My apologies to followers and readers of this blog – September and October have proven to be very busy months, with a larger than usual number of events and distractions. As a result, the blog has languished with very limited (read “no”…) attention. Whilst there might not have been much action here, there has certainly been plenty going on, hobby-wise, over the last two months.
September began with Mark, Brendan and myself heading south to attend this year’s Victorian Model Railway Society’s “Prototype Modellers’ Forum” (or VMRS PMF for those who are playing the acronym game). We also took the opportunity to head out to the Newport Railway Museum on the afternoon before the PMF. The PMF itself was again top shelf, with high quality presentations and notes – and the organisers deserve a goodly amount of praise for their efforts. Trying to not lessen the quality too much, the 2019 PMF saw Mark and myself share our latest “Immersive Operation” presentation. A big thank you to both Lindsay Carroll and Chris Graham for their work with and support of our paper and presentation, and for providing a visit to the VMRS clubrooms and library too. Our presentation also allowed us to connect with a number of like-minded, operations-focussed people – a big thank you to Adrian Gunzburg for his impromptu hosting of a quick (but mind blowing!) visit to his south Western Australian layout, and also to Phil Jeffrey for the continuing correspondence and emerging/increasing links between his Victorian layout and our two – despite being physically located two states apart.
Trying to prove the adage of “too many forums/conventions/model railway events are barely enough”, I also attended the 2019 Modelling the Railways of South Australia Convention (or MRSAC for those still playing the acronym game) in September – with Border District friends Iain and Malcolm also heading to Adelaide for the convention. As was the case with the PMF, this year’s MRSAC also provided high quality notes and presentations, and a great day of catching up with old friends, and making some new ones. The trip south also allowed me the chance to once again operate on the “Border Downs Railway” of Geoff Mathias, as well as visit Pete Michalak’s “Hills Line” layout for the first time. This provided for two very awesome and enjoyable evenings, with wonderful hospitality – thanks guys!
While in Adelaide I also managed to catch up with with friends Stu Gamble and Don Bishop, resulting in a slightly larger amount of carry-on luggage for the return trip! A very big thank you to Don for another amazing structure – in “ultra-low relief” no less – to add to the Border District. Coverage of this structure – the “Edenhope Valley Vegetable Growers’ Co-Operative” – will be provided in a future blog post. An equally big thanks to Stu for his work on completing two SAR 600C Webb steamers (from his kit and collaboration with Peter Carter) for the ‘District – the impact of the addition of these Webb steamers has had a profound impact and is not to be underestimated, as will be seen …
The lead image in this blog post isn’t as random as it might seem, or have been made out to be. For some time, thoughts (occasionally turning to talk as well) of modelling an “alternate” earlier period on the Border District have been entertained. A small collection of earlier period locos and rollingstock have been acquired over a number years – initially with thoughts of operating a preservation society or tourist railway within my 1976 modelling period. However, the recent increase in suitable locomotive power, coupled with holidays in late September, saw me bite the bullet and plan for a “1959 throwback” operating session as a proof of concept trial. I removed a significant amount of 1976 rollingstock from the layout and set about tweaking both trains and timetables for something more akin to 1959.
Why 1959 you might ask? There are a number of reasons, but I’ll share my top three. The first, and possibly most obvious, is the ability to still run a variety of SAR steam power – in particular the 600C and 720B classes, my two favourite Webb engine types and both of which being all scrapped by the early 1960s. The second reason is to play with the long running jesting from good friend and operations co-conspirator Mark – who quickly said (or typed) “1959” every time and earlier modelling period was mentioned. The third and possibly most important reason is simply to relive the glory days of the mighty Melbourne Demons Football Club – who were VFL premiers in 1959! Having only won another two flags since – 1960 and 1964 – I’m still a little unsure when our next era of success will be …
After much planning and preparation, the first “1959 throwback” operating session was held in early October, with a crew of seven attending. It wasn’t planned as a regular operating session – rather a lunch/catch up at a local eatery first, then a smaller than usual session (in terms of number of trains and train sizes) was undertaken, considered to be a proof of concept trial. Thanks to Mark, Brendan, Iain, Jeff, Aaron and Kane who came along and participated – putting the layout, locos, trains and concept through their paces and providing thoughts and feedback. While this event was also Kane’s first visit to and experience of the Border District, he quickly found his feet and was even kind enough to record some video of the occasion: The Border District
The first “1959 throwback” session was deemed successful enough to have a second crack at the concept and approach – with the regular October operating session slot chosen for this. A crew of six came along to party like it was 1959 … with Jeff taking on the Tatiara Downs/Sheriff role, Malcolm and Iain taking the SAR crew positions, Tony and Alan working the VR crew roles and myself scoring a combination of Hostler and Train Control roles (after a late apology from the usual “West End” suspect). Tweaks to the timetable from the inaugural session were made, resulting in a better “flow” and more “even” amount of work.
A very big thank you to friends who joined in one or both of the “1959 throwback” sessions – I wouldn’t have been able to do so without your interest and input. While only two sessions have been run, I am confident that the 1976 rollingstock is likely to stay packed away for just a little bit longer and further adventures be planned for “circa 1959”! An additional bonus is the number of great images captured from operators at both throwback sessions … many of which I look forward to sharing through future blogposts, perhaps even a little more regularly than once every few months.