December 12 2013 Latest news:
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Trains and model railways have been Stephen Smith’s passion for as long as he can remember.
And when he and his wife Margaret moved to their new house in Garvestone, near Dereham, five months ago, he was looking forward to enjoying his retirement tinkering with the garden railway he had been collecting for the past 30 years.
But thieves have left 66-year-old Mr Smith feeling “empty” and “angry” after breaking into the garden shed and taking more than £4,000 of trains, coaches and track.
The theft happened sometime last weekend between 6pm on Saturday and 8.30am on Sunday while the couple were at home.
Mr Smith said he woke to find the shed door had been removed from its hinges.
“We did not hear a thing,” he said. “The irony is that I had an alarm system ready to fit but hadn’t got it up and running. It is working now.
“Initially I just felt empty. Now I am angry and my wife is very shaken up and doesn’t really want to leave the house. It is such an invasion of privacy on top of the fact that this railway is my pride and joy.”
The collection is known as an SM32 or 16mm gauge garden railway and runs as a steam line. The engines and coaches are based on prototypes and are mostly copies of real trains that exist or have existed in the past.
Mr Smith, who was practice manager at Mattishall Surgery until he retired five years ago, said: “We have only been in the house five months and I had boxed everything up for about two years while we sold our old house in Dereham.
“Much of it was still in its boxes and they just picked the boxes up as they were and took them. They have taken about 30 coaches and two locomotives.
“One of the steam engines had Shire Valley Railway along the side and a plate on it which said Margaret because I named it after my wife. The other one was a Rail Buffs locomotive called Esme. I also lost some N gauge track and some new trams which had not been out of their boxes.”
Mr Smith said he had been a member of the National Association of 16mm Narrow Gauge Modellers for over 20 years and had distributed a stock list to the 4,000-plus other members of the stolen items and asked them to keep their eyes open at trade fairs and specialist sales.
“Trains have been a big part of my life,” said Mr Smith who is a volunteer and former director of finance for the Mid-Norfolk Railway.
“I have always been interested in railways since I was a young boy.
“It is a harmless hobby and I was looking forward to spending my retirement with them.”
Anyone with information about the theft or who is offered any model trains for sale should contact Norfolk Police on 101.