August 2015 operating session … part 1

TD co-op

The seventh operating session on the Border District in 2015 is now in the rear view mirror – it is somewhat hard to believe it is August, and regular sessions have been taking place all year! So far in 2015, crew numbers have varied between the “fantastic four”, the “super six” and, in the previous session, the “magnificent seven”! This month, five brave souls gave up their afternoon to bring a little of the South Australian Railways and Victorian Railways, circa 1976, to life … so how could I go past the “famous five” as a monicker?!

A decision was made early in the session to trial doing away with the Train Controller position and instead have two people at Tatiara Downs – a Yard Master and a Head Shunter/Driver. Mark was very keen (grin) to take on a role at Tatiara Downs again, so took on the Head Shunter and Driver position. Iain once again revelled in working the Jameston branch gig. Craig enjoyed being given a spell from Train Control and was able to operate a larger number of trains as one of the mainline crews. Keith, attending his first session but a long time friend and influence on the Border District, took on the other mainline crew role. Yours truly was left with the Yard Master gig (and pseudo Train Controller) at Tatiara Downs. In the image at the head of this post (thanks Mark), the Head Shunter is making easy work of placing loading from SAR TN 547 “South East” goods into sidings, while also clearing out loading for the opposite working – SAR TN 152 “South East” goods. Below (thanks again to Mark for his photography), SAR TN 152 can be seen in the foreground, with the Tatiara Downs station building (based on the actual building at Bordertown) taking pride of place in the background …

TD station

The session once again saw all twenty-six workings completed and not too many issues encountered along the way … a sticky point on entrance to “Southern Aggregates” causing a few minor problems, the 720 “Big Mikado” steamer causing a few momentary shorts on one insulfrog point and a couple of low coupler tangs causing a little drama – but only one derailment. The biggest issue was the failed coupler on Alco 950 … found between the track and taking some time to work out from whence it came! However, I am happy to report that this month there were no attempts to drive trains through platforms and the like, so I am giving the crew (and myself) the “improvement” award!

A few changes were undertaken to the layout prior to the operating session. The greatest of these changes are not able to be seen on the layout – they are all underneath it! I have installed NCE EB1 circuit breakers to ensure any “short circuit” only impacts the operator at that particular location. This is another advantage of having transitioned from the NCE PowerCab to the NCE SB5. To do this effectively though, I also needed to string a second power bus under Nankiva and completely separate it (wiring wise) from the existing bus that serves Tatiara Downs, as well as tidy up some other wiring “solutions” that seemed like a good idea way back at the beginning … and in hindsight show I was too hurried to get trains running! There is still some work on this front remaining – separating Nankiva and staging (Edenhope and Kybybolite) into two distinct districts – but this should be done before the September session. On matters of staging, the image below captures the “West” sidings (five stub ended roads) at the end of the session – with a mixture of VR and SAR trains represented …

West sidings

Another change undertaken in this session was the use of a different form of uncoupling tool for those locations and times where the “drop-up” under baseboard magnets are not able to be used. Until now, the Border District has employed the very expensive and exclusive “wooden skewer” uncoupling tool – at great expense to the management, it should be noted! However, after trialling the “Pikster” uncoupling tool at Keith’s layout a week earlier, and seeing them on special at my local supermarket the next day, the “Pikster” was trailed on the Border District for this session. Feedback was generally positive … with one great advantage being that the “Pikster” can also remove any corn or potato chip remnants from between your teeth after the session, if the beer or soft drink hasn’t been able to clean them out. The purple “Pikster” seems the favourite, both in terms of function and colour … and can be seen below in “action” …


It was noted by the Head Shunter though that “Piksters” should be left at each end of the yard at Tatiara Downs, and not carried around and held on to as one operator seemed to do … repeatedly! In an image captured by the aforementioned Head Shunter (Mark), SAR TN 955 Jet Goods can be seen having arrived at Tatiara Downs, and the SAR power (double 930 Alcos) has already made its way to the loco. This train will now become VR TN 954 Jet Goods and shortly continue on to Melbourne, once the VR C class diesel attaches to the train and undertakes a brake test. The 80 foot VR FCW container flats are Scaleways castings (thanks Keith) and ride on Associate Distributors “aligned” bogies, with SDS containers.

TD jet

More to come …


2 thoughts on “August 2015 operating session … part 1

  1. Nice to see that you were able to keep the “famous five” busy with 26 movements during the afternoon. Obviously the crew is improving with more sessions under their belt. I would never have thought of using picksters as uncoupling tools. Does the brush help to open the couplers?
    Regards Ken

  2. Ken,
    Busy indeed … but all good fun! The crew size and composition has varied with each session this year, though there is a “core” of regulars who are fast becoming very well versed in all things “Border District”. The “Pikster” was a suggestion of a friend and yes, the “brush” helps grip the inside faces of the couplers. I feel they do work better than wooden skewers.

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