A 187-YEAR-OLD toilet once warmed by a world-renowned railway pioneer has been destroyed by vandals.

The outdoor toilet, known as an earth closet, is part of the Locomotion National Railway Museum at Shildon, County Durham, and sits in the grounds of the house built by the rail company for pioneering engineer Timothy Hackworth in 1825.

The “nettie” is in the rear yard of Hackworth House and has been a popular feature with tourists since the buildings were originally opened as the Timothy Hackworth Museum in 1975, before being incorporated in the National Railway museum’s Locomotion in 2004.

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Sometime between 4pm on Saturday and 9.45am Monday vandals wrecked the nettie’s roof and pulled up the wooden boards users of the lavatory would have sat upon.

They also pushed over a large mangle which has been turned into a flower pot.

Museum manager Dr George Muirhead branded the damage as “mindless”.

When it was built, the seven-bedroom house and outbuildings were hailed as the grandest home in New Shildon, the new town at the heart of the growth in the railway industry.

Hackworth lived there for 30 years with his six daughters, two sons, two servants and family pets, before selling it back to the rail company.

He was a pioneer in rail engineering and a key figure in the creation of the 26-mile Stockton and Darlington Railway, built to transport coal from the coalfields in County Durham down to the River Tees at Stockton and hailed as one of the world’s first railway systems.

Hackworth, who oversaw the construction of worksheds and buildings around his home as the railway grew, was employed as the railway’s first locomotive superintendent.

He was also involved in designing the first Stephenson Locomotive before going on to

invent the Royal George, which revolutionised engineering.

A police spokesman said the building is a part of Shildon’s history and deserves to be treated with more respect.

He said: “We take any incident of vandalism very seriously, but it is particularly distressing when it is part of a museum that is treasured by so many people and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year.

“We would urge anyone with information to come forward.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact PC Sharon Murray on 101.