The Nelson Electric Tramway Society is frustrated after a costly theft nearly derailed the popular tourist attraction.
The culprits removed short pieces of copper wire, each approximately 10 centimetres long and designed to ensure proper conductivity between rail gaps, in sections of the track out of the general public view.
“Fortunately, we’re not out of business. We have enough grounding with the rail joints, so we do have continuity of electricity. We have to replace the rail bonds, and that’s going to take a little bit of time,” said operations superintendent Jim Robertson.
Police became aware of the vandalism on July 24.
“I’m very frustrated. We’re disappointed because we’re 100 per cent a volunteer-driven non-profit. We rely on the goodness of the community. Whoever did this didn’t take into consideration the ramifications of what they’ve done.”
Robertson said it will take a few weeks to fix the damage.
“It might create a problem, but so far we’ve been able to continue,” he said. “Since our maintenance crew averages 78 years of age, you can say it’s going to take a fair bit of labour.”
He said a number of members of the community have already volunteered to help repair the tracks to ensure Streetcar 23 can continue to run its route between Lakeside Park and the Prestige Lakeside Resort.
The heritage streetcar, which first ran in the City of Nelson in 1924, is the result of a collaborative community restoration effort by Selkirk College and the Nelson Chamber of Commerce.
“The community is basically outraged like we are,” Robertson said. “If anybody would like to help, we’d never turn anybody away.”
Robertson said he talked to police on scene, who estimated the wire doesn’t have significant value.
“The amount they took wouldn’t even cover the cost of gas to Trail, where the metal recycling is. They just like to do damage. I don’t know why.”
Police are investigating the incident, and Robertson said they plan to keep a tab on the Trail recycling depot in case the criminals attempt to sell their plunder.
The Nelson Police Department is asking anyone with information about these thefts or who witnessed anyone tampering with the tracks to call them at 250-354-3919. If you have information and wish to remain anonymous you can also call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.