On the Border District, there are a number of operations that serve the movement of “rocks and seeds”. The Southern Aggregates loading facility, located just west of Border Junction, deals in the former. It serves at least two trains per operating session – a South Australian Railways’ working reminiscent of the “Penrice Stonie” train and a Victorian Railways’ train based on the “Apex Quarry” train. The latter of these was in the capable hands of Mark during the last session, who was kind enough to take a few snaps along the way …
In the first image, above, B67 can be seen at the head of Victorian Railways’ Train Number 357 – the down empty quarry train. Resplendent in blue and gold, this working is a step down from the more usual passenger services for the B. The train has made its way from Edenhope and now finds itself waiting in the loop at Nankiva, a medium sized township in western Victoria. The reason for the wait … the afternoon school railmotor service coming from Tatiara Downs. Once the Walkers’ railmotor has arrived and stopped at the platform, B67 and VR TN 357 will receive a “clear medium speed” signal aspect (red over green) to permit continued progress west.
Below, B67 and VR TN 357 are making slow progress this afternoon – once again finding themselves with a “stop” (red over red) signal aspect ahead, this time at Border Junction, the first South Australian location on the line after crossing the border. In the distance and out of focus is the train’s destination – the Southern Aggregates loading complex. However, VR TN 357 will first head further west to Tatiara Downs to reverse the position of the locomotive, as there are no run around facilities at Border Junction and the Southern Aggregates complex is only able to be shunted by eastward facing trailing moves.
Above, B67 can be seen having finally made it to Tatiara Downs, an important location for the railway and a sizeable town in south eastern South Australia. The quarry wagons, top and tailed by guard’s vans to save on additional shunting, can be seen in the background in the platform road. B67 has headed over to the loco depot for a quick fuel top up. Once this task is complete, the B will couple up to the rest of the train – attaching to the former “trailing” end. Now designated as VR Train Number 358, the driver will speak with Train Control and await a clear signal for the short trip east, back to Border Junction.
Destination reached at last! Below, B67 has commenced the shunting (and shuffling) that is loading a train at Southern Aggregates. There are a number of complexities to working Southern Aggregates that add a degree (some operators might argue “degrees” …) of difficulty here. These include the previously noted lack of a “run around” facility; only a limited number of wagons being able to be placed beyond the loader at a time; locomotives and guard’s vans being unable to pass under the loader; and perhaps the greatest complexity – only one other (fairly short) siding to stow wagons on! Add to that the fact that this train also has guard’s vans on each end and you have a recipe that goes just a little beyond a simple shunting puzzle … good fun.
In the final image, above, the shunting puzzle has nearly been solved and half the quarry wagons on the train have been loaded. A long time friend of the Border District, Mark has sussed the Southern Aggregates “secret to shunting” – ensuring you are able to easily place the block of recently loaded wagons in the additional siding, while also having the next block of empty wagons ready to be placed under the loader. Cleverly, Mark has also ensured the trialing guard’s van has been left at the end of the additional road, which will make it easy to attach to the rear of train before “doing the brakes” ahead of departure.
Once this is done (which also involves ensuring the waybills have been “flipped” to show the completion of loading, and the wagon cards are marshalled in correct order), B67 and VR TN 358 will pull forward into Border Junction and seek the “all clear” from Train Control. With this received, the train will then back out onto the mainline, clearing the arrival signal ahead of the points being set for the main. With a subsequent “clear normal speed” aspect (green over red) given on the signal, B67 and VR TN 358 will then power up to head east back into Victoria, with fully loaded quarry hoppers in tow …