By Alan Gionet

UPDATE: Trailer Containing Treasured Model Railroad Display Found, With Some Parts Missing

(CBS4) – In the basement of Ken Cook’s Littleton home, trains in a model railroad display chug circles through carefully constructed mountains and miniature buildings. Friend Bill Thomas wonders what happened.

Ken Cook (credit: CBS)

“We’re all in a little bit of shock. Because this was not something that would be high value for anybody else to steal.”

They are hoping to get back the trailer that contains the expansive model railroad setup they bring to people.

“We try to go to venues where people aren’t necessarily expecting to see a train layout and expand the hobby that way,” said Cook.

Often they are the biggest draw with the 40 foot by 16 foot display.

It’s been missing since Sunday.

Thomas went to the Appogee Industrial Park in Watkins in eastern Arapahoe County to pick up the loaded box trailer that contains the whole setup they call a module. It wasn’t where they’d left it.

“Then I saw the chocks that we put under the wheels, the block, etc. And it clicked that the trailer was gone.”

Bill Thomas (credit: CBS)

A lock on the hitch was knocked off.

“They had snapped it off with something big and strong,” said Thomas.

The group calls the setup the Slick-X Line.

“It stands for Steve, Larry, Chuck, Ken, Xavier,” said Cook.

The group is now seven model railroading enthusiasts. They built the display 14 years ago. It took two years. Each year since they’ve tried to make improvements. The thousands of hours are difficult to count. The value hard is to figure. It’s not something you sell. The value to the group is in the joy it brings when they set up the display and show it to wide-eyed children and older people who remember the times when railroads were dominant.

“It’s much higher. You can’t touch that.”

Thomas says there are a lot of trailers stored at the industrial park — even others that look similar. He wonders if someone thought it might contain something they could use.

“If they didn’t expect to find this in the trailer, and therefore it means nothing to them, it means everything to us,” said Cook. “And that’s why we want it back intact.”

(credit: CBS)

The trailer is a 2009 Haulmark. It’s a 16 foot long box trailer with a roll-up door in the back and a 4 foot door on the side. Inside, it’s set up to contain the huge module.

“We built shelves in the trailer and the modular layout is designed to come apart,” said Cook.

It takes about three hours to set up. The display itself fills many display areas.

“Forty feet by sixteen feet. With unbelievable choreographed scenery,” said Thomas.

They were headed to Cheyenne for next weekend to set up again at Depot Days at the city’s historic train depot. Other visits are scheduled in the months ahead. But now they’ll have to be canceled. The men figure rebuilding is not possible.

“That module is what we put our hearts into 14 years ago and we don’t have the time, the energy, to re-do it. It can’t be redone,” said Cook.

They are not as young as they were.

“To build another layout I’d have to say is pretty unlikely at this point,” said Thomas.

The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office is working to obtain video from a company at the industrial complex that may show the theft in action. It’s not yet clear exactly when the trailer was stolen.

“I don’t know what their motivation is. I hope they’ll reconsider,” said Cook.

Alan Gionet