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: http://gundagailayout.blogspot.com.au
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 …