VOLUNTEERS at a Blunsdon steam railway restoration charity are at the end of their tether after being hit by three break-ins.

The group, based at the buildings occupied by Swindon and Cricklade Railway Society, on Tadpole Lane, is having to mount extra security patrols to try to stop further burglaries.

Trustee Russell Weir said: "There have been three break-ins. The first one was from some outbuildings and they got away with a £2,000 portable welder, maintenance saws and other smaller tools.

"Then they came back a couple of nights later and tried to break into the sheds.

"They didn't get anything that time but we have still had to pay to have all the locks replaced and the damage repaired.

"After that some of our volunteers started going up there at night to check on the place, and that was when they actually disturbed two burglars in the act.

"They had broken into our canteen and were making off with a large quantity of frozen food and, for some reason, a green canoe that was lying outside.

"When they were disturbed they ran off but they still got away with the food and the canoe. I really can't imagine why they would want that.

"We are a charity, completely run by volunteers, so it is difficult for us to get extra security.

"We do have some people going up there at night, but they are all volunteers giving up their time in the middle of the night, and I don't see why they should have to do that.

"As we are a charity, money is always tight, and at the moment we are in the middle of expanding the steam railway to Moulden Hill, so we can really do without the expense of having to replace and repair locks, and the inconvenience of having our tools stolen."

Anyone with information is asked to contact PC Stewart Hulmes at Cricklade police station on (01793) 750207.