Tatiara Downs can be a quiet place during the day time, with the bulk of inter-system traffic between Melbourne and Adelaide running overnight. There can be up to four Jet freights between the capitals in each direction, along with the Overland express for passengers each way … as well as Melbourne-Mt Gambier Jet goods too.
However, some days at this border location can be busier than others. Above, SAR single-ended Alco 935 can be seen arriving at Tatiara Downs with SAR Train Number 809 – the thrice weekly Adelaide to Melbourne “Daylight” passenger service. Carriages and vans are a mixture of VR, SAR and joint stock. While it might not look like it from this image, the next few moments will be quite busy at this SAR/VR interchange point …
In the above panorama, the extent of the “busy-ness” can be seen. In the distance, 935 can be seen bringing the “Daylight” to a stand at the platform. Closest to camera in Road 2, VR mainline EMD B67 stands ready for the handover of the “Daylight”. In Road 3, a grubby SAR Alco 965 is at the head of a very late running SAR Roadside Goods #161 – one of the reasons for things being busier than usual today. Road 4 sees a good amount of traffic brought in from South Australia to head east … most likely on VR Fast Goods #313 much later in the afternoon. VR branchline unit T357 is at the head of the VR Roadside Goods for Hamilton – being the lowest priority train it will be the last to leave. In Road 7, the goods shed road, the VR Y class acting as yard pilot/shunter is keeping clear of the mess!
Above, 935 has now uncoupled from the “Daylight” and has moved forward in order to head back down the yard to the loco depot. Once clear, B67 will ease out onto the mainline before backing down the platform road and attaching to the “Daylight”. The crew of SAR #161 in the cab of loco 965 can but look on, with the passenger train being of a higher priority.
935 can be seen above having a made it through the yard to the Tatiara Downs loco. Being a single-ender, the Alco will be turned here and then refuelled, ready for another SAR assignment west. To the right of the picture, the last carriage of the “Daylight” can be seen at the platform – the Victorian Railways “Parlor Car”, also known as “Norman. Passengers pay a surcharge to travel in the 1930s opulence this car provides.
Having completed a brake test, B67 accelerates the “Daylight” – now VR Train Number 808 – out of Tatiara Downs. The crew of 965 know that it will only be a few minutes before the “Daylight” clears the next section to Border Junction, allowing SAR #161 to follow behind before heading down the Jameston branch. Not too long after, the VR Roadside Goods, Train Number 90, will be able to also head east, with loco T357 in charge of a slightly larger train than usual.
Above, B67 stretches the “Daylight” around the curve and away from Tatiara Downs. The train is a limited express and will make only two more stops in the regional centres of Hamilton and Geelong, before arriving at the ultimate destination, Melbourne, late in the evening. The train will be turned and serviced overnight before working back to Adelaide the following day.