The London Euston-Inverness train smashed into the vehicles at Slateford junction, Edinburgh, at 4am. Police said none of the 95 passengers was injured - some slept through the incident - but the 33-year-old driver was treated for shock.
Detective Sergeant John McBride, from British Transport Police, said: "If it turns out to be vandalism it was the worst kind of mindless vandalism and could have had catastrophic effects." Fortunately the train had been travelling at only 30mph at the time.
Dozens of firefighters and Railtrack crew worked into the morning to clear the wreckage. A Railtrack spokesman said one of the vans had become lodged under the locomotive.
The owner of a van hire firm next to the site of the collision said the vans had been stolen from his yard.Reuse content