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Community rallies around train club after vandalism, donating $15K to get site back on track

County Supervisor Katrina Foley presents a check to the O.C. Model Engineers at Fairview Park.
County Supervisor Katrina Foley, right, presents a check for $15,000 to the O.C. Model Engineers Thursday at Fairview Park to help them rebuild after an act of vandalism.
(Courtesy of Katrina Foley’s office)

As Orange County Model Engineers pick up the pieces following an act of vandalism at their Fairview Park depot that caused thousands of dollars in damages, local community members are rallying around the railyard to ensure a swift recovery.

Members of the Costa Mesa nonprofit, which offers free monthly train rides to the public, were shocked on Wednesday morning to discover vandals had descended upon their tiny station in the night, creating a scene of havoc.

Shingles were ripped off the roof, while metal window coverings were pried open and several areas damaged at the station and a nearby storage building. The destruction spread to a picnic area, where tables were smashed and a small fire appeared to have been set.

Shingles from a model train depot at Costa Mesa’s Fairview Park, strewn by vandals whose work was discovered Wednesday.
Shingles torn from the roof of a model train depot at Costa Mesa’s Fairview Park were strewn about the parking lot by vandals, whose work was discovered Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“It was just blatant, wanton damage,” OCME member Hank Castignetti recalled in an interview Thursday. “Why would you go on the roof and rip the shingles off? It was just senseless.”

Castignetti called the timing of the incident a “gut punch” for the club, already attempting to raise funds during the pandemic, with little to no revenue or donations coming in, to repair a train trestle bridge that’s a prominent feature on the public rides.

Little did club members know the community, upon hearing the news, would spring into action in support of the rehabilitation.

Orange County District 2 Supervisor and former Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley coordinated a local response, dedicating $15,000 in discretionary funding to help pay for repairs and beef up security at the site.

She and Costa Mesa city officials, including Mayor John Stephens, presented a check to club members in a small informal ceremony Thursday as children from a nearby preschool rode the miniature rails during an annual holiday party.

Costa Mesa Mayor John Stephens, left, and County Supervisor Katrina Foley Thursday at Fairview Park.
Costa Mesa Mayor John Stephens, left, and District 2 County Supervisor Katrina Foley inspect vandalism damage Thursday at the Goat Hill Junction Railroad station at Fairview Park.
(Courtesy of Katrina Foley’s office)

In addition to the donation, officials are working with local trade organizations to see if members might assist in the rebuild, including the still-unfinished trestle work.

“It was my pleasure to be able to help,” Foley said in an interview after the event. “We have this incredible group of volunteers who run the trains and keep it all going. It’s literally a passion for them to be able to provide this community activity and community asset.”

Castignetti said the model engineers — all of them volunteers and most of them retirees — have been overwhelmed by the community response and touched to see an inhumane act remediated by an even bigger act of kindness.

“This morning has just been an incredibly emotional experience for me,” he added. “It’s been a whirlwind — it really shows you how much the community truly supports all our efforts here.”

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