OGDEN -- The Eccles Rail Center at Ogden's Union Station has one of the world's best collections of locomotives, switch engines, boxcars and cabooses, but recent vandalism has station officials looking for new ways to protect its history.
Lee Witten, Union Station's librarian and archivist, says vandalism to the train pieces has been on the rise during the past year.
The rail center is to the immediate south of Union Station. It's outside, so when station workers leave for the night, it's essentially left unprotected.
With quick walk through the south end of the center, visitors can see rail cars and locomotives with fresh graffiti, broken windows, kicked-in doors, fire damage and more.
"It's become a big problem for us," Witten said. "We try to keep up on removing the graffiti and cleaning things up, but it's hard when it's happening so often."
Earlier this year a group of Boy Scouts cleaned up graffiti at the center, but it was back in a matter of weeks.
"It seems as soon as we get it all removed, there's more of it," Witten said.
But graffiti is only the tip of the iceberg.
Vandals are regularly stealing copper parts from the train equipment, and windows and doors are broken nearly every week.
"Vagrants have been using our equipment to live and sleep in," Witten said. "A lot of this stuff is nice and big and comfortable, so they like to make temporary homes here."
Slim Jolley works at the station and has been a part of the team that works on cleaning up the rail center.
She said odd items accumulate often enough that the team makes regular trips to donate them to Deseret Industries.
"We've found clothes, sleeping bags, toiletries, food," she said. "Basically, anything you would take camping, we've found it here."
Makeshift campers destroyed an old rail car at the southern end of the station earlier this year when a fire they used to cook food and keep warm blazed out of control.
"We were going to restore it," Witten said of the car. "But now it's probably too damaged for us to salvage anything."
Witten and Jolley say station officials are looking at several options to help curb the vandalism.
Ogden Police have increased patrols in the area, which has helped some.
"The police have been helpful, and they've been coming over when we have problems," Jolley said. "But you have to be real lucky to catch someone in the act."
Witten said station officials have discussed security cameras, motion detector lights and even enclosing the center and locking it up at night.
But because Union Station is funded mostly through donations, coming up with a viable security option has been difficult.
"There are ways we can combat some of this stuff," Jolley said. "But coming up with the money to pay for it is another story."
In the meantime Jolley and Witten say they tackle the issue one day at a time.
"We'll just keep at it," Jolley said. "When we see vandalism, we'll do our best to get rid of it. That's really all we can do at this point."