Dennison: Vandals damage Christmas tradition

9:27 AM, May 23, 2012   |    comments
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DENNISON, Ohio -- Vandals have put a holiday tradition on hold in a small Ohio town.

Christmas is seven months away, but that holiday tradition in Dennison, Ohio is already in danger because of the damage done by two young vandals.

The two youngsters, one 14 and the other 18,  attacked the town's "Polar Express," a vintage train used for the last 15 years to take children on fantasy rides to the North Pole and back during the Christmas season.

Dennison Police say they have admitted to breaking 28 windows by heaving rocks boulders through them.  Some of the rocks were nearly as big as volleyballs.

"It is just sickening," said Mary Galbreath, a longtime volunteer at the Dennison Depot, the impeccably restored train depot and museum.  "What would drive anyone to do something like that?"

The damaged train cars in the rear yard behind the depot now display window after window covered with plastic.  Rocks and shattered glass still litter the ground beneath the windows.

"Everyone is feeling very frustrated about this," says Wendy Zucal, executive director of the Dennison Depot.  "We have had school kids call us offering to clean up the glass, which of course we can't allow, but people have also started sending in small donations to help us cover our insurance deductible."

Cost of the repairs will be substantial.  Each of the windows will cost at least $2,000 to replace. Zucal says the Dennison Depot has been in touch with a company in Alabama which specializes in such restorations.

"The windows have to be a certain type of tempered glass, nearly bullet-proof.  They have to meet Federal standards for trains.  They are curved on the edges, very specialized items."

The vandals confessed to the damage according to Dennison Police who were examining a surveillance video which captured the attack on camera.  The video will be turned over the prosecutor who will determine the extent of criminal charges.

In addition to the train cars, which date to the 1940's, restaurant windows were smashed in, and glass tables behind the Dennison Depot were destroyed.

"What in the world were they thinking?" lamented Peg Henry, a volunteer who clearly remembered the depot's important role in World War II.  "I was in junior high and remember the troops, the canteen in the depot, and blackouts we had here in town."

 Zucal tells WKYC the Dennison Depot is one of few remaining canteens in the country which maintain the authentic look of the World War II era. 

The depot, museum, and many rail cars have been painstakingly restored over the years, to reflect Dennison's heritage as a major Ohio rail town.

The Depot has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the first ever such designation in Tuscarawas County.

"Now we have a lot of work to do, and fast, because the special train rides actually begin in October," Zucal said.  "I hope we can repair all the damage by then."


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