Donations to Model Engineers 'overwhelming'

For the Orange County Model Engineers, the good news keeps rolling in.

Reports about recent theft and vandalism totaling $7,000 to $9,000 at the nonprofit group's Fairview Park facility have been followed by a dramatic uptick in donations.

The Costa Mesa police and firefighter associations each donated $500 during a ceremony Sunday, said club spokesman Hank Castignetti on Monday.

The Goat Hill Tavern donated $1,000, he said, and the donation boxes at the railroad were filled with checks and money over the weekend.

And the group's postal box?

"Stuffed to capacity," as Castignetti described it.

"We're just thrilled," Castignetti said. "It's heartwarming, frankly, to see the response from the community. It's been overwhelming, and we're just so gobsmacked over this."

According to police, sometime on March 1 or 2, thieves broke into the train yard and stole materials, including more than 2,000 feet of aluminum tracks, with the likely intent to sell it for scrap value.

The engineers have since said they're interested in boosting security with a camera system or other measures. They've called Fairview Park home since 1989.

The theft hasn't stopped visitors. Over the weekend, the group hosted 2,762 riders on its nearly 40-acre train setup, dubbed the Goathill Junction.

And though it was an atypically hot spring weekend, a lot of people came by just to drop off money, Castignetti said.

"It just seemed like we had a lot more motivated fans and supporters of the railroad than we normally do," he said.

The train enthusiasts also handed out about 100 business cards bearing the group's post office box, leading them to believe that more donations are coming in the mail.

Last week, Castignetti said his group figured that it would receive about $4,000 in donations by Monday. The estimate came on the heels of the Costa Mesa-Newport Harbor Lions Club donating $1,000.

But now, things seem to be heading higher for the train buffs.

"I would guess that $4,000, that is gonna be on the low side," Castignetti said. "But by how much? I don't know."

Those who wish to make donations can send checks to Orange County Model Engineers, P.O. Box 3216, Costa Mesa, CA 92628.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World