning regulations and they had to leave.

“We’re looking at upping security. Having someone on site permanently is a huge deterrent.”

The club, which celebrates it’s 21st anniversary next year, holds its annual general meeting in November.

Mr Wragg estimates 30 model locos, 40 coaches and 100 wagons, three two-track controllers and two four track controllers, were lost in the fire, as well as members’ personal property. He added that ‘countless hours’ of members’ time had been spent working on the layouts, which included a model of Lady Bower village.

Mr Wragg lost a stamp collection in the blaze which he was selling to raise cash for the club.

He said that the club was determined to carry on and wanted to build a more permanent home for the layouts.

Anyone who would like to donate to the appeal can contact the club care of Midland Railway Trust Ltd, at Butterley Station, Ripley.

Anyone with information about the attack is asked to contact Ripley police on 101.