Vandals attacked the Sierra Railroad Dinner Train, yet again, breaking six windows and causing $5,000 worth of damage on Sunday, Dec. 18, said Sierra Railroad Dinner Train President, Chris Hart.
The damage was so severe that it nearly caused Hart to cancel the Christmas Train scheduled to roll with 230 children because they almost couldn’t find a glass company to repair the damage in time.
Don’s Mobile Glass came to the rescue, bringing a crew of six people to repair the specialty glass in time for the 2:30 p.m. train.
“They didn’t have to do that but they really helped us out,” Hart said. “Our Christmas trains are very popular. It’s our busiest time of the year.
The dinner train has been plagued with issues as of late from vandals setting fire to their garbage bins, gang graffiti to the railcars to the homeless living under the platform, this latest expensive stunt has Hart wondering if it’s time to pull out of Oakdale.
“This has happened over and over,” Hart said, frustrated. “I’ve never seen this level of wanton destruction by the kids of Oakdale. We’re right in the middle of town and yet, this manages to happen?”
In an effort to stem the vandalism, Hart had security cameras installed, which seemed to help when they caught two juveniles throwing rocks at the windows. One juvenile was convicted and ordered to pay restitution, but the judge dismissed the other’s case for lack of evidence.
To date, the convicted juvenile has yet to pay a dime on his debt owed to Sierra Railroad, said Hart.
Lt. Lester Jenkins of the Oakdale Police Department admitted there is an issue but the problem doesn’t present a workable solution with so few resources available to the city.
“We will increase patrol throughout that area,” Jenkins said. “But the problem is, it only takes a few seconds to throw a rock and break a window.”
And with only three officers on patrol during the night, Jenkins said it would be difficult to catch the perpetrators in the act.
“I don’t want to say, ‘Someone has to do something’ but I don’t know how much longer I can do this,” Hart said.
Vandals have caused so much damage to the trains that the insurance company has threatened to raise the railroad’s rates if they turn in any more claims.
“So basically, this is going to come right out of our pocket,” Hart said. “It has happened too many times and our insurance has had enough. I can’t afford to turn in this claim. But I don’t know how much longer I can afford to keep forking over $5,000 a pop.”
Hart said Mayor Pat Paul met with him to discuss the issue but with the city also in a financial squeeze, the solution isn’t an obvious or easy fix.