Man fined for theft of model train

It is a hobby where attention to detail is paramount.For the model railway enthusiast, the pleasure is in the making, cleaning and admiring of replica locomotives.

It is a hobby where attention to detail is paramount.

For the model railway enthusiast, the pleasure is in the making, cleaning and admiring of replica locomotives.

Yet the hobby's image has been tarnished after a relationship between two Norfolk enthusiasts came off the rails and ended up before a court over a replica engine.

The dark underbelly of the miniature train world was revealed yesterday as members of a Norfolk railway model club appeared in court over allegations of stealing a model engine.

As magistrates decided that former Yarmouth & District Model Railway Club member Paul Bowdler was guilty of theft they heard tales of backstabbing, deceit, imaginary burglaries and rampant egos.

Bowdler was fined £75 for stealing a Lima Class dcc model train from fellow member Michael Vaughan and dishonestly trying to sell it for £25 at a car boot sale in Burgh Castle.

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During an afternoon trial Yarmouth Magistrates' Court was told that the relationship between Bowdler and retired police officer Mr Vaughan had gone of the rails earlier in the year.

They clashed over the model trains and unpaid repair costs leading to veiled threats, an arrest and a web of deceit

While he was still a member Bowdler, 38, of Magnolia Green, Gorleston, had taken the £31.30 model from Mr Vaughan to remove an electronic chip that prevented it working.

But when Mr Vaughan asked for his model back, Bowdler said he no longer had it.

Mr Vaughan told the court: “I was told that he had suffered a burglary at his home address and all of his railway equipment had been stolen, including the item he had on my behalf.”

Bowdler totally denied making the comment.

However six weeks later on June 15 this year Mr Vaughan was at the car boot sale when he saw his Lima Class train up for sale by Bowdler for £25.

Bowdler was then arrested at the Burgh Castle sale.

Fergus Harold, prosecuting, said: “He claimed he had done work for Mr Vaughan for which he had not been paid. That was the reason he was selling the model.”

However Mr Vaughan said that in fact Bowdler owed him money and had tried on many occasions to ask for his model train back.

Bowdler, who claimed to be the seventh best modeller in the UK, was seen as the club's fix it man and regularly expected small payments for some repairs.

The court heard that Bowdler and Mr Vaughan had earlier fallen out over debts between the two.

Bowdler claimed that Mr Vaughan had threatened him over a debt by whispering into his ear: “There is more than one way to skin a cat”.

Under cross examination by Mr Harold, Bowdler admitted he had since been 'kicked out of the club' but denied having a 'grudge' against members.

But he said that he had been 'stabbed in the back' by members who had not paid him for repairs.

Bowdler added: “It is not a friendly club.”

The hearing then took a comic turn as Bowdler's solicitor Chris Bowles summed up his defence.

He told the bench: “You have got to decide does this case hit the buffers or is the prosecution on track.

“We have two people making wild allegations against each other. There are two powerful egos on trial.”

As well as the £75 fine Bowdler, who had a previous conviction for theft in 1999 and is on incapacity benefits, was ordered by magistrates to pay a £15 surcharge and prosecution costs of £50.

The Yarmouth & District Model Railway Club meets every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night in Bradwell.