A(nother) visit to the BDR …


As well as ushering in Spring, the first day of September 2016 afforded me the opportunity to head south and again join the esteemed crew of the Border Downs Railway, or BDR, to undertake an operating session on this very well thought out SAR and VR H0 scale layout – heavily influenced by both ABLO and the Moping Branch Railway (MBR). Geoff was, as always, the consummate and accomomodating host, with a pre-session layout tour to allow for re-familiarisation and to check out the recently completed scenery … and a great dinner as well (thanks Chris!). The image above was captured during this “tour”, with the nicely completed landscape really setting that “southern South Australia” scene. In the foreground is the Border Downs to Donald line, while in the background is the Yumali to Coonara line and the sand loading facility at Ki Ki in the distance.

The BDR crew are also very accommodating, putting up with my “FIFO (Fly In Fly Out) from up north occasional appearances” at sessions. A goodly sized crew was in attendance for this particular session, with Geoff undertaking the Train Control/CEO role, Steve in charge of all things “Border Downs” (the major station on the layout) and no less than six train crews: Don, John, Ray, Sol (Ron), Tony and myself. The Thursday session undertaken is one of a few in Geoff’s “new” timetable that requires five crews … so was well suited to my visit … but also with a few extra trains also in operation to accommodate the six of us, including the sand train and a “scout special” that may or may not have looked more than a little like a second division of the Overland. In the following image, the serenity that Steve enjoys as the Station Master/Head Shunter at Border Downs is clear for all to see …


The session was thoroughly enjoyable – a combination of three important factors: a very well planned set out layout; meticulously organised timetables and workings; and a really great group of guys operating the layout. To the first point – I’ve often waxed somewhat lyrical in the past about Geoff’s design and use of space … and hope that the image below is one that helps to demonstrates this. The lower level here is “Yumali” – the first station out from Riverbend (think Tailem Bend) and the run up the helix (which really puts Yumali on the “middle level” …), while the upper level here is “Donald” (think Keith) – the last station before the run down to Border Downs. The newly completed scenery at Donald made its debut at this session, though the image below doesn’t nearly do it justice …


As good and clever as Geoff’s layout design is, I feel it is then taken to the next level by his informed and knowledgeable use of timetabling and train workings … as per the second point in the above paragraph. Sure, it helps that Geoff is a former SAR employee and current Train Control in real life … but his ability to develop a timetable with some very, very close to prototypical timings and crosses, along with all those “extras” that are needed to keep a model railway operating session interesting, is truly a credit to him. As always, I learned a good amount from spending a bit of time pouring over the timetables Geoff has created, and asking lots of (too many?) questions! In the image captured below, the sand train seen in an earlier image has since departed Ki Ki, as another SAR goods rolls through in the Coonara to Yumali section of the layout.


In my opinion, the third ingredient required for a successful operating session/model railway is the crew, and as mentioned above the BDR is fortunate – not unlike my own Border District – to have a wonderful group of operators. I feel there are three important attributes needed in “good” operators: knowing what to do (and asking if you don’t … it is often about “learning”), being able to do this/put this into action (again, assistance may be required here …); and, most importantly, enjoying yourself while you do the first two. Modelling and operation are supposed to be enjoyable activities … and sessions on the BDR certainly are! It is a case of taking the task at hand a little seriously, but not taking yourself too seriously. In the following image, the need to work together when operating is again on show – with the Train Controller having orchestrated a crossing at Yumali between two trains/crews: a local passenger train and a goods working …


During the session, I had the opportunity to work four trains with a good degree of variety: an empty “Stonie” (which crossed the loaded Stonie at Coonara – causing so much excitement that all images captured of this meet are blurred!); the up roadside goods ex-Border Downs (SAR TN 312 – with a great combination of shunting and mainline running, just like the real thing); and two “Jets” – one eastbound (swapping power at Border Downs) and one westbound (with power running through).

As also mentioned previously, Geoff’s involvement with and influence from the Moping Branch Railway is clear – in terms of both design and operation – for his current layout. The BDR uses the ABLO card system to help give operating sessions “meaning” (in fact, Geoff is responsible for having sourced all the ABLO cards for the Border District …), with the Moping being one of the “first” ABLO layouts to use this system. The image below shows another MBR-like aspect I see on the BDR … the clever use of running tracks through a scene more than once. In the foreground is the yard at Border Downs – with up and down Jet goods each waiting patiently, but in the background an extra stock working can be seen descending the grade from Coonara, then heading on to Ki Ki, Yumali and Riverbend. However, note how the two scenes do not encroach on or detract from each other.


A big thank you again to Geoff for his hospitality during my visit – a day before his birthday, no less! Thanks also to those BDR regulars – Don, Steve, Ray, Sol, John, Tony and Bob (in absentia at this session) – that suffer my occasional trips south and are always up for both a helping hand and a laugh. A complete surprise came at the end of the session, in the usual partaking of cake and tea/coffee (for those so inclined), when the CEO presented me with a certificate for having accomplished 5 FIFO operating sessions on the BDR! I look forward to the next opportunity to run some more trains on the BDR and will sign off with another image of my final working of the session, as an AN BL “brick” brings a westbound Jet into the loop at Coonara for a meet … runners are that the scenery may even start to spend to this side of the layout soon.



4 thoughts on “A(nother) visit to the BDR …

  1. G’Day Anthony,
    Thanks for posting. I enjoyed your photos and description of Geoff’s layout it looks to be an exceptionally good layout. I have heard about it but have never seen it even though Geoff is only about ten minutes from my place. I hope that you enjoyed your visit down here I suppose the you attended the SAR convention. I have not been to the SAR convention for a number of years I attended the first ten and found them to be interesting.
    Cheers Ken

  2. Thanks Ken. Yes, Geoff’s layout is a ripper … brings the 1970s and early 1980s on the south line back to life. I did indeed manage to combine both an operating session on the BDR and attending the 2016 MRSAC – which was possibly the best of the handful I have been to – during my trip. I do have the notes from all 21 conventions – they have to be one the of the best modelling resources available … incredibly informative and inspiring.

  3. G’Day Anthony,
    I’ll probably get along to the SAR convention again some time. 2017 will see the NMRA Australian convention being held in Adelaide on September 16-17. Sunday the 17th will be the layout tours which I am putting the K&EFR up for. Also we hope to have operating sessions on some layouts before and after the convention.
    I hope to host two operating sessions on the K&EFR.I will devise a some what simplified schedule to cater for a number of visiting operators. It should be quite a challenge especially if some of the operators have never been to an operating session before.
    I am on the organising committee for the 2017 NMRA convention.

  4. Ken,
    Congrats and good luck for the 2017 NMRA convention – particularly as a member of the organising committee.
    I was fortunate to receive an invite to operate on one of the “open layouts” as part of the recent “Modelling the Railways of Queensland Convention” this year. The host took a very clever approach (as did other open layouts) in having three operators he knew, and each of whom knew his layout and operations, operate the layout. This allowed guests and visitors to come, talk with the owner (who was “free”) and join an operator to assist if they desired.
    This was a very successful strategy (on a really nice layout) … and one I’ll blog about soon too!

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