RAILWAY enthusiasts are reeling after they gave £18,000 of donations to a glass firm - a day before it went into administration.

East Lancashire Railway staff and volunteers have been raising cash to pay for a centrepiece £100,000 canopy over platform 2 at the Bolton Street station since 2012.

They handed over a fifth of the cash to a glass supplier – 24 hours before administrators were called in.

Devastated ELR workers said they have not heard from the firm, Paperlinx, since, and only discovered the news when an answering machine message at the company’s base said Deloitte was now handling its affairs.

A Deloitte spokesman told The Bury Times: "The administrators are looking into this payment and will revert directly to the charity when they are able to provide an update.

"Deloitte was appointed joint administrators of a number of companies of PaperlinX UK on April 1.

"Prior to this date, the joint administrators were not in control of the business and its operations."

The Victorian canopy was due to be completed by July, but bosses of the registered charity said things are now up in the air.

They are urging supporters to donate funds and want a new supplier to get in touch.

ELR’s general manager Andy Morris said: “We have used this company twice previously and trusted them.

“We did the bank transfer one afternoon at 1.30pm. When I rang the next day to check everything was fine, the line rang out.

“When I tried again, I got an answering machine message saying the firm was in administration.

“I felt physically sick and was trembling.

"The vast majority of the money for this project has come from fundraising efforts, bequests and donations.

"It is incomprehensible that that money could disappear into thin air.

“Many volunteers have put their heart and soul into the ELR and it is such a shame for them.”

Platform 2 has been without a roof since the 1970s and heritage railway enthusiasts wanted to build a canopy to keep people sheltered from the rain.

An ELR spokesman added: “The financial failure, last week, of paper giant Robert Horne Group has struck a huge blow to the ELR’s ambitions to restore their Bury Bolton Street Station back to its former glory.

“The heritage railway’s £100,000 project to re-establish the Victorian style station canopy at the showcase station’s platform 2 is now in serious jeopardy.

“Company bosses were alerted to problems when calls to the supplier of the roof glazing for the canopy went unanswered.

“The railway had paid nearly £18,000 to Robert Horne Group subsidiary, Paperlinx, only the day prior to the administrators, Deloitte, being appointed and indications are that the ELR will not see either the glazing delivered or their money returned.”

Mr Morris added: “We’re absolutely devastated by what’s happened and we’re still struggling to come to terms with what this will ultimately mean for the future of the canopy project.

“The sum of money involved is very substantial for a charity such as ours and it is particularly upsetting bearing in mind the funds were raised through donations and other benefaction.

“We shall be taking legal advice about what rights we have in circumstances such as this but at the moment it doesn’t look very encouraging.

“We also need to see what options are open to us in terms of keeping the project on-track and for completion by mid-July, as raising a similar amount of cash to that we’ve already paid out is going to be a tall order.

“However, one thing is for sure, our volunteer workforce will do everything within their power to ensure the job gets done.”

“Fundraising for the project began over three years ago and has been the focus of our ever popular annual Raise the Roof music festival at Bolton Street station, which is due to take place again over the weekend of July 17 and 18.

“We’re obviously now looking for further financial support and we’d be very grateful for any donations, however small, and these can be pledged by going to the East Lancashire Railway website at eastlancsrailway.org.uk.”

The Bury Times has asked Paperlinx about the issue but it has not yet commented.

Speaking generally about Paperlinx’s administration, joint administrator Matt Smith, of Deloitte, said: “The industry has faced an increasingly challenging environment due to falling demand as digital communications have increased.

“We are investigating how best to maximise value in the businesses for the benefit of its creditors.

“The joint administrators are seeking to continue to trade the businesses on a limited basis to secure the best value available from current stock holdings and other assets.

“The businesses will continue to actively trade from five sites, including the Northampton head office, but on a more limited basis than previously.

"During this period we will also be attempting to find a purchaser for all or parts of the businesses.”