PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad says they are facing thousands of dollars in damage after a break-in and railroad tie thefts within a couple weeks.
The Garibaldi-based train ride company said they discovered their 70-year-old train was broken into in early September.
“The engineer went in that day, and he noticed that the door to the engine was open and when he entered, he saw that a fire extinguisher had been released in the engine itself and all of the electrical cabinets were also open,” OCSR Executive Director Rachael Aldridge told KOIN 6 News — noting the break-in left a mess and major train delays.
While the company does not believe anything was tampered with, they said damage could have been “catastrophic” to the engine.
“This has never happened before. We’ve had people who have walked onto our site and broken into our outdoor toilets and that sort of stuff, but we have never had anybody who has broken into our diesel before,” Aldridge said.
Since the break-in, Aldridge says they’ve parked the locomotive in a harder-to-reach location.
In addition to the break-in, OCSR says 41 railroad ties were stolen from work sites between September 3 and September 4 — damaging tie plates as they were pulled out. More ties were stolen outside of the Old Mill Event Center in Garibaldi, according to OCSR.
OCSR believes between $3,000-$5,000 worth of ties were stolen. Since the theft, the company has fenced in some of their ties and increased their inspections.
“Someone drove up and we believe they used ropes, and hammers and crowbars to pry up the rail, remove the tie plates and then pull the ties out. And those things weigh quite a lot. There were multiple people who had to have done this and we believe they were pulled out on a truck,” Aldridge said.
Aldridge explained that some people use railroad ties in their gardens and may try to find ties on railroads they think are abandoned. In a Facebook post describing the incidents, OCSR said they believe their stolen ties may have been sold on Facebook Marketplace shortly after the theft.
Aldridge says the break-in and theft “takes away our manpower to try and hunt down who took them and also fix all of the damage because those rails that are out there now, we’re thankful that they were not damaged beyond use. We’re able to still use them. But if anything worse had happened, that would mean we would have to completely re-lay everything and that would just be dozens of manhours.”
She added, “we hope that the sheriff can find whoever did this. And whoever did it, I hope they receive the message that this is not okay. Please don’t do it again. And if anybody out there is looking for railroad ties to use in gardens, just ask. Don’t go and take them. Just ask.”
KOIN 6 News has reached out to the Tillamook County Sheriff’s Office for comment on the case.
In a Facebook post, OCSR said they hope to spread awareness about the theft and have faith that community members will do the right thing.
“It breaks our hearts that people will just take things and leave us to fix the damage they have caused. We are not a multi-million dollar operation like some may believe, we are on a limited budget that relies on tourism, just like many others in this community,” OCSR said.
“We love this community, and we have faith that people will do the right thing, but when this much damage has happened to us in such a short amount of time, we need to bring attention to it and reach out to our community for help and awareness.”