Baldwin City's Midland Railroad Historical Association has a vandalism problem.
For the past several years, the association — which showcases multiple historic pieces of train equipment and hauls around 25,000 passengers between Baldwin City and Ottawa each year — has suffered tens of thousands of dollars in damages from vandals and other intruders, said General Manager Allen Kinsley.
Last week, a passenger car built in 1916 was vandalized yet again, Kinsley said. The car was taken out of service years ago and sidelined until some wheel work could be done. Since it's been out of service, the car has been frequently visited by vandals and thieves looking for scrap copper.
"They've broken out almost all of the windows on the east side and now they're trying to rip out the window frames. They've kicked in the doors of the car, spray painted the interior and seats. They've started stripping the copper out of the car and cut the fuel lines off and everything else," he said. "Not only have they done that to that one, but they've started on two other passenger cars we have up there."
"Our insurance had a maximum of $30,000, and the damage estimates came in over that," he added.
Baldwin City Police Chief Greg Neis said his department takes reports from the association a few times a year. Each time, it's difficult to catch any criminals in the act because of the layout of the property.
"It's been an ongoing deal," he said. "The problem is they have those cars parked way back in their abandoned railroad."
Because of the location of the cars, it's not practical to send officers patrolling in that area on a regular basis, and it's difficult for others in the area to notice any potential nefarious activity, Neis said.
"There's no access back there, it's grown up on both sides of the right-of-way, covered by trees. People who live close to it can't see what's going on in there and so we have no idea when there's anybody there," he said.
Kinsley said the association plans to add security measures to the property, but the nonprofit group does need to overcome some financial limitations before that can happen. In addition, the group relies entirely on volunteer labor, which limits how often they can check on their equipment.
"There are only a couple of us that live here locally, and the rest of the volunteers live outside of the community," he said.
Not only is the ongoing vandalism causing financial strain on the association, Kinsley said, it's also taking an emotional toll.
"It's hard on a lot of people in our organization, because when you're passionate about what you're volunteering on and stuff like this happens, it kind of kicks you down a notch," he said.
Adding a few security measures around the property should help curb any vandalism going on, Neis said. Plus, police would appreciate any help they can get from the community along the way.
"If citizens see somebody up in there that they don't think belongs in there, and if they call it in, it gives us an opportunity to get up there and check and see if anything is going on," he said.