THE Severn Valley Railway has been forced to take down the vintage signs decorating its station at Arley, near Bewdley, to stop them from being stolen after 21 signs disappeared last month.

Thieves targeted the station on two consecutive nights on March 28 and 29, making off with a mixture of enamel advertising signs and Great Western Railway notice cast iron signs which the SVR has been collecting over a number of years.

Station master Ian Latimer said the signs were "of great value" to the Severn Valley Railway, although they're not believed to be worth much money as many had been restored. Some were almost 100 years old.

Kidderminster Shuttle: The signs are all marked with Smart Water which means they can be traced back to Arley Station if foundThe signs are all marked with Smart Water which means they can be traced back to Arley Station if found

Mr Latimer told The Shuttle: "It's very disheartening because people come to the Severn Valley Railway and to Arley form all over world to see what it would have been like in the 1900s, and the signs were part and parcel of that.

"We’re closed at the moment because of the lockdown and we were doing a site inspection when we realised some of the signs were missing. It's believed they were stolen on two separate occasions. Most of them were attached to the fence and were unscrewed, it was quite professionally done. The strange thing is they've put most of the screws back.

"It’s so disappointing given all of our hard work over many years, collecting these signs and renovating them. Because of the work we've had to do to them, we don’t think anyone would get much money for them, but they're of great value to us."

A white van was spotted near the railway station on the night of the thefts, which volunteers believe could have been used to carry the signs away.

Only one of the cast iron signs has been recovered.

Volunteers are still analysing CCTV footage from the nights and have contacted all local auctioneers to make them aware of the thefts.

Police have also been informed, as the signs have all been marked with Smart Water, and station volunteers have issued an appeal for members of the public to keep an eye out for anyone attempting to sell the signs and report it to the railway or to police on 101.

The enamel signs advertise brands such as Colman's mustard, Champion bread cakes and Spratt's.

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Lesley Carr, from the Severn Valley Railway, said: "Our volunteers at Arley station have worked hard to collect and restore these vintage signs.

"They take huge pride in looking after the buildings and platforms, so that they look attractive for our visitors.

"It’s awful that this has happened, especially now as we’re getting the railway ready to reopen on April 12.

"We have reported the theft to the police and removed further signage from the station.”