February 2017 operating session


With the weather not quite mirroring that of a western Victorian/eastern South Australian summer (hot: yes, humid: no … usually a very dry heat further south at this time of the year!), the February 2017 operating session on the Border District saw a crew of five in attendance. Iain and Darren again took on the SAR 1 and SAR 2 crew roles respectively, Brendan tackled the Tatiara Downs gig on his lonesome (but with a badge to keep him company …), Mark headed out onto the mainline for the first time in a while with the VR1 crew gig and I again proved it impossible to do two things at once (I am male …) attempting to combine Train Control with the VR 2 crew job.

Tackling the same timetable for the second time in two months had the potential to be a bit “same/same” – especially with four of the five operators undertaking the same role as for last month – but the session proved different in many ways to the one in January. To begin with, the notional “2 am” start time saw the flouro lights turned off and the shutters half open to provide an “immersive” feel (or was it to pretend to not be so hot?). While the signals, carriage lights, marker lights, headlights and platform lights (well, on some stations at least) all looked great, reading sequence cards and car cards did prove slightly challenging! As the session went on, the shutters were fully opened and the lights turned on … a good concept/idea in theory, but possibly needing a few tweaks to be entirely successful!

It was also great to see operators attempting to return signals to danger and points being reset to the main after the passage of trains – which has me wondering if the Train Control role could be completely removed? Tatiara Downs again proved to be a wonderful chokepoint at times, occasionally causing some gnashing of teeth and words muttered under one’s breath! The resultant thinking here is that there are possibly too many trains still being broken and or made up at TD … and as such another timetable and traffic change, albeit subtle, could be on the cards.

There were a greater number of “fails” than usual during the session. The Overland derailed for the first time in years  – a long spell of hot weather resulting in a little track movement. The first of my Trainorama single ended 930s was rendered inoperable due to split gears, resulting in some interesting light engine movements to ensure the South East passenger remained on schedule. The greatest fail though may just have been the host, who remembered to take his cards to avoid being accused of “doing a Craig” … but quickly learned it is better to ensure you grab the cards for YOUR train … and not someone else’s!

Images from the session provided here are all with thanks to Mark – the host also getting a “fail” for the lack of photographic recording. As always, my thanks go to the crew – a great group of guys who continue to help the Border District evolve, improve and come alive.

In the lead image at the top of this post, VR Train Number 261 goods can be seen having been held at Border Junction, with B67 in charge of loading for Tatiara Downs, Jameston, Naracoorte and Mount Gambier. Train Control have finally gotten their act together, and the signal aspect has changed to yellow over red (caution normal speed) – meaning the signal into Tatiara Downs must still be at “protect”. Guess that Station Master has his work cut out (again) too …

Below, the return working of the train in the first image – VR TN 262 goods from Tatiara Downs to Melbourne – can be seen storming through the platform road at Nankiva with the B class in notch 8. The return (up) run has been much faster – and less “stop/start” – than that of the down, with the crew getting “high greens” (green over red/clear normal speed indications) all the way from Tatiara Downs to Edenhope.



In the image above, Mark has captured a busy moment at Tatiara Downs, as the South East passenger – SAR Train Number 905 – arrives in the background at the station. This train has travelled overnight from Adelaide and will continue on to Jameston, where it will terminate – but not before a goodly amount of passengers disembark. Some of these will end their journey here, but others will change trains and board VR TN 24 passenger. 4BE in the foreground is one of four carriages making up this train today, which will travel east to Melbourne. It is early morning – around 6am – but being summer the sun has been up for while. However, the lights are on in the cars of both trains – helping those passengers that need to leave their seats and find new ones. Ah, changing trains …

The final image from this session finds Y169 shunting wagons from VR Train Number 90 roadside goods at Nankiva. The crew have a little work ahead here, as they “drop 2 and pick up 1” … and may have a few terse words for the shunter at Tatiara Downs with regards to how their train has been blocked! As the opposing signals are all set for “protect”, the Y has been given authority to shunt back through these signals by a yellow aspect on the dwarf signal on the headshunt – out of shot to the left.