A gang of schoolboys destroyed a model railway exhibition after breaking into a school sports hall to play football in the middle of the night.
The youths caused £30,000 worth of damage and smashed up hand-built locomotives and displays including one which had taken 36 years to build.
The rampage inside the Stamford Welland Academy sports hall in Lincolnshire in the early hours on May 18 left Market Deeping Model Railway Club organisers in tears.
Equipment was allegedly damaged at Market Deeping Model Railway Club in Stamford in May
Four youths aged 15 and 16 were arrested. Three, all now 16, pleaded guilty this morning to a charge of criminal damage during a hearing at Lincoln Youth Court.
A fourth youth, also 16, will appear before the same court later today. A youth court bench is expected to carry out sentencing this afternoon.
Five complete track layouts which each run up to 32 yards (30m) were damaged – forcing the annual event to be cancelled for the first time in more than 30 years.
A layout for youngsters could not be saved and the club said it is now rebuilding and promoting youth events.
Four youths were charged with criminal damage over the incident at Welland Academy
Following the vandalism, well-wishers raised more than £60,000 for the club – including rock star Sir Rod Stewart.
The model train enthusiast, who has his own 100ft model railway at his Beverley Hills home, handed over £10,000 and called on his celebrity friends Jools Holland and Roger Daltrey to do the same.
The musician, 74, said: ‘I was absolutely devastated to hear that vandals had destroyed what was to be a lovely show by the Market Deeping Model Railway Club over the weekend.
‘The collection was priceless and I am donating £10,000 to help compensate those affected and asking fellow enthusiasts Jools Holland, Roger Daltrey and others to do the same. It took me 23 years to build my model railway so I feel their pain.’
The males – three aged 16 and one aged 15 – were charged after the incident on May 18
More than 400 visitors had been expected at the display in Stamford.
Committee chairman Peter Davies said: ‘The youngsters were attacking with hammers. They were playing football with model locomotives. We even found a box containing wagons and carriages thrown up in a basketball ring.
‘One hammer had been used so hard the handle was broken and the head flown off. The devastation was total. It was mindless vandalism. Everyone is devastated.’
Police alerted by an alarm arrested four youths who were bailed pending inquiries.