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Investigation after thieves target world’s oldest railway

It’s not full steam ahead for a 116-year-old steam locomotive – thanks to callous thieves.

Officers have launched an investigation after copper pipework and brass fittings were stolen from the world’s oldest railway.

Opportunistic thieves targeted Tanfield Railway’s Sunniside base on April 28 and made off with valuable copper piping and brass fittings.

The fittings are likely to cost more than £20,000 to replace, putting the restoration of a 116-year old steam locomotive at risk.

Detective Constable Shaun Atherton, who is leading the investigation, said: “This was a targeted theft where thieves preyed on a charitable organisation during lockdown.

“The copper piping and brass fittings taken are antique and the parts are of great importance to the railway museum for restoration of the “Horden” locomotive salvaged from Horden Colliery.

“This theft has not only put back this historic restoration but left the Trust, who manage the railway, feeling dispirited and devastated during an already difficult situation fraught with financial losses from visitor income.

“Anyone being offered copper piping and brass as cut up scrap, or anyone who witnessed anything suspicious in the area, is asked to contact police via our ‘Report an incident’ page, quoting log 300 280420.”

Tanfield Railway Trust chairman, Derek Smith, said: “We’re absolutely devastated by this callous and targeted theft. Our volunteers have put thousands of hours into the restoration of Horden. Before the lockdown it was only weeks away from hauling trains for the first time since 1972. The theft will put that back months and cost more than £20,000; money that we can ill afford at a time when we have no income.

“I’d urge anyone who thinks they might have information that could help catch those responsible to please get in touch with the police as soon as possible.”

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