October 2016 operating session


Above: T377 and VR TN 4, with Darren at the controls, has just completed shunting and loading at Southern Aggregates. The driver will soon head down to the phone box and seek permission from Train Control to continue to head east. Darren commented that in the many sessions he has attended, this was the first occasion he actually got to “work” Southern Aggregates!

With a few apologies received, a crew of six participated in the October 2016 operating session on the Border District. This was the second month that the revised “flexible” timetable was utilised and it again proved very successful in accommodating a fluctuation in the number of operators. The afternoon was a thoroughly enjoyable one, with a focus on slower and more immersive operations, but some great banter and conversation as well.

Below: In an unusual (but welcomed!) rostering move from the Tatiara Downs Loco Depot, “Big Mikado” 730 is providing the power for SAR TN 147/148 today. Craig is bringing the Webb steamer to a halt at Border Junction for a “take outs” stop, before continuing westwards to Tatiara Downs. A centenary car can be seen to the rear of the consist – chartered by a local football club for an end of season trip and marshalled inside the Goods Brake.



Above: Paul is looking after Y169 at Nankiva – with VR TN 17 goods terminating and VR TN 26 goods originating. There is plenty of shunting to do here, but Paul seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself … and it was great to watch a different operator go about tackling this task.

Roles for the afternoon saw a few changes to what might be considered the “usual”, with many operators trying a different role (or at least, a role with different workings) for the first time. Iain put his hand up to work Tatiara Downs – brave, but also opening up the SAR Jameston branch gig for someone else – which Craig gladly took. Brendan ably supported Iain at Tatiara Downs (master and apprentice … or sheriff and deputy?), while Paul and Darren each took on the two VR crew jobs. The remaining SAR/VR crew gig was shared between Brendan, Craig and myself – with a couple of trains cancelled – and I also took on the Train Control position. It was rewarding to see and feel the sense of enjoyment from the crew – thanks to all who attended!

Below: A busy few moments at Nankiva. As Paul continues to break up VR TN 17 goods and make up VR TN 26 goods in the yard, a railmotor replacement working – VR TN 42 – arrives at the platform. Darren is in charge of this train, headed by T357, which was one of the “wrinkles” in the session, with the loco hauled train standing in for the “failed” Walkers 280HP railmotor.



Above: … and an even busier few moments at Tatiara Downs! Iain and Brendan have clearly been a model of efficiency, with Road 4 being “empty” in this shot. SAR Alco 950 is at the head of the empty down “Paper Jet” (SAR TN 185) in Road 1, while the trailing Goods Brake of SAR TN 312 roadside goods can be seen in the foreground of Road 2. VR blue and gold B67 stands at the head of VR TN 880 fast goods in Road 3, while mustard pot 836 – the TD shunter for the afternoon – goes about breaking up and shunting loading in Road 5. The session showed that two operators at Tatiara Downs certainly helps to make life a little easier …

The October session saw – for the first time and at last – the full utilisation of the completed signalling system on the Border District. Dwarf and low speed signals were installed and operational at Nankiva, while “outer/repeater home” signals for both Tatiara Downs and Nankiva and “departure” signals for Edenhope and Kybybolite were all lit. There are still a few gremlins to sort out – “yellow” aspects that perhaps look more like “red” (especially to some operators, hey Craig?!) and a few lights on panels that need sorting – but I was really please – and proud – to have finally hosted a fully signalled session. Even more impressive was the manner in which operators used and followed these signals!

Below: Craig eases 950 and SAR TN 185 empty “Paper Jet” through the crossovers at Border Junction, leaving the mainline to head down the branch to Jameston. Upon arrival, the OBfs loaded with soda ash and bogie opens with pulp paper will be shunted off, and loaded louvre vans full of toilet rolls for Adelaide, Sydney and Perth will replace the empty louvre vans being conveyed here.



