January 2016 operating session

The first post for the new year, and the first operating session in the second year of “regular” sessions on the Border District. The holiday period had seen track, train and scenery changes all take place on the layout and a crew of six – Iain, Brendan, Craig, Darren, Paul and myself – suffered through a new timetable with more trains and movements than ever before.

Unfortunately, the holidays hadn’t helped me to take the time to thoroughly prepare all the documents required to ensure a successful operating session (in short – pay attention when using “cut and paste”) – resulting in errors regarding road numbers, train numbers and operator numbers. However, the advantage of regular operating sessions with others is that mistakes such as these will quickly be identified and pointed out … so I’m hopeful the next session won’t see a repeat!

The new timetable also saw a new approach, with four operators employed, two for Victorian Railways trains and two for South Australian Railways trains. Darren and Paul took on the VR jobs, with Iain and Craig on the SAR. After feedback from Craig last year, his “Train Control” (Edenhope to Tatiara Downs) role was augmented with driving SAR trains from Kybybolite and Tatiara Downs (the shortest hop on the layout), as well as getting the plum gig of working the “Stonie” in full. Brendan bravely took a return attempt at the Head Shunter gig at Tatiara Downs, while I played Station Master at Tatiara Downs and generally tried to clean up all the mess I created …

So how did it all go? Well, things started poorly with signalling faults identified at the west end of Nankiva. In attempting to rectify this, I neglected to clean the wheels of a few locos prior to the session commencing (my Austrains’ C and second series X are both notorious for needing cleaning right before they are run, I should fit keep alives and be done with them), which caused a few headaches for some drivers. Not the auspicious start to the new year hoped for …

Darren and Paul, having not been to the Border District for some time (7 months for Darren, 12 months for Paul!) took some time to “get back on the horse”, but each did a great job – Darren using his knowledge to work like a pro and Paul getting to run a few of the “new” trains – including the trial of a new VR shunt working that included sand loading at Southern Aggregates.

Iain had no issues returning to the comfortable pastures of the SAR Jameston branch – unfazed by the new timetable and operations … including some congestion at Kybybolite when reversing the SAR passenger service, and bringing the Paper Jet in well beyond record time. His reward for the latter … sitting in the hole at Tatiara Downs for a goodly chunk of time towards the end of the session!

Craig went from “not enough to do” last year to “much to much to do” with the combined SAR “driving” and VR “TC” jobs. As usual though, he took it all in his stride and with good spirit. There were unconfirmed reports of an Overland sighting … in Victoria, with twin SAR Alcos at the front and the consist operating in reverse … but as there is no photographic proof, it must just be a bit of “gunzel folklore” … hey Craig?

Brendan revelled in getting to drive SAR English Electric diesel shunter 513 (and matching brake tender) for her first “outing” on the layout, while undertaking the Tatiara Downs shunting gig. Brendan performed the role so efficiently and effectively that he was able to put his feet up well before the end of the session – well done sir!

As always, my sincere thanks to those friends who come along, provide input and bring the Border District to life each month. The first session for 2016 didn’t run quite as I had hoped, but I enjoy the challenge of learning from and improving on each session. My “to do” list ahead of the February session is a tad longer than usual … but who knows? Next time I might even manage to take a picture or two to add some interest to my blog post …