Last weekend saw the fifth operating session on the Border District for 2015 take place. Crew size was as per the May session, with four keen gentlemen in attendance and several apologies received. In fact, the crew was exactly the same as for the May session, with Mark, Iain and Brendan again joining me to recreate some “circa 1976” railway operations in the south east of South Australia and west of Victoria. Above is an image of the loco depot at Tatiara Downs, captured from a helicopter at the end of the session. Below is another image of the same scene, captured from a more realistic angle. From right to left, the locos in view are: SAR Alcos 946 and 958 waiting their next turn of duty, having brought SAR TN 955 Jet Goods in earlier; VR X44 being readied to work east again having previously brought VR TN 143 empty grain in (which after dropping a few hoppers at the silo and swapping the VR guard’s van for an SAR one, headed west behind another SAR 930 Alco); and Y169, having worked as the Tatiara Downs shunter and yard pilot for the session.
The consistency in crew size and composition proved advantageous, with similar practices employed as for the May session (3 operators and a Tatiara Downs Station Master/Head Shunter). Iain again took the SAR branch operator role and his growing local knowledge, combined with previous ABLO experience, saw him easily attend to the eight trains he was responsible for – even marshalling all trains with loads at the front and empties at the back, as well as blocking loading for stations in correct order. Mark and Brendan each took one of the two SAR and VR (combined) mainline operator roles. As the most experienced operator, Mark was able to “double” as a signaller for some time – giving me more time to ensure Tatiara Downs didn’t clog up and loading was ready for all trains. Brendan, in only his second Border District session, operated like someone with much more experience. Both Mark and Brendan each operated eleven trains and the session probably hails as the most enjoyable and efficient so far … practice does make perfect!
The two images above and below capture the scene at Nankiva at the end of the session, the first again from a helicopter and the second from ground level. Facing west, the line from Border Junction (and South Australia) can be seen curving in to the station in the top image, passing both the Edenhope Valley Vegetable Growers siding and the cement siding. The Walkers railmotor has worked VR TN 27 Passenger service in from Portland and will lay over in the yard, forming VR TN 28 Passenger service to Portland in the next session. The grain silo (incomplete) sees VR GJF hoppers and SAR OBf opens in attendance. The former will be worked to Geelong once loaded with export grain, while the latter will take grain in the opposite direction – to the mill at Tatiara Downs. I’m hopeful that a bit more time over the next month will see this area receive a little more scenic “treatment” … but hope is not a strategy!
One of the big successes from this operating session was the manner in which the “sequence cards” allowed for smooth operations, with limited need for a Train Controller … other than permission to leave the staging yard locations of Edenhope (Victoria/East) and Kybybolite (South Australia/West). However, an error on one of these cards caused for an interesting operation – with an incorrect staging road location meaning the first train out, SAR TN 547 South East goods, looked a lot like an interstate Jet Goods … until I realised my mistake! After post-session conversations with the crew, it is felt that the sequence numbers could probably be removed from the scheme of operations, and the “sequence cards” would become “train cards”. Trains which change locos and crews at Tatiara Downs (VR to SAR or vice versa) would have two cards – one for each system – and this would do away with the current “operator summary” sheet and clipboard. I would simply need to provide an easily accessible three slot card box for “Operator 1”, “Operator 2” and “Operator 3” Train Cards, with each operator taking the next card in the pile and putting the previous card to the back of the pile (much like the system used by Criag Mackie on his “Cassino” layout). I am confident of being able to instigate this change in time for the July operating session.
The final two images in this post are of the South Australian branch terminus (and narrow gauge interchange) of Jameston. This location is heavily influenced by Millicent (a photo of which can be seen in the top right corner of the image above) and Kingston … both in terms of operations and actual track layout and industries/sidings. In the top image, a green “Long Tom” passenger brake can be seen at the end of a number of SAR vans, having been shunted to the goods shed road. This brake is imagined to have made its way from Adelaide to Naracoorte on the thrice weekly SAR TN 905 Overnight Passenger (the “Blue Lake”, a train not modelled on my layout … yet!). This train would have dropped the “Long Tom” off before continuing to Mt Gambier. SAR TN 541 Passenger service, commencing from Naracoorte, then adds the “Long Tom” to its train before working to Tatiara Downs, Border Junction and Jameston. The “Long Tom” is shunted off and after reversing the loco, SAR TN 541 becomes SAR TN 542 Passenger service, working back through Border Junction and Tatiara Downs to Naracoorte, connecting with the real daily SAR TN 542 railmotor from Mt Gambier to Adelaide (again, not modelled on my layout). This working is one example of how an “imagineered” layout and locations can be given meaning, place and context by the inclusion of and linking with “real” trains and actual operations. In the bottom image, two industries at Jamestown can be seen – an Agricultural Merchants and a Farmers’ Co-op. This siding again takes its inspiration from Millicent, where a number of different corrugated iron sheds served a siding behind the goods shed. In both the above and below images, examples of the recently released Orient Express Reproductions SAR D bogie louvre van can be seen … very, very nice!