A heritage railway chairwoman has claimed she was forced to resign after members bombarded her with “vicious” abuse following an “ugly” station restoration.
Liz McGuinness said she received a tirade of “malicious emails” by enthusiasts after iron columns appeared at Llangollen steam railway’s Corwen station.
It comes after several members of the railway took offence at the supporting crossbeam of the arch installed at the station as part of a refurbishment programme, arguing that it looked like an “ugly waste pipe”.
The row reached a bitter climax when a number of members of the Llangollen Steam Railway began to bombard its chairwoman with abusive messages.
Some were so bitter and vicious that Mrs McGuinnesss felt she had no option but to resign from her post as chairwoman of both the railway’s plc and trust “for the sake of my sanity”.
The incident has thrown a disturbing light on the closed world of steam railway enthusiasts, with questions now being asked about the sort of behaviour being tolerated in their ranks.
The abusive emails directed at Mrs McGuinness were described by her as “vicious”.
The poisonous emails began after the board of the Llangollen Railway, in the North Wales county of Denbighshire, rejected one set of plans for the restoration and development of Corwen station and decided to continue with works which incorporated the columns from London Chatham & Dover Railway’s Blackfriars station.
This was despite what one board member described as the presence of “an ugly piece of metal pipe joining them together like a goal post”.
Members were informed that although the Blackfriars column and crossbeam were being retained, “what is being designed now will fully complement the front building” and “make the station a quality terminus/gateway to the Railway that everyone can be proud of”.
But following the decision Mrs McGuinness found herself at the receiving end of hate mail.
She told The Telegraph: “It came from a number of volunteers and it’s very sad.
“I’ve seen the railway through a difficult period, when it nearly went into administration and this abuse was very sad for me because it was a decision by the board as a whole and not just me.”
Mrs McGuinness, 59, refused to reveal the precise wording of the emails or the abuse directed at her, except to say it had made it impossible for her to carry on in her two paid roles, but added: “It was just untenable for me to continue because of the level of abuse I was receiving.”
In an online message to members she wrote: “I have had several vicious personal attack emails directed at me personally not at the board from various members.
“This is unacceptable as the decision was made back in January and agreed by the Corwen team and the Trust board (not me alone) with an independent mediator.
“I am stopping now for my health and sanity as constant malicious emails are not acceptable.”
It is all a far cry from the founding vision of Llangollen Railway.
It was established in 1975, following the closure of the old main line to passenger traffic in 1965 and to goods in 1968, by a group of enthusiasts who saw the potential for a scenic heritage line through the beautiful Dee Valley.