The May 2017 operating session on the Border District was the first in two months, a line having been ruled through the planned April session as it coincided with the Easter long weekend. The time without operations was put to good use though – Brendan accepted the position of Border District C.S.E. (Chief Signalling Engineer) and the “March to May” period saw all control panels, signals, points and interlocking at Tatiara Downs rethought, rewired and improved across a number of “signal working bees”. Indeed, the underneath of this section of the layout is now immaculate, exceptionally tidy and something to behold, rather than an eyesore and bird’s nest of wires! A big, big thanks to Brendan for his time and effort – it was great to see the hard work pay off during the May session, particularly with yellow signal aspects appearing clearly as yellow, rather than “shades of red” as had been the case in the past!
A slightly different approach has been taken for blogpost recounts of the most recent May session – with all images in a post focussing on one particular area of the layout. For this first post, the hamlet of Border Junction and surrounds is the centre of attention – which also includes the significant industry of “Southern Aggregates”. In the lead image above, a bird’s eye view (or drone … though probably not in 1976?) gives a slightly different perspective of “loading the Stonie” at Southern Aggregates. Below, Victorian Railways X45 stretches Train Number 339 Jet Goods out through the curve from Border Junction, not too far from Tatiara Downs and handover to South Australian Railways’ power.
While the April operating session was postponed/cancelled due to Easter, the May session could have gone the same way. Dates for operating sessions were set at the beginning of the year and I hadn’t noted the May session coinciding with the “Modelling the Railways of NSW” convention in Sydney, to which several operators were heading. Additionally, a number of other operators tendered apologies due to work, play and/or travel plans. However, a crew of four participated in a session that was about quality, not quantity! Regulars Brendan and Iain took on their “favourite” Tatiara Downs Station Master and SAR Crew 1 roles respectively, first timer Jeff took on the VR crew 1 gig (and did a great job of quickly grasping both the role and how the layout as a whole operates) and I grabbed a combination of Train Control and the best bits from both the SAR crew 2 and VR crew 2 jobs.
In the image above, SAR branch line power in the form of 858 has paused at the platform at Border Junction, heading a “replacement set” of carriages working a connection from the South East Overnight passenger (Train Number 905). The lead louvre van (grey DS) will be shunted to the goods shed at Jameston before the mustard pot Alco brings the green and cream consist back through Tatiara Downs and on to Kybybolite. Below is another aerial view of the Southern Aggregates facility, with 907 going about loading SAR Train Number 582 “Stonie”. The two tracks and operating limitations here make getting nine hoppers loaded a challenging but enjoyable task!
The May session trialled the most recent revision of the “am” timetable … and while I am probably biased, I feel this is proved to be the best yet, with a good mix and balance between prototypical accuracy and interesting operations that weren’t overly complicated or confusing. With a small crew (and a mix of experienced heads and a new operator) it was great to see a focus on taking time, working together and doing things right – including the resetting of signals and points upon passing … and the checking of card cards and consists to ensure they matched up. The session was relaxed and enjoyable … thanks to Jeff, Iain and Brendan for being a part of it!
Above, SAR 956 Alco, with the short lived “blood nose” austerity paint scheme on show, has been captured on film passing Southern Aggregates at the head of SAR Train Number 263 Goods for Jameston. Below – in the background/top of image – B67 can be seen heading from left to right as it leads VR Train Number 90 Goods out of Tatiara Downs towards Border Junction. In the foreground and heading from right to left, B85 leads VR Train Number 25 Passenger – supposedly miles away in the “Edenhope to Nankiva” section. Images from Nankiva, and also Jameston, will feature in the next blog post …