May 2015 Operating Session … continued


Carrying on from my previous post, the image above is the “reverse angle” of the same scene as shown at the end of the last blog post: double Victorian Railways S class diesels at the head of VR TN 834 (the “Overland”) thundering through Border Junction at speed as they head east, with 956 and SAR TN 186 waiting for the passage of the overnight express, prior to continuing westwards as the loaded “Paper Jet” for Adelaide. This area has been the focus of track painting and ballasting of late, along with some basic scenery, and has fast become a “favourite” location on the layout as a result. The recent efforts, combined with Don Bishop’s amazing station and structures, really does give a feel for what the finished layout should look like!


The next two images see us continue to follow the “Overland” as it travels eastwards towards Melbourne, passing through the Victorian town of Nankiva. Above, the “standard” Victorian Railways four track yard can be seen (complete with slips to keep shunting a tad challenging here!) and a possible style of station for Nankiva … built from brick and based on Terang, though there will also be some noticeably influences from the very impressive building at Serviceton. Unfortunately due to space limitations, the building will be be built with a significant degree of relief – though this should mean it doesn’t take as long! Below, the “Overland” can be seen snaking through the curve at the east end of Nankiva, the “green over red” clear normal speed aspect displayed on the signal giving indication of a clear run to Edenhope …


In my opinion, one of the greatest successes from the May session on the Border District possible went unnoticed by the crews – that being the feel and flow to both the trains and tasks for operators during the session. While “sea trials” were undertaken in 2014, the first three sessions this year have continued the theme of “operation session evolution”, which I feel have now culminated in a system that will maximise both enjoyment and engagement for there rest of the 2015 sessions. It should also mean I’m not mucking about with changing timetables and printing new cards every session!


Having headed back to Border Junction from the previous two images at Nankiva, 956 can be seen above at the head of SAR TN 186 getting the clear road and heading towards Tatiara Downs. Behind the loco (left of image) is the rail served industry of “Southern Aggregates”, taking cues from Penrice at Angaston and giving the Border District a reason to have a “Stonie” in operation. To the right of the above image is the first sign of compromise that comes with modelling … the Victorian Railways’ tracks and entrance to “Edenhope” (east end staging of the layout). Below, this compromise becomes very, very evident – with SAR Alco 956 and SAR TN 186 travelling the “Border Junction to Tatiana Downs” section and VR TN 834 (the “Overland”) nearly completing its journey on the layout in the “Nankiva to Edenhope” section. In real life, the trains should be miles and miles apart …


The image above is also a reminder that I need to get serious about adding a track plan to the blog … the most requested item from both visitors to the blog and friends alike. Below, 956 can be seen having arrived at Tatiara Downs and will travel through on the mainline (station road), heading towards Kybybolite (west end staging) and Adelaide. The station building at Tatiara Downs is based on the actual building at Bordertown. English Electric 907 can be seen in the yard at the head of SAR TN 312 Goods, which will wait for 956 to clear the section to Kybybolite before following behind with the last (twenty-sixth) sequence of the operating session.


For the four operating sessions held so far in 2015, nine people (myself included) have been involved, with a number experiencing the Border District (and in many cases, SAR and VR operation) for the first time. My sincere thanks an appreciation to the eight outstanding individuals who have helped me to continue to realise the dream that is “operation”, and provided feedback so that operations can continue to be refined and improved. Three very good mates haven’t been able to make it to a 2015 session yet, though their involvement in the layout’s development and “sea trials” have also contributed to the ongoing successes. There are many influences from other good friends too, from such far flung locations as Melbourne and Adelaide, that have also helped in the development of the Border District. Ultimately, I find this is increasingly the greatest strength of this hobby – the friendships made and grown.


May 2015 Operating Session … part 1


The May 2015 Operating Session on the Border District saw the undertaking and completion of the “Tuesday 14:00 to Wednesday 02:00” timetable. As a result of other events, commitments and illness, the May session saw many an apology and the smallest crew for any of the sessions conducted so far this year. There were four operators (the “Fantastic Four”?) in attendance – Border District regulars Mark and Iain, first-timer Brendan and myself. It could nearly be considered an all VR and SAR modelling affair, as Brendan is considering a move to modelling VR. To quote a favourite t-shirt and for any Star Wars fans out there … “come to the Dark Side, we have cookies”. Brendan’s modelling efforts have primarily been on the NSW front, and can be seen on his blog at:


The first three images in this post show one of the now favourite workings, late in the session – the “Stonie” from Southern Aggregates to Osborne. The lead image is of SAR TN 584 (loaded Stonie) as it works hard up the hill into Border Junction – having travelled down the branch to Jameston first to reverse the loco and van. The next two images (above and below) are of the same train as it departs Border Junction, with some more ballasting and basic scenery completed in this area. SAR Alco 965 represents the “final” version of these engines as delivered to the SAR and is a modified Trainorama 930 offering.


