‘Just sickening’: Middletown police investigating vandalism to Old Colony railway cars
Newenglandrailroad.com writes this things I don’t like seeing
Laura Damon Newport Daily News
MIDDLETOWN — Jack Doyle said it’s ironic how a nonprofit that operated Christmas-themed train rides for children is now entangled in an alleged vandalism case this holiday season.
“People stop me in the supermarket and say, ‘Oh man, those trains you guys used to run at Christmas, that was the best time. My kids still talk about that ride.’ So there’s a tremendous irony in the fact that we were part of that wonderful Christmas experience for so many people and yet have this happen at this time of the year,” Doyle, of Newport, told The Daily News in a phone call Monday.
Doyle was part of the original group of volunteers in 1979 who formed the Old Colony and Newport Railway, which was active until 2015, and responsible for educational trips for children, family-centric tours and the hugely popular Christmas-themed train events.
Two historic Old Colony rail cars and a locomotive, owned by John Pratt of Massachusetts, located on Burma Road were vandalized on Dec. 13, according to reports from Doyle, Pratt, and Chris Adams with Advanced Surveillance Technologies in Westerly, who was tapped to install security cameras at that location after two prior incidents of vandalism.
“I can confirm that the Middletown Police Department is actively investigating a vandalism to an Old Colony rail car at that location,” Middletown Police Capt. Michael Faria said in an email Monday in response a The Daily News inquiry of vandalism.
Faria declined to provide further details, citing an ongoing investigation, but said detectives had “made significant progress in the case.”
Adams, in a phone conversation Monday, said video footage shows “about six to 10 youths — I don’t know if they’re juveniles or adults — but they’re all depicted pretty vividly on video.”
The incident happened around 3:30 a.m., Adams said. The people “just devastated all the equipment.”
Adams said his son is an engineer for Amtrak, and the Old Colony nonprofit “kind of took him under their wing and taught him the ropes and kind of got involved in the whole train business,” so this alleged vandalism hits close to home.
“It’s just sickening,” he said.
Doyle said one of the damaged cars dates to the late 19th century and the other to the early 20th century. “They really are quite valuable,” Doyle said.
Though they’re not consistently used these days, they continue to be cared for and operated on a limited basis.
One car that was damaged dates to about 1894, and a ride on that back then is akin to flying first-class today, Doyle said, an “elegant sort of experience.” The other historic car is more of a typical railroad coach, he said.
They’re not beyond repair, Doyle said, but between broken windows, graffiti and a smashed sink, he couldn’t estimate damages. “Most of this stuff is unique, it’s one of a kind. So putting a price tag on it is kind of tough,” Doyle said.
Pratt said his locomotive has been on Aquidneck Island for 25 years and was built in 1942.
“It’s just wanton vandalism,” Pratt said. “This is all volunteer. This money comes out of our own pockets.”
Pratt’s locomotive sustained broken windows and smashed light bulbs. If he had to guess, he might be looking at $10,000 in damages to the locomotive alone.
But, “they did a tremendous amount of damage to the Old Colony cars,” Pratt said. “We’ve been here for a long time, and while we had the occasional broken window over 30 years, this sort of vandalism is really — we just haven’t had it.”
A GoFundMe was created to help offset the cost of repairs. On Thursday morning, $850 was raised.