December 2015 operating session


S311 is at the head of VR TN 241 “Overland”, the second movement in the final operating session for 2015, yet to depart Edenhope (VR staging) – image courtesy of Mark.

The eleventh and final operating session on the Border District for 2015 is done and dusted … and a good time was had by all. I would like to begin this blog post as I usual end my “op session” posts … with my sincere thanks and appreciation to all those that have participated in operating sessions on the Border District this year. Over the eleven sessions (March was missed due to a family health matter), eight operators have signed on to join me at the “District” … some for one session, through to one operator who managed to attend ten of the eleven sessions! Crew size has fluctuated between three (once) and seven (once) … with four or six members the most “usual” crew size.

702 at TAT 12 2015

SAR Alco 702 (a significantly modified Austrians offering) rests in the loco at Tatiara Downs, ahead of working a Jet freight to Adelaide – image courtesy of Shelton.

Regular operating sessions have been a long held dream, and I’m really happy to have achieved this goal in 2015 – with hanks to those that have joined me to make this a reality. A significant amount of work has gone into timetable and traffic development before and during the year, and there is a substantial amount of “paperwork” that contributes (hopefully!) to the success of each session. However, the final session for the year showed up that some paperwork was little out of date, given some of the changes made during 2015 … so yes, the “job list” for 2016 has been started!

Long Tom

SAR “Long Tom” 20 ton passenger brake sits at the end of SAR TN 541 in staging, with “Southern Aggregates” in the background – image courtesy of Mark.

Two important elements of the layout were required to be in place before commencing regular operating sessions – the ABLO (Adelaide Branch Line Operators) car card and waybill system, and a fully functioning signalling system. I’m really pleased with how both of these systems performed during the year – and also the crew knowledge, understanding and use of these … particularly as the sessions have progressed. The most recent session was a prime example, with many operators checking and/or ensuring correct signal aspects before proceeding, and taking the time to use the information provided on the car cards and waybills to correctly make, break and marshall trains.

S306 at NAN 12 2015

Having hauled the “Overland” to the border, S306 (and S311, out of shot) are now working “bona” back to Hamilton (VR TN 12) and have been captured above at Nankiva. I’m not sure why they are in the platform road though … to undertake the cross with a westbound Jet, surely they should be in the loop – image courtesy of Shelton.

To add to the “fun” of the final session, operator roles were somewhat changed, swapped or modified. Mark nudged Iain out of the way for the SAR branch operator gig, with Iain and Shelton taking on mainline driver/operator roles. Craig took on the Train Controller role, which includes  couple of workings and some “extras” (see below). Brendan bravely put his hand up for the Tatiara Downs shunter’s role and did a sterling job – putting up with me as the Station/Yard Master there!


SAR “Big Mikado” 730, slightly out of place for the circa 1976 period, departs Kybybolite (SAR staging) with SAR TN 541 passenger for Jameston – image courtesy of Mark.

The final session for 2015 also saw a long held area of interest (well, from the 1960s and 1970s!) replicated – additional passenger trains for the holiday period. Three additional passenger movements – one VR and two SAR, two loaded and one “empty cars” –  were inserted into the regular timetable, giving a total of thirty movements for the session. These extra workings fell to the Train Controller to execute and while he did a great job, undertaking TC duties at the same time proved a tad problematic at times!

X45 at NAN 12 2015

Victorian Railways third series X45 sits in the loop at Nankiva, ahead of VR TN 261 fast goods to Tatiara Downs. The X is another Austrians product that has been super-detailed and improved, but still needs replacements bogie side frames, handrails, number-plates, brake hoses and some weathering – image courtesy of Shelton.

And so, with 2015 and eleven sessions down …what next for 2016? Regular sessions continuing are a given, and with increased crew knowledge and understanding these will no doubt see further enhancements and efficiencies … and a whole lot more fun. A new timetable will be introduced that builds on the learnings from this year, not a huge departure from the current timetable and more a case of “refinement”. I hope that track painting and ballasting, scenery completion and rolling- stock weathering are also progressed on the layout, although the consensus seems to be that during an operating session these deficiencies are rarely noticed …


The penultimate movement of the final session for 2015 – SAR TN 582 “Stonie” – has the green to proceed from Tatiara Downs to Kybybolite. This working remains a favourite of many on the Border District – image courtesy of Mark.


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