A TARGETED theft from Heaton Park's heritage tramway has been met by an "overwhelming" response from the rail community and members of the public.

Volunteers from Heaton Park Tramway arrived at the visitor attraction on Tuesday morning to discover that a 40-metre section of their overhead wires, some of which was copper, had been stolen.

The group initially shared an announcement that the crime had caused them to "indefinitely close". However, a GoFundMe page has since been launched, with dozens of supporters donating money to help the group repair the damage and cover their losses.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and KeolisAmey Metrolink (KAM) have now offered to repair and reinstate a section of the wiring.

Keith Whitmore, chairman of the Heaton Park Tramway Trust, said: "What has been phenomenal is the way people have rallied round to offer help. We have had a crowdfunding appeal which is now in the thousands and rising all the time, which is remarkable.

"The rail and tram industries have given their support.

"Members of the public have said they are devastated. Unfortunately heritage groups like ourselves are being targeted which is very very sad because we are trying to provide something enjoyable for the community."

Prestwich and Whitefield Guide:

The Heaton Park Tramway is run by a team of between 40 and 50 volunteers on behalf of Manchester Transport Museum Society, who jointly run the line with Manchester City Council.

Mr Whitmore said they had received support from TfGM, who will be visiting the site today to look at reinstating the wiring, as well as Network Rail, Blackpool Transport and others.

TfGM and KAM say they will provide a section of contact wire used on the Metrolink to enable Tramway Museum staff to check if it is suitable for use on the heritage network.

If suitable, then a length of wire will be provided, with staff on hand to assist with the installation if required. If the wire is unsuitable, the have pledged to make efforts to source a replacement from elsewhere.

Chris Stinchcombe, director of engineering at KAM, said: “We were saddened to hear the entire future of Heaton Park tramway was under threat because of the theft.

“There are strong links between us and them and, over the years, our staff have volunteered their time and expertise to support Heaton Park Tramway.

“We just have to try and help – so we’re trying to source wire for them that matches their equipment and offering the expertise of KAM’s own engineers, and our partners Pod-Trak, to complete the repairs in hope we can get the tramway moving again.”

A GoFundMe page set up by Ed Ainscow has already raised more than £4,000 for the cause.

The wires were stolen some time between the Tramway's closure at 5.30pm on Sunday and a volunteer's discovery at 10am on Tuesday.The theft has been reported to Greater Manchester Police.

The crime left the tramway out of operation because power could not be supplied to the Lakeside depot to move any of the trams.

Prestwich and Whitefield Guide:

Martin Bryan, secretary of Manchester Transport Museum Society, said: "The news of the theft came as a real blow. It is heartbreaking. Our volunteers work incredibly hard and invest so much into this project, so we take this very personally.

"We believe the wires were cut down with a hacksaw because we found a broken blade at the scene.

"Initially we did not know how long it was going to take to repair it or source the materials. The ideal is that we are up and running sooner rather than later."

Their fundraising appeal will allow the volunteers to restore the tramway back to a working condition so that they can once again run a service.

Funds raised will go towards the hire costs of a cherry picker to repair and replace any damaged span-wires and the purchase of copper overhead wire. Excess funding will be used to support expansion plans for the Lakeside depot.

Mr Bryan added: "We didn't know we were so loved. The response has been fantastic.

"The Tramway is a unique part of Greater Manchester's transport history. We are the only tramway museum still running on original tram tracks and we are looking forward to celebrating our 40th anniversary next year."

TfGM’s head of Metrolink, Danny Vaughan, said: “Not only is Heaton Park Tramway a gateway to our transport history, it’s a fantastic attraction enjoyed by thousands of people every year.

“While it is out of operation there will be plenty of very disappointed people and it’s appalling that thieves would target it in this way.

“As soon as soon as we heard about the theft, we knew we had to do whatever we could to help. Hopefully, by working with KAM, we’ll be able to help reinstate the tramway sooner rather than later.”

To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/f/fundraiser-for-the-replacement-of-stolen-overhead.

To volunteer with the Tramway visit http://hptramway.co.uk/index.php/come-and-join-us/ to become a member, at £15 for adults and £7 for children.