Photo/IllutrationA train name plate to the left of the door was stolen from this type KuMoHa 455 car on display at the Railway Museum in Saitama. A notice was put up at its entrance forbidding public entry. (Yuichiro Yoneda)

  • Photo/Illustraion

SAITAMA--The Railway Museum here banned visitors from entering six train cars on display after discovering theft and vandalism among the exhibits.

“The deeds of some thoughtless people have led us to deny public access into the cars,” said Toshihisa Miyagi, the 63-year-old director of the museum. “We cannot reopen them until we are reassured that things will be all right.”

Miyagi said he is “enraged” over the actions that have poured cold water on the museum’s philosophy of allowing maximum public access to car interiors so that visitors can “touch, ride and directly feel” trains and other railroad equipment.

After the museum, located in the Saitama prefectural capital, was renovated in July, it increased the number of train cars open to the public. Visitors could board 18 of the 41 cars on display.

But museum officials noticed problems on Dec. 28.

A replicated train name plate saying “Matsushima” had been stolen from the side of an entrance door on a type KuMoHa 455 train car on the ground floor of the main building. The thief or thieves replaced the replica with a different plate.

Another door to the same car, which is normally locked, had been pried open.

On a type KuHa 481 car beside the first car on the other side of a platform, a locked door was broken open and the destination sign on the side had been rotated to show a blank space. The material that displays the destination was crumpled inside the mechanism.

The museum filed a theft and damage to property report with police on Jan. 2.

It also banned visitors from boarding the two cars and entering the cabs of four electric locomotives that contain many appliances.

Surveillance cameras were operating and security guards were on patrol, according to museum officials. They are now considering new security measures.

No thefts or vandalism have been reported at the Kyoto Railway Museum since it opened in 2016, although few of the 53 train cars on display are regularly open to the public.

That is because the cars are seen as “cultural property” items, with a focus on protection, museum officials explained.

The SCMAGLEV and Railway Park in Nagoya has suffered vandalism and other damage since it opened in 2011, but it has not denied public access to its exhibits.

The museum, devoted to superconducting magnetically levitated and other train systems, allows visitors to enter some of the 39 train cars on display. Other exhibits are open to the public on a limited basis.

“Making all our exhibits off-limits to the public would be the best option if the priority was protection,” a museum official said. “But we have this desire to allow visitors to take a closer look.”