IT was a story that sent shivers of excitement around the world: two intrepid treasure hunters had tracked down a legendary Nazi train. Inside its armoured carriers was supposed to be a wealth of treasure and military secrets.

Or so Piotr Koper and Andreas Richter claimed.

Since chuffed supporters and steamed-up local Polish authorities initiated a search in 2015, no train has heaved into view.

Now one of the amateur historians behind the whole thing has pulled the emergency break on his involvement in the increasingly futile search.

They’re doing it all wrong, he says.

The story has been around for a while.

Or, to be more exact, several stories.

It emerged from the wreckage of the last days of World War II.

Nazi Germany was in full retreat.

Troops rushed to retrieve everything from gold and looted treasures through to secret plans and prototype weapons. They did not want anything to fall into Russian hands.

A last heavily-laden, and heavily-armoured, German train pulled out of Wroclaw in eastern Poland. It was never seen again.

Speculation mounted.

Year after year, the tale grew. It carried treasure. It carried the fabled Amber Room panels stolen from a Russian palace. It carried advanced technologies from Hitler’s secret weapons programs …

Then, in 2015, two amateur historians approached the Walbrzych local council. They wanted a guaranteed 10 per cent cut of the treasure from the train. They knew where it was.

“We inform you about the finding by the shareholders (of an) armoured train from WWII. The train is likely to contain additional equipment in the form of self-propelled guns positioned on platforms with a total length of about 150 metres. The train also contains valuable, rare industrial materials and precious ores,” a legal letter declared.

Days later, a member of no less than Poland’s ministry of culture responded. He was ‘99 per cent certain’ the lost train had been discovered, buried in a disused siding in the mountaneous approaches to an old Nazi secret underground complex.

“We do not know what is inside the train. Probably military equipment but also possibly jewellery, works of art and archive documents,” Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski said. “The fact that it is armoured indicates it has a special cargo.”

Troops were deployed. Sensors scattered across the tracks and forests.

Digs were initiated.

Nothing was found.

The two amateur treasure hunters behind the claim maintained their conviction they knew where the train was.

It’s just that the location kept changing.

Now, two years after shooting to world fame, they’ve stopped talking to each other.

Andreas Richer has abandoned his side of the search with Piotr Koper.

“It’s over, Richter told the DPA press agency.

It’s not about the train.

“I am 95 per cent sure it exists,” the German genealogist said.

Instead, he was frustrated with what he called mistakes and inaccuracies in the excavations and search.

They didn’t dig deep enough. His partner kept postponing further efforts.

Now, Richter is fed up.

“I don’t want to do anything foolish any more,” he said.

He says he’s already blown $125,000 on the hunt. And the project, as yet, has shown no return for his investment.

Former partner Koper remains resolute.

He’ll soldier on alone, he insists.

He told DPA that he expects to have sufficient funds to begin fresh digs later this year.

In winter.

He insists the archaeologists and historians who have repeatedly warned all involved that the train did not exist are wrong.

And he’ll prove it by finding it.