As has been the case with every session this year, some tweaks and learnings from the previous sessions (and “sea trial sessions” in 2014 – love that term) were employed. The biggest of these was a modification to how the “operators” were organised – no more VR and SAR crews, or designating whether crews are single or two person. Instead, there are simply three “operators” and a sheet is used to detail which trains are run by which operator. This way, single and/or double person crews can be employed, depending on numbers present. Sequence cards, detailing each operator’s trains, were sorted into bundles. This proved to be a good thing, as with only four crew, once the three operator jobs were filled it left me with the combined role of Train Controller and Tatiara Downs Yard Master.


The next two images show some of the action at Tatiara Downs, also recorded late in the session. Above, SAR Alcos 932 and 931 are working SAR TN 835 (the “Overland”) into the platform at Tatiara Downs, where the train will change locos and crew to become VR TN 834 – seen below with VR locos S306 and S311 on point. SAR English Electric 907 sits in the yard at the head of SAR TN 312 goods for Tailem Bend (the last train of the session), while VR Y169 goes about shunting. Combining the Train Control and Yard Master made for a very busy time – but having the sequence cards in bundles made things much easier – one operator commented that allocating everyone an operator number and them letting them “go at it” certainly worked. Crews were disciplined in setting the road and signals for themselves (and at times, others) – as well as getting “the road” to leave the staging yard locations of Edenhope (VR) and Kybybolite (SAR).


The four of us managed to complete all of the twenty-six sequenced operations without too many mishaps, and with Brendan needing to undertake an early departure. For a first timer, Brendan very quickly picked up the essentials of operation on the Border District – particularly the ABLO car card system and VR/SAR colour signalling – and deserves a big “shout out” for his efforts. The biggest “issues” from the session were a couple of dowel-thrown points losing their piano wires (one fixed during the session with thanks to Iain, the other fixed after the session), a problem for most of us in seeing which way points were (or weren’t) thrown and my failing to think that I could keep a shunter running on one side of the layout while I visited the other (I think I only put four wagons through buffers?!).


Above, SAR TN 186, the Jamestown to Adelaide “Fast Paper” Jet, is ready for departure from Jameston. This train was formed from SAR TN 185 which arrived earlier in the session. The “Paper” is the most complicated and complex shunting job on the Border District – open wagons with loads of soda ash and pulp paper and empty vans for paper loading in, with loaded paper vans and empty open wagons to go out. Today, SAR Alco 956, of “Blood nose” fame, has the honours. Below, the trialling 8300 van can be seen as viewed from the coal stage at Jameston.


While numbers may have been down, the session was possibly the best of the four conducted so far – though I guess some some of this success comes with ongoing experience. The Yard Master job at Tatiara Downs is still a significant undertaking – making up four VR and SAR goods trains and breaking up the same number during the session, along with assisting in five trains swapping crews and power. I still find this “job” to be my favourite on the Border District – I have described it as four shunting puzzles all in one! Thanks to Brendan, Mark and Iain who each assisted me in moving a few wagons around and getting me put of trouble more than a few times – or even sitting at an arrival signal for a while to give me a little more “time”!


Above is an image rarely seen or captured on the Border District – earlier photographed SAR TN 186 can now be seen traversing the Jameston to Border Junction branch section, behind and below the turntable and loco depot at Tatiara Downs. Scenery completion in this area has clearly progressed at a snail’s pace and will probably be the last area to get the “treatment”. The train is about to disappear into a tunnel, before it will reappear and head up the hill and into Border Junction. In the image below, TN 186 has arrived at Border Junction but has received a red signal, as VR TN 834 (the “Overland”, as previously seen at Tatiara Downs) has priority and runs through on the main line at speed, with the Victorian border and Nankiva the next destinations.


To be continued …