More images from the March 2019 operating session

Above: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil? Three wise monkeys indeed – the talented three person Tatiara Downs crew for the March 2019 operating session on the Border District, captured ready to go and awaiting the commencement of hostilities! From the foreground going back: Station Master/East End Signalman and “Sheriff” – Brendan; Shunter (a luxury not always afforded at Tatiara Downs, with this role usually falling to the “Sheriff”) – Geoff; and Hostler/West End Signalman – Mark. This was the second session where Tatiara Downs was worked by two signallers, making life a little less complicated at this busy station. The added bonus is the reduction in “sideways” movement required by operators – a successful modification to operations and roles which is likely to be continued.
Above: Panning a little to the left of the previous image, the rest of the crew are captured in the other operating pit, also waiting for the start of the operating session. Moving from left to right: Jeff, taking on the Train Control role on the Border District for the first time; Malcolm and Craig, working the “Number One” crew jobs (SAR and VR respectively); and Ian and Iain, holding down the “Number Two” crew roles (VR and SAR respectively this time). Even with a crew of nine for the session – the largest ever in Border District history – what are the chances of there being a Geoff and a Jeff, and an Iain and an Iain, for the session?! The image also shows the relative luxury of those wide, wide operator aisles – five people and nary a worry about personal space …
Above: Shuffling the cards while operating the Stonie. An image captured by Mark, who was also at the controls of the iconic SAR Stone train, nicely demonstrating the ABLO (Adelaide Branch Line Operators) car card and waybill system. Each card represents/corresponds to a wagon, with goods wagon cards also having a plastic pocket for the “waybill” to be placed with the wagon. Mark has commenced “flipping” the waybills, having loaded the Stonie at Southern Aggregates. The waybill for wagon HS9561 (left) has already been turned to show the wagon is now loaded, and bound for ICI Osborne. The waybill for wagon HS9557 (right) is yet to be turned, showing the status (empty) and destination (Southern Aggregates) for the initial working of this train. Mark will turn the remaining waybills, and then place the cards in the same order as they are on his train (“doing the brakes”), before departing westwards.

Same same, but different …

Above: At the suggestion (and effort) of photographer and Border District historian extraordinaire, Mark, please find posted here a different organisation of the comparative images from the previous blog post, recording the quiet and not so quiet life and times of Tatiara Downs station and yard, as experienced at the March 2019 operating session …

Tatiara Downs – a hive of activity (at times …)

With thanks to regular operator and long time friend of the Border District, Mark, the split screen “before and after” image above shows just how much Tatiara Downs can go from the sublime to the ridiculous during an operating session!

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.

March 2019 operating session

Above: Captured mid-session, there is balance of sorts across the two operating pits … with eight gentlemen all immersed in operations, 1976 SAR and VR style.

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 …

Above: Immersive operations are underway – and their are plenty of hands flying about. Craig, Jeff and Ian are all focussed in their efforts at Nankiva, while Iain, brendan and myself look heavily engaged at Tatiara Downs. Image thanks to Mark.

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:

Above: SAR Train Number 905, the overnight South East passenger service from Adelaide, has arrived in the platform road at Tatiara Downs. Here, passengers will alight, or connect to two other services – SAR Train Number 905A passenger to Jameston (Bluebird railcar) and VR Train Number 24 passenger service to Melbourne. Yes, things are about to get more than a little busy here …

