THIEVES TARGET £4,000 GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY BENCH CASTINGS FROM CHELTENHAM RACECOURSE STATION
22 September 2010
Organised bench thieves have spirited
away at least £3,800-worth of heavy cast-iron bench ends from the
Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway's Cheltenham Racecourse
The haul includes some original, but mostly replica, Great
Western Railway pattern castings which have the letters 'GWR' in a
clever filigree design that reads correctly from either side, so
they can be used at both ends of a bench. Each one weighs
Col. Bob Stark, Chairman of the railway's volunteer Cheltenham
Area Group who look after the station, which is within the
racecourse grounds at Prestbury Park, said that the bench castings
disappeared on Friday 17th September. "One of our
volunteers reported that the benches had been dismantled and the
timber seat and back planks were left strewn on the
"We searched the station area and found the castings stacked up
in a hedge behind our signal box. We called the police and
organised some help to move these very heavy items to safe
storage. But when we returned little more than an hour later,
they had disappeared in broad daylight, which suggests we were
The station is equipped with cctv security cameras and the tape
shows that they were removed overnight by shadowy figures using
Col. Stark believes theft of the bench ends is the work of
thieves who know their value and have a market for them, rather
than common metal thieves.
"They are not worth much as scrap metal but undamaged castings
have a value of up to £200 each. At least three of them are
original GWR items which would be worth considerably more at
auction. The thieves avoided harming them - the timbers being
carefully removed and the castings unbolted from the platform.
"Only one was left behind and that was because the bolts
securing it to the platform were rusted.
"It saddens me greatly that the people who did this would
describe themselves as railway enthusiasts," Col. Stark
added. "They're clearly knowledgeable and well aware of the
value of Great Western Railway artefacts and I believe that they
have a ready market. They could have been taken to order for
collectors or another former-Great Western heritage railway.
"It's especially poignant that one of the benches, a double
bench using three of the castings, was presented to the station and
dedicated to the memory of a deceased member. Some others had
been presented by well-wishers."
The railway is offering a reward of £500, donated by an
anonymous supporter, for information that leads to recovery of the
castings or apprehension of the thieves. It has alerted other
railways, railwayana auction houses and the Heritage Railway
Association to the theft in the hope that the thieves might be
caught if they attempt to pass them on.
"If anyone spotted anything suspicious over Thursday night,
16th September or the following day; have seen people
paying unusual attention to artefacts on the platform over recent
days or spotted a heavily-laden van or truck leaving the racecourse
between 5.15pm and 6.30pm on Friday evening, 17th
September, please report it to police - it doesn't matter how
trivial it might seem," says Col. Stark The railway is
working with the police and racecourse management to help step up
security in the area.
Cheltenham Racecourse station is currently closed following the
railway's serious embankment collapse at Gotherington earlier this
year and Col. Stark believes the lack of traffic has encouraged the
thieves to strike.
Earlier in September music industry statesman and railway
enthusiast Pete Waterman launched a £1m appeal to fund the repair
of the damaged embankment.
The benches have been collected over several years and were an
attractive feature of the station, which was opened by The Princess
Royal in 2003.
Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway: 'The Honeybourne Line' -
Photograph: Great Western pattern cast
iron platform seat end with the letters 'GWR'. This is one of
three similar patterns with different letter designs. The
'GWR' (which stands for Great Western Railway) can be read from
Media contact: Ian Crowder, 07775 566 555