THE iconic steam train that drew huge crowds at the Ballarat Heritage Weekend may not return after three carriages and a locomotive were graffitied on Sunday night.
The 1920s carriages were a hit during the weekend as they made their 45-minute return trip from the Ballarat station to Sulky.
But Steamrail Victoria’s Ballarat depot manager Ian Lloyd said they would have to reconsider whether the train would be back for a fourth year after the incident in the railway station yards.
“It is very disheartening,” he said.
“It will take a good three months to restore them. We would consider not bringing the train back.”
Mr Lloyd said the trains were restored by a team of volunteers who would have to find time to take the graffiti off and repaint the carriages.
Click here to view the photo gallery from the steam train event
“All the money earned is put back into the upkeep of the carriages,” he said.
“(The trip to Ballarat) has been a loss for us now.
“It will cost us $15,000 in volunteer time and material to restore it again.”
He said the carriages would also be out of circulation while being restored.
One of the carriages had only been repainted last year.
“Because of the stupidity of a few everyone has to suffer,” Mr Lloyd said.
Steamrail Victoria operations manager Les Coulton said the carriages would be taken back to the organisation’s Melbourne depot to be repainted.
“We are lucky there were no smashed windows,” Mr Coulton said.
“This is Victoria’s heritage. I have to go back to Melbourne and tell our volunteers that their hard work restoring the trains has been wasted.”
City of Ballarat destinations and connections councillor Samantha McIntosh said the news was dreadful.
“It is very disappointing,” Cr McIntosh said.“You would hope people would have much greater respect for our history and heritage.”
Cr McIntosh said the steam train was a “crucial part” of the Heritage Weekend.
“It would be a real shame to not have the steam train there,” she said. “There is always a queue of people wanting to get on.”
Ballarat police Senior Constable Peter Byvoet said the carriages seemed to have been vandalised between 5.30pm on Sunday, and Monday morning.
Senior Constable Byvoet urged residents to come forward and report all incidents of graffiti.
“Police are asking for any witnesses to come forward and contact either the Ballarat police or Crime Stoppers,” Senior Constable Byvoet said.
“We do get reasonably regular reports about graffiti but a lot of people tend not to report it.”
Contact Ballarat police on 5336 6000 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.