RETIRED businessman Gerald Smith is devastated after his £7,500 model steam engine was ripped apart and stolen by metal thieves.
He had been putting the finishing touches to the 3ft long loco and its tender after six months of painstaking work.
Police yesterday slammed the burglar and said the case showed the heartache that can be caused by metal theft.
Mr Smith had left the model on a stand in his garage in Bradford, ready to spend two weeks painting the engine in the green livery of Great Western Railways.
When he returned the next morning he broke down when he found the garage ransacked and the model of a late 19th century Dean Goods train gone.
Neighbours later said they had seen a skinhead making off with the 50lb train in a neighbours wheelie bin around 3am on Thursday.
He had broken the padlock off the garage next to the end of terrace house in Bray Close, Horton Bank Top, sabotaged the alarm and then raided five more lock-ups nearby for more metal.
Mr Smith, 70, said: “I was down on my knees weeping when I saw the garage door was open.
“After trying three numbers for the police I rang 999 and got reprimanded. They said it was an emergency number. I said ‘To me this is an emergency’.
“I was totally devastated. I was on my hands and knees sobbing. It was so soul-destroying. I do not even remember the first hour of the morning after I got back upstairs.
“If I had confronted them I would have used any means in my power to defend my property,” he added.
“I’m seventy years old and have got nothing to lose. We all have to die someday. Most of the people who do this have never done a day’s work in their lives.
“If they get taken to court they just get a slap on the wrists.”
He has offered a £300 reward for information leading to the recovery of the stolen property and conviction of the thieves.