Revised panels …

In my previous post, I mentioned one of the “bigger” changes for the most recent trial operating session – the commissioning of revised signal/control panels. This change was brought about by a good amount of feedback regarding the needless “separation” of shunt signals from main signals on the previous panels. The revised panels seek to replicate what the actual signal indication looks like on the signal/s on the layout – as these can often be unsighted by operators, so the panels work almost as a “repeater”. Below, the west end panel at Nankiva can be seen, with a low speed indicator lit (red over red over yellow – the “depart” signal), giving access to the headshunt:

NAN Panel 1


So what does this look like on the layout? Below, T335 can be seen in front of the signal that displays the “red/red/yellow” low speed indication. T335 has completed shunting of VR Train Number 102 – the Nankiva to Portland goods and now requires access to the headshunt to be able to run around #102 for departure:

NAN Pic 1


Having completed this move, all signals are returned to their “normal” position … red over red. However, T335 now requires access from the headshunt back into the yard … which is given by a dwarf signal. On the panel, this looks like …

NAN Panel 2


… while on the layout, the view is as seen below – with the dwarf signal (a prototype, with thanks to the talented Bill Dick) giving a green aspect – it can be seen low and to the left of loco T335. In future, this aspect will be a yellow – Bill has already completed a second dwarf signal, which easily gives this aspect – I’m just yet to install the signal on the layout!

NAN Pic 2


Once again, all signals are returned to normal and T335 is safely protected in the yard – now able to couple up to the recently shunted consist for #102 before “doing the brakes”. This gives the driver and guard a chance to check over the ABLO car cards – ensure their order is correct and corresponds to the train, that wagons “blocked” for their destinations to make shunting easier, etc. Once done, the crew will move forward to the departure signal and “phone in” to Train Control to advise of their readiness to depart. Below, it appears Train Control is a little faster than usual, as the “clear medium speed” (red over green) indication on the gantry has come quickly!

NAN Pic 3


On the signal panel (now at the other/east end of Nankiva yard, as the train is heading towards Edehope and then Portland), the following (below) is displayed (T335 and train can be seen above the panel – in exactly the same position as the previous image) – though the red over green “depart” indication is a little hard to make out in the image:

NAN Panel 3


The revised signal panels certainly seemed to be more user friendly than the previous versions – where all low speed and shunt signal switches were clustered to the left of each panel. I’ll admit that the panels are not quite true to prototype – but I’m happy with the compromise, especially given the ability for panels to act as repeaters for hard to see signals. They are also a bargain – a bit of painted MDF and a little time with a “Brother” brand labeller … almost too easy!


Above, T335 and Train Number 102 can be seen rolling out of Nankiva and heading down the grade towards Edenhope – the VR/East Staging location on the layout. The signal next to the ZLP van is the east arrival signal at Nankiva – control of which is given by the switches in the right of the previous image.

EDE arr

And finally (above), T335 brings #102 into Edenhope yard, with the consist of empty four wheelers rattling through the points. Above Edenhope, the “Southern Aggregates” siding at Border Junction can be seen, with three SAR HS stone hoppers loaded and awaiting collection by the next train westbound SAR train. Neither Edenhope nor Kybybolite (the SAR/West Staging location) have any signals … departure from these locations is given by Train Control, while arrival is governed by the departure signals at the previous station – for Edenhope, this is Nankiva (as demonstrated above), while for Kybybolite this is Tatiara Downs.


Operating session, lessons learned …

Mark _TD

Last Saturday, a crew of six gave up their afternoon to again put the Border District through its paces, operation wise. VR modellers Mark and Shelton, SAR modeller Andrew, NSWR modellers Craig and Darren and myself formed a group of six. This is the biggest sized group to operate the “District” yet, and I am grateful to all for their input, ideas and company. The image above, courtesy of Mark’s iPhone, shows the state of play at Tatiara Downs as Craig and Mark prepare SAR Train Number 312 – the Roadside Goods for Tailem Bend. Shelton and Andrew have brought SAR Train Number 282 – the Jameston to Tatiara Downs passenger – into the station and are shunting the carriages to the dock (their loco can be seen behind the containers in the OW wagon). Darren is assisting with making up #312 in his role as the Tatiara Downs shunter, a role that should come with extra pay … and as usual I was just fluffing about.



