July 2016 operating session


The Border District’s July 2016 operating session took place on a cold and wet afternoon … somewhat prototypical weather for the locations modelled actually! As the image above shows, the station master at Tatiara Downs is suitably attired to wave off SAR TN 281 Branch Passenger as it departs for Border Junction and Jameston (image courtesy of Mark). Crew size for the session – the first crack at a revised and reworked PM timetable sequence (14:00 to 02:00) – was again five, though six were present for the “pre-session” chat and general shenanigans (next time Geoff, next time … so close and good to hear all is well).

Crew make up then ended up being all VR/SAR modellers (well, nearly … more on that later), with Shelton and Iain taking on the VR crew jobs (Iain offering to give up his SAR models too as a result … or at least that was my recollection of the conversation?), Brendan with the Tatiara Downs head shunter/station master role and Mark and myself as SAR crews (with yours truly doubling as Train Control, though not always being “in control” …). Most crew members also took the time to take some snaps of the action (thank you all!), with Iain capturing the image below of VR TN 18 Roadside Goods ambling into Nankiva, ahead of a little shunting …


The reworked sequence timetable only added a couple of new trains, but also changed a handful of other trains slightly, and modified the paths/workings for a few more. The initial plan had been to share all these changes through the “Weekly Notices” … but they started to resemble a novel and so changes to all the operating/sequence cards were made instead. In one of those “it seemed like a good idea at the time …” things, this then meant not enough time was afforded for scenery and signalling completion prior to the session.

MK BJN pass

Two features of the operating session were an increased number of SAR passenger trains and an increased number of SAR locomotives. For the former, Mark was seemingly the beneficiary, operating no less than all four of them. Witness above, with the man himself capturing SAR TN 166 South East Passenger at Border Junction … managing a long consist, a short platform and the ability to use the Southern Aggregates siding lead. For the latter, the number of Trainorama 830 Alcos on the ‘District doubled from the previous session, allowing more branch trains to use mustard pot power … witness Iain’s very nice image below, with 836 seen at Jameston breaking up SAR TN 147 Goods and making up SAR TN 148 Goods.


Once again, the session as a whole ran very well and crew knowledge continues to grow and develop. There were only a few hold ups here and there (maybe even resulting in a nap for one crew member?) and a few wrongly routed wagons … but the issue of most significant note was the (more than) occasional “forgetting to bring the train cards with me”. Even the host may or may not have been caught out once. As a result, and in acknowledgement of the much loved Craig who was unable to attend the session, this manoeuvre has now been officially dubbed “doing the Craig” …

One often requested addition to the blog is a layout plan … and while not quite being one, the image below may assist some readers to better “get” how the Border District is set out. With thanks to Brendan, who captured the image towards the very end of the session, three of the crew (Mark in the foreground, then Iain and myself) can be seen in full flight, winding up final workings. Mark is facing the staging areas of Edenhope (VR – east) and Kybybolite (SAR – west) – “through” and open staging being used on the layout. Above and behind staging is the small SAR station of Border Junction (just out of shot to the left – though some of the platform can be seen), with the VR main line to Nankiva heading up the grade and around the curve, and the SAR branch behind it heading down the grade. Iain is checking a car card (maybe for a wrongly routed wagon?!) at the VR station of Nankiva. On the other side of Nankiva’s backdrop is the main station and SAR/VR interchange of Tatiara Downs (out  of picture) … and in the distance – far right – is the beginnings of the SAR branch station of Jameston.

BC 1

At the beginning of this blog post, I mentioned that “nearly” all crew members present were VR and/or SAR modellers. The exception, or not, is Brendan … who while having made a move to modelling Victorian Railways recently has seemingly lapsed and has been lured back to NSWR, with a recent locomotive acquisition and layout plans shared. As penance for this, Brendan was required to wear the following attire for the session (well, a little of it at least) to assist him to better embrace his “full Mexican” …

IK Brendan getting Mexican



A few shots at Tatiara Downs …

With thanks to Border District regular operator and stalwart Iain Kennedy, a large number of previously not before seen images captured at operating sessions have recently been made available. There are some cracker images that will provide inspiration for more than the usual “monthly operating session” blog updates … so watch out! To begin, this post showcases four slightly different views at the main station on the layout – Tatiara Downs. Heavily influenced by both Mount Gambier (primarily) and Serviceton (secondarily), the freelanced location and station is the interchange point between SAR and VR operations.


Above is a great image of the station building at Tatiara Downs – a replica of the station that still stands today at Bordertown in south eastern South Australia. The stone construction, arch windows, dutch gables and “pagoda-esque” styling are all quintessential South Australian Railways. I really like that Iain has ensured an “eye level view” of the platform here – exactly how I envisage the view – but it does show up the need to paint, ballast and weather the track! The station building is the work of the incredible talents and much missed Barry Le Maistre – I count myself very fortunate to have a few of his works on my layout.

Below is another image of the station at Tatiara Downs, but this time with the trains as the main focus. S315 sits at the head of a Melbourne bound passenger service, a second division “Overland” comprised of a combination of Victorian Railways, South Australian Railways and “Joint Stock” carriages. The S class has taken over from a SAR 930 Alco that hauled the train from Adelaide and into Tatiara Downs. In the dock/back platform road are more Victorian Railways carriages (heavily modified Powerline offerings – a big thank you to Richard Ross for his work) that will form the morning service back to Melbourne. This shot from Iain also captures the proportions of the six track yard nicely … though slightly less “full” than usual!



Above, Iain has captured C508 as it brings a west bound Jet goods into Tatiara Downs from Melbourne. The train will soon pass the home signal, displaying a “red over yellow” aspect, that gives entrance into the yard. Once the C (a beautifully modified and weathered Austrains’ model, courtesy of Keith Trueman) brings the Jet to stand, the loco will cut off, to be replaced by South Australian power for the journey on to Adelaide. In the background, the glass jars and cardboard will one day be replaced by a closer to scale model of a significant grain storage facility – again with Bordertown the likely inspiration. The track curving to the right, and to the right of the train – which then disappears behind the blue back scene – is the Edenhope to Nankiva mainline. Note to self – start to add some vegetation for better screening … as this line is supposedly miles away!

Below, the final shot for this post is a great one of Tatiara Down’s resident shunter – SAR 513 – and brake tender. Purists will again note that this loco has completely incorrect bogie sideframes – riding on US Alco “S1” style bogies. This is as a result of repowering the Strath Hobbies model’s original mechanism – work undertaken by Andrew Hunter. The Brake Tender is an awesome model and is on the “District” with thanks to Stuart Gamble. It is neither a surprise nor an accident that each of Iain’s images here include work from one or more modellers – many of whom are also friends – for without them there is no doubt the Border District would not be where it is today.