Mangled, broken and stripped of their copper, the remains of two stolen model trains were fished from shallow water at Lake Illawarra on Tuesday.
Illawarra Live Steamers reported the theft of two trains from the club's North Wollongong miniature railway on Saturday.
The models, owned privately by two club members, weighed in at a combined 150 kilograms.
On Tuesday morning, bent and broken pieces of the trains were spotted by a fisherman in the shallows near Illawarra Yacht Club.
Illawarra Live Steamers treasurer John Wilson said the engines had a combined value of more than $20,000.
They had been targeted for the pittance of copper piping they housed.
"They might have had a total of $150 of copper in them but that's nowhere near what they were worth, or what the work put into them was worth," said a clearly devastated Mr Wilson.
At the lake, the salvage crew consisted of club track superintendent Denis McAllister, his wetsuit, a surfboard and a pair of swimming goggles.
"These trains take years to build. For the sake of a few dollars, I can't see the value of this crime," Mr Wilson said.
A set of expensive power tools was also stolen, with an empty tool box found near the broken bodies of the trains.
Illawarra Live Steamers president Greg Coleman said the recovered trains were unlikely to be rebuilt by the not-for-profit group.
"It would take longer to restore than to build a whole new one," Mr Coleman said.
"This is a massive blow to us. The cost will have set us back a number of years."
Mr Coleman said the group were now reviewing security measures at their facility.
Wollongong police on Saturday confirmed they were investigating the theft.
Club members continued the search and salvage mission on Tuesday afternoon.