Above, the Tatiara Downs shunt loco, VR Y class diesel-electric number 169, can be seen in the yard, in front of the recently shunted flour mill. The mainline to Border Junction and the “lead” to the grain silos can be seen curving away to the left. This loco is fitted with a Loksound v4.0 decoder and a DCC Sound Y class sound file and is my favourite loco to operate. I think Darren enjoyed using the Y too. Below, you can see the “industrial park” at Tatiara Downs once the session was finished … plenty of industries here to justify traffic levels. From right to left, there is the grain loading complex (to be modelled in low relief), Fertiliser unloading depot, farmers’ co-operative, livestock loading/unloading and fuel depot.


So, what was learned from the session? As always, there were a few shortcomings. The greatest was the lack of provision of a “shunt list” for Tatiara Downs by the host, which put Darren in a world of hurt from the get-go – never mind that he is a New South Wales modeller to boot! My apologies to Darren, I did prepare the list, I just failed to print it out. Also of some disappointment were a small number of signals that didn’t operate as they should have – some loose connections, possibly caused by interference by the fascia curtains. In true “Murphy” style, when I went to fix them the next morning, everything worked fine …


What worked well in the session? I think the “2 man crews” were popular … perhaps it allowed the pain to be shared or even halved?! The above image demonstrates one advantage of the two person crews … the ability to undertake shared problem solving. T332 has worked the Portland – Nankiva railmotor replacement passenger service, and some clever use of the yard was required by Andrew and Shelton to reverse the loco and van for the next morning’s return working. Single slips can be fun, can’t they boys? The image above also shows that I need to crack on with painting and ballasting track …


Another “success” was the revised card sorting stations (feedback received form the previous session) – the example at Jameston being shown above. These have been made longer, wider, deeper and given a little angle, thanks to some 12mm “half round” dowel glued on the back. Another change made for this session was a redesign of all the signal panels on the layout – to incorporate low speed indicators more logically. While I’d say these were a success (despite some LEDs not always showing the correct aspect, as discussed above), I’ll save details about these for a future blog post.


The flow of “traffic” on the layout was also a success – something I’d probably worked hardest on in the lead up to the session. Ensuring trains were balanced and prototypical (in almost all cases, trains are modelled on actual VR and SAR examples, right down to their Train Number) but ensuring there was plenty of shunting and “reasons for being” became a bit of a juggling act, but I think it was pulled off well. Some recent rollingstock acquisitions made this a little easier – the HS hoppers seen at Border Junction in the image above being one such example – a big thanks to Geoff and John in Adelaide for their assistance with this! Conversely, the train below (SAR Train Number 185 – the “Paper Jet”) will benefit from some expected rollingstock arrivals … BLX, VLX, WVX louvre vans.



One of the greatest reflections for me those is that in each of the “trial” sessions held thus far, the afternoon (14:00 – 02:00) “sequence” is used – which includes lots of roadsides and shunts at the start of the session, with through “Jets” and the “Overland” running more towards the end. In the previous two sessions we’ve not made it to operating these trains at the end. I think the next session will employ the morning (02:00 to 14:00) “sequence”, which starts with this through traffic – helping operators to learn the road and really only worry about swapping power at Tatiara Downs. A crew of six seems the ideal number – three pairs … with some slight changes to roles and responsibilities. Thanks again to those brave operators from Saturday just passed – you contributed to a very enjoyable afternoon. You can read a little more about the session at Craig’s blog ( and see more pictures, that are much better than mine, at Shelton’s blog (