By Greg Bird
A local businessman is issuing a warning to would be vandals and thieves: messing around with railroad property can be a costly crime.
Steve Richards, owner of Crossroads Railcar Services in Stearns, recently faced what could have been a severe setback in his operations after vandals defaced one of the rail cars he was contracted to paint and clean.
The company had just completed a restoration of a rail car for a private owner based out of Michigan, and were preparing to ship the car back to the owner. As the car left the yard, hooked on to a freight train, Richards noticed someone had “tagged” the car with graffiti.
Fortunately, Richards was able to get to Oneida where the train was waiting before being shipped north to clean the car before it was too late.
He said the cost to clean the car was about $1,000, but could have been a lot worse.
The potential losses from vandalism and thefts could threaten the young business, which is preparing for expansion. If such acts continue, Richards warns, some clients may look elsewhere to get the work done, or the costs to fix the damage could hurt the bottom line.
Richards says this isn’t the first time he has encountered problems at the site in Stearns. He has dealt with trespassers, vandals and thefts over the past year, and wanted to spread the word that messing around on railroad property is no laughing matter.
“What these people don’t realize is when you enter railroad property it is no longer a misdemeanor offense, it becomes a federal issue,” he said.
According to the law if one is found guilty of damaging railroad property in excess of $500 could face fines of up to $10,000 or up to 10 years in jail.
Richards says he has spoken with Sheriff Randy Waters whom he said was very helpful and promised to take action on the issue.
Meanwhile Richards is planning on adding additional security to the lot in an effort to curtail the illegal activities.
Crossroads specializes in custom repair and upgrading of privately owned railcars, one of only a few companies in the United States that provide the service.