There are many things I enjoy about hosting regular operating sessions on the Border District. As well as bringing 1976 on the railways back to life, VR and SAR style, with a great group of friends, another would be the many different viewpoints often captured during a session. I’m always surprised by the different perspectives and takes that my crew of operators have.
The image in this post is no exception. Not content to send me two separate images, long time Border District co-conspirator, Mark, sent this nicely framed “before and after” image of the Tatiara Downs station and environs. The left hand side is all “… how’s the serenity” like at the beginning of the March 2019 session – plenty of empty yard roads and only a few carriages or wagons scattered about.
The right hand side image tells a completely different story though! Captured about a third of the way through the afternoon, there are no less than three Passenger trains in attendance at the ‘Downs: SAR Train Number 905 South East Overnight Passenger with express loading from Adelaide to Tatiara Downs (furthest to right, in the platform road); VR Train Number 24 Morning Passenger from Tatiara Downs to Melbourne (seen in the distance, ahead of Train 905 in the platform road); and SAR Train Number 905A Passenger – a railmotor connection – from Tatiara Downs to Jameston (worked by the Bluebird in the dock platform beyond the station building).
The SAR TN 905/905A connection is based on the prototype – the Kingston branch was worked by a connecting service which exchanged with the South East line passenger services at Naracoorte. However, the connection between SAR TN 905 and VR TN 24 is a greater work of fiction, as VR TN 24 actually started well over the border at Dimboola. However, having these three trains meet and provide connections (Adelaide to Jameston or Adelaide to Melbourne, changing at Tatiara Downs) adds a goodly degree of challenge and interest to the session – keeping no less than three operators busy!
Aside from the three passenger workings, there are also two goods trains in the right hand side image above. With headlight blazing, a Victorian Railways’ B class diesel leads VR Train Number 7 Goods into the yard, next to the station road, while the wagons from VR Train Number 89 Roadside Goods can be seen immediately opposite. There is more than a little shunting ahead, with wagons from these two trains destined for a range of different South Australian destinations – both on the layout (Tatiara Downs and Jameston) or beyond it (Naracoorte, Mount Gambier, Snuggery, Bordertown, Keith, Tailem Bend, Murray Bridge and Adelaide).
A big thank you to Mark for sharing his perspective – and taking the time to put together the contrasting “before and after” shot that really does capture just how busy times can be at Tatiara Downs.
The March 2019 operating session set a new record for operator numbers on the layout – nine! Fortunately, the very hot weather being experienced in Brisbane of late was cleared to a degree by the biggest storm this year (or for all of Summer even) the night before. The large number of attendees ensured all nine possible roles were filled for the session – three operators at Tatiara Downs, two South Australian Railways’ crews, two Victorian Railways’ crews and two Train Controllers – one for each system.
The session saw all attendees from February return (so we must be doing something right ..), joined by two more. In fact, had it not been for a late apology due to illness, we would have cracked double figures for operator numbers – somewhat unchartered territory. Brendan and Mark again took on their now usual Tatiara Downs roles of Station Master/East End and Hostler/West End respectively. Mark even had the t-shirt to remind himself of his role, while Brendan was ably assisted by Geoff, taking on a third position at Tatiara Downs as the driver of the shunt engine.
Malcolm and Iain swapped SAR crew roles from the previous session (1 and 2 respectively), and Craig also swapped from the February session, taking the VR crew 1 job. Ian, the Border District’s southern most located operator (Port Fairy, no less – actually the closest of any of us to the Border District’s modelled location) was in town and took the VR crew 2 role – with his son, Jeff, trying on the VR Train Control gig for the first time (and handling it with aplomb). I scored the SAR Train Control role, but also managed to bother almost everyone else at some stage of the session …
The AM timetable was again in effect and the session was a pretty good one, albeit with space sometimes (often?) at a premium. The congestion was most noticed in the Tatiara Downs/Jameston operating pit – but this was to be expected, and certainly strengthens the resolve that any future “Border District 2.0” layout would have wider aisles as an absolute first design point “must have”. Despite it sometimes resembling navigating a busy Friday night in a pub, everyone reported to having enjoyed the afternoon.
One of the highlights for me was the performance of the layout and rollingstock, given the storm the night before and the humid conditions. The three-way point at Kybybolite again caused a couple of niggles, but any other mishaps were operator induced. The largest and most entertaining of these was Iain, who attempted (somewhat successfully it could be said …) attempting to get a Bluebird to “drift” upon departure from Tatiara Downs! I believe many photos may have been taken to record this moment – I was too busy picking my chin up off the floor to capture the result.
However, there were plenty of snaps taken during the afternoon and I look to providing some additional photographic coverage of the March goings on via this blog before our next session, set down for May. With thanks Brendan, the March 2018 session was also captured on time lapse – with a slightly different approach to usual, starting the video once the session was underway. You can view the time lapse over on Brendan’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nQeAAApeo8
A feature of many of the 2018 operating sessions on the Border District – three of the five regular sessions and one impromptu session held in October – was the recording of sessions via video time lapse. A big thank you to Brendan – the Sheriff of Tatiara Downs, Border District’s CSE and contributor to many things ‘District related – for initiating what has now become a bit of a tradition. As well as recording the fun for posterity (though the battery doesn’t quite last the entire session), the footage is great to check on timetable changes and traffic (and people) “flow” for sessions.
For the February 2019 session, Brendan once again brought his camera along and recorded the goings on. To view the footage, hosted on his YouTube channel, click the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mMFSt1xdT4