Copper Thieves Caught After $100,000 Vandalism To Railroad Museum

BARSTOW—The most extensive vandalism ever done to the Western American Railroad Museum was the result of copper theft, according to authorities.
The museum sustained more than $100,000 worth of damage after thieves used saws and clippers to sever 160 feet of copper wiring and plating from inside the museum’s vintage 1925 California Arizona passenger  train car. That wiring lined both inside walls of the 80-foot-long green car and was part of the car’s radiant heating system.
According to Barstow police, Sean Michael Gilbert, 43, Erik John Kielty, 25, and John Phillip Blakenship, 46, were responsible for the theft. Authorities say that in addition to taking the copper cable from the California Arizona car, the trio removed the copper wiring in the car’s still-functioning electrical panel, rendering it non-operable, and made off with the railroad car’s two original 1925 light sconces, four  chairs, and the car’s collection of Mimbreno China.
The museum has been the target of at least 17 previous theft or vandalism incidents. This month’s was by far the most extensive.
The Western American Railroad Museum is a major tourist attraction and an international destination.
Gilbert, Kielty and Blakenship were nabbed by investigators and have a court appearance on June 5.

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