Some images at Nankiva from the February 2019 operating session

Above: Nankiva – the main Victorian station on the Border District – wakes from an early morning slumber as Victorian Railways’ Train Number 7 is brought to a stand. X33 is at the head, with the classic “long end leading” as preferred by many drivers (and enthusiasts). This “Fast Goods” service to Tatiara Downs also conveys loading for Jameston and Mount Gambier – to be forwarded on two different South Australian trains. Craig has taken the loop in anticipation of a cross with an eastbound train – and is using the down time to again check his cards … yes folks, this is indeed an image of Craig WITH his cards!
Above: Captured not long after the previous image, the opposing movement – Victorian Railways’ Train Number 954 Jet Goods – storms through Nankiva on the mainline, with a large number of containers in tow headed for Melbourne. With Jeff at the controls and X45 in charge of the train, the Jet has received “top greens” – “green over red”/clear normal speed signal indications – all the way to Edenhope. Once clear, Craig and his train will receive a “red over green” (clear medium speed) signal indication, providing the authority to continue heading west – through Border Junction and eventually Tatiara Downs.
Above: Double double-ended bulldogs at Nankiva! To the left, B75 is arriving on the mainline, working Victorian Railways’ Train Number 73 empty quarry working to Tatiara Downs. Craig is in charge of the train, which will reverse direction at Tatiara Downs before heading to Southern Aggregates for loading. To the right, Jeff has fellow bulldog B67 shunting Victorian Railways’ Train Number N2 grain for Portland – an earlier empty arrival which has just about completed its loading at the silos. Jeff will pull the train into the yard and run the B to the other end of the train, before making contact with Train Control and receive clearance to head east.
Above: A picture of concentration. Jeff goes about setting the points and working out his next move while shunting Victorian Rialways’ Train Number 90 Goods at Nankiva. The late morning general goods working, somewhat of a sweeper service, has S315 for power today – needed for the heavy eastbound loading the train will convey. You can almost read Jeff’s mind: “I could do this much quicker and easier if he had installed double slips instead of single slips …”! Over Jeff’s shoulder, Craig and Mark can be spied working trains at Edenhope and Kybybolite respectively.

More images from the February 2019 operating session

Above: Immersive operations at their most immersive! Jeff and Craig can be seen to the left in the far “pit”, working trains to/from/at Nankiva on the Victorian Railways’ side of the layout. In the centre and to the right, it is all about Tatiara Downs – the main station and centrepoint of the layout. Both the station and the operator “pit” at the ‘Downs are hives of activity, with Brendan and Mark looking after the yard, while Iain and Malcolm in charge of South Australian Railways’ workings.
Above: A busy moment at Border Junction. S315 passes on the mainline with the eastbound Victorian Railways’ Train Number 90 Goods, while B75 has just about completed loading of Victorian Railways’ Train Number 102 Quarry working at the “Southern Aggregates” facility. The South Australian motive power in the foreground is stabled at the through staging yard of Kybybolite/Edenhope – representing all points west and east (respectively) on the layout.
Above: Calm – or some semblance of – has returned to Tatiara Downs … with Brendan and Mark having worked together to sort the large number of arrivals (and some departures) that take place in a very short space of time. In the distance, Iain has positioned an empty SAR block grain train for loading from the silos at the ‘Downs, while Craig, Jeff and Malcolm are all engaged in working trains on the other side of the layout.
Above: South Australian Railways’ ALCo 956, the only member of the class to receive the short lived austerity “blood nose” scheme of 1976, shunting the inaugural delivery of a tanker to the “Jameston Fuel Distributors” siding. This action was captured 956 was while breaking up South Australian Railways’ Train Number 547 South East Goods – also making up South Australian Railways’ Train Number 152 return working at the same time. The ALCo is a Trainorama model with some additional detailing, repainting and weathering – though clearly still needs the staff exchanger apparatus re-fitted! Good thing the Border District is CTC (main) and Train Order (branch) territory …
Above: With the AM timetable being employed, late in the session represents late in the morning – so things would be warming up on this late Summer day in 1976. Jeff is working Victorian Railways’ Train Number 81 Roadside Goods at Nankiva, taking advantage of the lack of opposing traffic and using the main to shunt the Vegetable Growers’ siding there. Mark has stretched his legs from the Hostler role to be in charge of South Australian Railways’ Train Number 581 “Stonie”, loading at the “Southern Aggregates” facility at Border Junction.

Video capture from the February 2019 operating session

The Sheriff is in town! Brendan takes charge of Tatiara Downs yard – and a multitude of SAR and VR workings both terminating and originating – during the recent February 2019 operating session on the ‘District.

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: