SOUTH DEVON RAILWAY Theft from Buckfastleigh
|The bell in its rightful position||Photo © 2014|
We regret to inform you that some thieves have stolen the historic and unique large, brass warning bell from veteran steam loco No.1369 at Buckfastleigh on the South Devon Railway — the bell was first fitted to the engine in 1960 when working the Weymouth Quay branch boat trains in order to warn pedestrians and road users of the train's sedate approach through the streets of the town.
The bell was separated from the loco for many years after the engine then moved to Cornwall, but it was offered for sale at auction around ten years ago and was then bought by the SDR Association for £900 to reunite the pair once again – the whole loco only cost £690 when bought from British Railways in 1964 as a working machine in Wadebridge!
The theft was discovered on Tuesday 25 March and we believe the theft occurred earlier the same day. We think the thieves were disturbed by the early arrival for work of staff as our engineering workshop CCTV at Buckfastleigh shows an unknown shadowy figure moving around at 07.53, but we're still waiting to review footage from other CCTV cameras around the site.
The thieves used a wheelbarrow from the shed to make off with their booty, which also included an air operated needle gun and an electric drill belonging to 5542 Loco Group, but they left an angle grinder in the abandoned barrow half way across the yard which they presumably could not carry whilst making their escape.
Ironically, the bell had been removed from the engine by SDR staff for safekeeping over the Winter and before the loco left the same day for a hire period at the Chinnor & Princess Risborough Railway.
The large bell — see picture above, when bought and on the Brian Cocks Memorial page was stored in a very secure sea container. The thieves tried getting in the main door but failed and then resorted to using a long bar on the steel shuttered window and got in that way.
The Police have been informed and a SOCO (Scene Of Crime Officer) has attended, allocating the Crime Number JA 14266. If anyone has any information or is offered the bell for sale, they should contact Devon & Cornwall Police quoting the same reference.
We have also spoken to local scrap dealers should anyone try to weigh it in -- it is unknown at this time if the theft was opportunistic or, more worryingly, to order.