The most recent operating session on the Border District saw a crew of four in attendance, the four most “experienced” operators on the District – Mark, Iain, Brendan and myself. The session saw the debut of the “new” timetable, after some great discussions and input following the August session, which reduced the number of trains and increased the time to allow a more “immersive” approach to operations. The revisions also make it far easier to accommodate the fluctuating number of operators between sessions, with anywhere from three to eight operator “roles” being able to be accommodated with no change to operating session paperwork – a significant “improvement”. The session certainly had a relaxed and fun feel. Thanks to Mark for again taking some snaps – credit all images in this blog post to him!
An example of the “immersive” operations can be illustrated by looking into the image above. Here, VR B85 arrived at Tatiara Downs with VR TN 25 down passenger working. The B class left its train in the platform road and headed to the loco for refuelling. While this was taking place, the Tatiara Downs yard pilot reversed the wooden CE passenger brake van to the other end of the short consist, ready for departure. This was done by a VR Y class, the Tatiara Downs shunt engine for the afternoon. The above image is taken at the completion of this sequence, with B85 heading out of the yard to reverse back onto its train – VR TN 34 passenger service to Melbourne. However, before getting underway the train will await the arrival of SAR TN 281 passenger service from Adelaide, which forms a connection for those brave souls wanting to undertake a daytime trip from Adelaide to Melbourne.
A “highlight” of the session was the manner in which workings and operations were interwoven … ably assisted by the approach of those operators present. Points were reset to the main and signals reset to danger by operators. As already mentioned, the feel was certainly relaxed. That said, it is interesting to note that a fast clock with a 4:1 ratio was also running and operators had little difficulty maintaining the “schedule”. Indeed, the session finished 15 actual minutes/1 hour scale time ahead of that planned! However, the session is in no way governed by the fast clock – a “sequence” approach is taken so that operators, experienced or less so, never feel under the pump.
Above, T335 can be seen shuffling wagons around Nankiva yard … a fictional medium sized township in far western Victoria. The flattop T had earlier arrived on VR TN 29 goods, with cement, oil and pole loading for various industries and distribution points – and empty vans for loading vegetables. The T will work back east on VR TN 18 goods, with vans of produce loaded for the markets in Melbourne, as well as empty oil and cement pots. Shunting Nankiva can be fun, but also challenging – with two single slips often forming a trap for young (and not so young) players!
As mentioned previously, the “new” timetable and approach to operation allows for variety in both the number of operators and roles they undertake. For the September session, Brendan maintained his role and standing as the “King” of Tatiara Downs, undertaking both the Station Master and Head Shunter roles there. Mark took the main VR crew role, working a range of Victorian trains – passenger and freight. Iain did the same as the main SAR crew, again with a range of goods and passenger workings, mostly heading down and back on the Jameston branch. I took a combined VR and SAR crews role, as well as playing Train Controller too.
In the image above, a teacup B sits well out of period for the alleged 1976 period of the layout! Resplendent in orange and silver, B83 is at the head of VR TN 880 fast goods, which on this day also includes loading from the cancelled VR TN 18 roadside goods. This little “wrinkle” reduced the number of trains, but also added to the operational interest of the session. The B can be seen in the loop at Nankiva as a westbound “Jet” goods barrels past on the main line.
Operating sessions … and model railways … are first and foremost about people – the September session again reinforcing this fact very strongly. A big, big shout out to Mark, Iain and Brendan, for their continuing efforts and understandings that assist in bringing the Border District alive each month. However, it isn’t all serious business all the time … and there were (more than) a few laughs as well at the previous session.
One such “running joke” on the Border District is the naming of unfavourable practices after operators that are regular offenders of such. As of the most recent session, it seems we have at least four of these nutted out/covered:
A “Craig” – forgetting to take your train cards with you.
A “Mark” – failing to read (FULLY read) the instructions/directions.
An “Anthony” – incorrectly routing trains, particularly after declaring to all and sundry that the road IS set correctly (some Train Controller he is …)
A “Brendan” – believing there to be more track available than there actually is.
Can you guess who might then be responsible for the image below?