VOLUNTEERS working to restore a vintage railway coach to replace one destroyed in an arson attack need welding gear to finish the job as soon as possible.

An appeal in the Advertiser last month by the Swindon and Cricklade Railway for skilled welders and steel fabricators resulted in several people coming forward. But because the group only has one set of equipment the pace of work is slow.

The group’s treasured and rare Thumper diesel unit was damaged beyond repair when arsonists targeted the railway last summer. Trucks and electrical wiring were also destroyed.

A replacement was found within weeks but the organisation discovered it would probably take up to three years to get it back into service.

When the team started stripping back the bodywork they kept discovering the state of decay, meaning that more that needed to be done and some of it involved parts of the chassis – the kind of work that requires professional equipment rather than DIY and hobby gear.

“We need an industrial quality MIG welder,” said volunteer and experienced welder Martin Luffman.

“Doing it on my own for four hours on a Sunday, it is going to take forever.

“We have now got another couple of people who have come forward that can do that sort of welding work. We need something for them to use.”

“One man one machine you can only do one job at once and the railway has a never-ending list of things that need doing.”

He said the arson attack and the resulting work needed to bring the replacement unit up to standard had put the railway back two years.

“Everything else has had to stop to get this done,” said Martin.

But if anyone was prepared to lend or donate more welding equipment for the qualified volunteers to use the work could be done much more quickly.

The hope is that the Thumper, which is almost 60 years old, could be pulling trains again within the next year. Its predecessor was a useful workhorse for the railway and was much less expensive to run than steam.

Donated by a private collector following the fire at Hayes Knoll in May last year, the replacement was in service with British Rail for four decades before being retired to storage in Worcestershire.

The railway suffered a second blow in the wake of the fire when their insurers paid out just 15 per cent of their £80,000 claim.

Anyone wanting to donate equipment can email scr@gmx.co.uk or visit swindon-cricklade-railway.org for more information.