Above: Not long after the passage of 950 and SAR TN 185, Paul is in charge of B67 and VR TN 880 fast goods. On this day, VR TN 18 roadside goods has been cancelled, so VR TN 880 includes loading that would usually be conveyed by this working. At Nankiva, Paul will drop off the first two wagons – an empty louvre van for loading of vegetables (for Central Markets in Adelaide) and an empty open wagon for loading of grain (for the Mill at Tatiara Downs).

The session did, of course, provide for a few light hearted moments. Iain managed to achieve at least one “Brendan” – believing there is more track available than there actually is … so perhaps this is a “Tatiara Downs” thing? Craig managed the only “Craig” of the session , leaving behind a card for the CD van that was added to SAR TN 166 at Tatiara Downs (the TD crew could share a little of the blame – but ultimate responsibility falls to the driver for not “checking the cards/brakes” before departure). Craig also featured in the two biggest highlights. The first, perhaps being too excited about having a steamer to run, saw him not only left the Goods Brake of his train behind, but then reversed, at speed, through a red signal to go back and collect it! The second saw Craig fall victim to the “terrible two” at Tatiara Downs – who, having completed their shunting and work for the session, uncoupled half of Craig’s final working as it passed through the station – with Craig not realising this until his arrival at Kybybolite!

Ten sessions have been undertaken so far on the Border District this year – each one building and improving on the previous. As always, my sincere thanks and appreciation to those friends that come along, operate and contribute to making the layout and operations what they are!

Below: Two of the final workings for the session can be seen at Nankiva. X33 and B75 are powering VR TN 834 “Overland” towards Melbourne, with Paul at the controls and enjoying the “big wheel” assignment. T335 and T332 are in Darren’s capable hands – shunting  loaded grain wagons before following the “Overland” – as VR TN P4, bound for Portland and export.



A trip to Wattle Flat …


Several weekends ago, I had the opportunity to operate on Darren Lee’s fantastic “Wattle Flat” H0 scale layout. Darren’s layout – a proto-freelanced approach to modelling a railway in north western NSW, circa 1960s and early 1970s – was one of the layouts on the “open layout tour” which was a part of that weekend’s “Modelling the Railways of Queensland” convention.

Brendan, Mark and myself were invited to come along for the day and operate the layout, which as well as freeing up Darren to talk with visitors and answer questions, also allowed visitors to experience the layout “at work”. It was great to see a number of the guests join in and help with shunting and/or driving. What might seem like work for us was far, far from it … the time spent on Wattle Flat was thoroughly enjoyable.


Darren’s layout is in a BIG space … 9m x 6m. However, he has cleverly and not sensibly filled this with a spaghetti bowl of track. The track plan and layout “set out” are both extremely successful in maximising shunting/operation at the same time as giving a “branch line” feel. While Darren’s layout may be proto-freelanced, the station track plans for his four stations are heavily influenced (and in some cases exact replicas) of actual stations from across the NSW system.

Darren uses prototypical operating practices too (which adds to how enjoyable operations on the layout are) – one highlight of this for me was working with his “X2010” forms that detail the “where” and “what “of shunting, a different approach to the ABLO system in use on my Border District. Most times at Wattle Flat, two person crews are utilised for operations – but for the open layout, each of the three of us were both driver and guard (this helped free up room for visitors too, with only 3 bodies taking up floor space instead of a possible 6). The three trains operated at the same time … well enough spread out across the layout, but each one with its own shunting puzzle/s and taking plenty of time and thought to complete.


Recently, scenery has progressed at Wattle Flat (yet another case of a modelling friend putting my “shiny track and painted baseboards” efforts on the Border District to shame – there is a pattern here). Additionally, some of the structures, industries and mini-scenes across Darren’s layout invoke both inspiration and a degree of drooling! As the few images from this blog post hopefully convey, the experience is like being besides the railway in north western NSW.

For far better coverage of Darren’s awesome layout as it was on the “open layout tour” day, and also for some really great images, check out the post on PK’s blog here – but just watch out for some of the shady characters in some of the pictures. Thanks again to Darren for the invite and great afternoon.