A trip south …

No, not another run over the Border District … a good thing, given the focus for me really should be away from operations and more on modelling – completing the ever growing stockpile of kits, detailing up and weathering the latest and greatest RTR stuff, and tackling some scenery. No, this an actual, physical trip to Adelaide with three purposes: attend another operating session on the “Border Downs Railway” (BDR) at the invite of CEO, Geoff Mathias; attend the nineteenth “Modelling the Railways of South Australia Convention” (MRSAC); and catch up with family and friends.

Geoff’s BDR, I’ll admit, gives me layout envy … serious layout envy! It is uncannily similar to a plan I drew many years back to attempt to model the SAR South Line and VR Western Line on either side of the border – the main difference from my plan and Geoff’s layout is he has not one, but two staging yards and an greater focus on the SAR side of things, whereas my plan was a little more balanced in VR and SAR together. I guess the biggest difference is that Geoff built his, while mine remains just a sketch! Below is a view of part of the BDR – Donald station and yard above (think Keith on the SAR South Line) with the yard and Yumali on the level below – first station up the helix from the western staging yard of Riverbend (think Tailem Bend).

BDR Donald high Yumali below

There are many things that impress about the “Border Downs Railway” – the authentic replication of operations on the SAR and VR late 1970s and early 1980s (Geoff’s experiences on the SAR contributing greatly to this), the use of DCC (Lenz) and the ABLO car card system, the growing range of structures and scenery and the attention to detail – in both modelling and operations. The two standouts for me though from time on the BDR are the lengths Geoff goes to bringing the past back to life and at the same time making things as easy for his operating crew as possible, and the crew themselves – a great, great group of blokes. Thanks fellas for putting up with the northern interloper! On my visit, and for the first time, I managed to meet up with all the regulars – Geoff, Ron (Sol), Ray, Bob and John, Don and Steve – meeting the latter two for the first time at the BDR (though Don did go to some lengths to pretend to stand me up for a third visit in a row). Don also contributes to both the BDR and my own “Border District” in terms of prolific structure completion … below, his most recent effort on the BDR can be seen in the distance – the Zircon mineral sands facility at Ki Ki – with Geoff’s recent scenic treatment in the foreground …

BDR Ki Ki approach

Unfortunately, the two images above are all that I can publish from my visit, as I put the camera away once it came time to operate – a shame in a way, as this is where the fun really starts! Again, my thanks to Geoff and the crew for hosting an “additional” operating session to coincide with my visit … and particularly to Geoff, who fed me beforehand, gave me the chance to run the inaugural sand train (which, by the way, can see the facility at Ki Ki load TWO GYs at a time …) in the operating session and then spent more than a few hours discussing railways – both modelling and actual – before I headed back to my lodgings in the early hours of the next morning!

I also had the chance on the visit to catch up with Don Bishop away from the BDR visit … allowing an opportunity to talk through a few more projects for the Border District (shhh … don’t tell Geoff) in person rather than via email, marvel at some of Don’s past modelling work and generally chew the fat – over a very nice lunch too. I managed to bring back one new structure for the ‘District, and also received two structures just before I headed south – but I’ll save the focus on them for another time. Thanks Don for both your time and generosity.

The nineteenth MRSAC proved to be just as informative as the previous eighteen … with my two favourite presentations being the “Red Hen” railcars summary presented by Pete and Nick Michalak and Lindsay Baker’s “South East” layout, presented by Des McAuliffe. Other highlights included catching up with Nigel Gardner and Stuart Gamble (and collecting an MDS 500B kit), meeting Peter Carter for the first time, finding out that another SAR modeller had recently moved north (we are few and far between up here) and being able to see, in the flesh, “Commercial Street” by Gavin Thrum. This layout was the topic of one of the presentations from the previous year’s convention, and I was disappointed to have missed it – so was very happy to walk into the model room and see it in all its glory …

Commercial Street bridge

If Gavin’s presentation through the 2013 convention notes wasn’t inspiration enough to consider how easily an exhibition layout might be attempted, seeing the layout really brought the simplicity and effectiveness of the concept home! A good thing .. or perhaps not, given my focus on trying to get the Border District to some sort of visual completion. That said, there were plenty of ideas from “Commercial Street” that might just find their way onto the Border District, before any sort of exhibition layout is tackled …

Commercial Street woolstores

It was also great to be able to chat with Gavin for the first time, having been a fan of both the “Beltowie” and “Terowie North” layouts (through the pages of the Australian Model Railway Magazine) that he, as part of the Adelaide Modellers’ Group, had a hand in. The Adelaide Modellers’ Group also managed a show stopping effort in the model room at the convention, with no less than 35 SAR steamers, many of them scratchbuilt, on display. Not good for this little black duck, when my focus is on trying to stay true to modelling 1976 and resist the lure of a late 1950s/early 1960s alternate modelling period …

AMG steeds

The couple of days spent in the south certainly served as inspiration to “continue the journey” on the Border District (possible multiple modelling periods not withstanding). I should also mention a thanks to Don Moyses for the chance to catch up at Orient Express – always great to chat. Thanks also to John, Peter and Dwayne for conspiring to help the Border District realise a few 900 class diesels. Lastly, thanks to my folks for the use of a car, the provision of lodgings and the chance to spend time talking about plenty of things, not always or often railway related!