Officials at the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company & Museum on Portland’s waterfront say the destruction vandals did to several rail cars last weekend is the worst they’ve seen in years.
Executive Director Donnie Carroll on Tuesday said the vandals smashed several windows in three train cars, broke three windows in the locomotive engine house, discharged fire extinguishers, broke a door panel in a storage car, damaged a number of train car windows by unsuccessfully trying to pry them open, and loosened the pins and removed safety chains used to hold passenger cars together.
The passenger cars are part of the historic train that provides passengers views of Casco Bay along a 1.5-mile rail line that runs along the foot of Munjoy Hill in the city’s East End. The property is also home to a museum that features antique railroad cars, exhibits and photographs.
“That (loosening the pins) could have been disastrous,” Carroll said. “That to me was nothing short of incomprehensible. It was horrid.”
Portland’s police department began investigating the vandalism after Carroll and his colleagues discovered the damage Monday morning. Carroll said he believes the vandalism took place Sunday between 4 and 7:30 p.m.
The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad is located near Portland Yacht Services off Fore Street. The attraction draws more than 30,000 visitors a year to the waterfront.
Carroll said police are reviewing video surveillance tapes from Portland Yacht Services and have been given a description of two possible suspects by a Portland Yacht Services employee.
The employee spotted two teenage boys holding fire extinguishers on the Maine Narrow Gauge property Sunday night. When he approached the boys, they fled.
Carroll estimates the vandals caused more than $3,800 in damage but expects that the nonprofit organization’s insurance carrier will cover most of the costs.
“I was told it was the worst amount of vandalism here in five years,” said Carroll, who became the organization’s executive director in October.
The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad train parallels the Eastern Promenade Trail, a paved walking and bicycle path that connects the city’s waterfront with Back Cove. The trail runs past East End Beach and the East End boat launch.
The train is typically parked on tracks next to the walking path, leaving the train and equipment vulnerable to criminal activity. Carroll said during the harsh winter months, it is not uncommon for homeless individuals seeking shelter to try to break into the train cars.
“We fight that battle all winter long,” said Carroll, referring to the homeless population. “But this level of vandalism is nothing compared to that. It’s horrible.”
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: