June 2017 operating session (part 2 … slightly more serious)

JAM

Above: The quiet scene outside the Southern Dairy at Jameston, with the boss having arrived to check on the day’s progress. Credit goes to Mark for capturing this great image – as well as all other pictures in this blog post.

As mentioned in the previous post, the June operating session saw the second highest number of operators – seven – attending since regular operations commenced on the Border District. NSW modellers Darren and Craig – both NSW modellers (we try hard not to hold that against them … most of the time) and friends since way back in the Beenleigh Model Railway Club days (remember those?!) took on the two South Australian crew roles and did a great job. Two Victorian ex-pats and modellers – Mark (long, long, LONG time friend of the Border District …  and many incarnations previous!) and Jeff (in only his second appearance about the Border, but fast proving to be a valuable team member … even if he does support the Tigers!) somewhat fittingly took on the Victorian Railways crew gigs and also excelled. Iain – the only “purely” SAR modeller in the group and current holder of the “most sessions on the Border District” mantle – tackled the head shunter role at Tatiara Downs and further developed and his increased “local knowledge”. Brendan, the acclaimed “sheriff” of Tatiara Downs (and also a former NSW modeller who is “making good” as a VR modeller!) again cooly and calmly coordinated efforts through the “Downs” for the afternoon – leaving me to generally potter about as Train Control. My sincere thanks to this crew … operations are often about “incremental improvements” and the most recent session stands out to me as one of the best – if not the best (yes, big call!) – yet … even in spite of some of the shenanigans noted in the last post!

Below: The crew of Victorian Railways Train Number (VR TN) 102 goods have arrived at the loading facility at Southern Aggregates and after a little clever shunting (note the Z van on the other siding to the right of the picture), positioned the first two open wagons for loading from the “old” timber side loader (left of scene).

Southern Aggregates action

Railmotors at TAT

Above: A study of two railcars … a Victorian Railways’ 153 horsepower Walkers railmotor and South Australian Railways’ 250 class “Bluebird” share the sidings at Tatiara Downs, ahead of workings later in the session. The Walkers is a Trainbuilder product (a nod to Bruce Harrison), while the Bluebird has come to the district with thanks to the very talented Peter Carter. Our photographer has scaled the decommissioned coal stage to score this vantage point …

So why do I rate the most recent session as the best? Even with a short circuiting whitemetal axlebox/wheelset combination that interrupted proceedings for over five minutes, confounding most of us until Brendan identified the issue? As always, I think it is the result of a number of factors combining – the first being a timetable/sequence that had been tried, tested, tweaked and touched up – to the point that nearly all movements had been reviewed and refined, benefitting from previous experiences. The second was the understanding and approach of all crew members (minor lapses aside …) – taking either knowledge of the prototype, knowledge of the layout or both and combining these, while also working very well together. Testament to this is was that all trains – twenty-eight movements in total – were completed in the allocated time. This is actually possibly the “earliest” finish to a session yet and allowed for an even more relaxed feel without too much “rush”, as well as refreshments and a debrief afterwards. The third – and most important – was the sense of “fun” … operating sessions are there primarily to be enjoyed!

Below: And even more railcars! A Walkers 280 horsepower railmotor pauses at Nankiva (I know, the station name board seems to say “Terang” – but I can assure you this IS Nankiva!) for a short passenger stop. In the foreground, VR TN 81 goods has terminated and is going about shunting … including a load of poles for the SEC siding.

Walkers at NAN

A busy NAN

Above: A busy few moments at Nankiva! VR TN 17 goods for Mount Gambier has arrived in Road 1 (left of scene), ahead of picking up a louvre van from the goods shed before continuing west. Adding a layer of complexity to this seemingly simple task is the presence of VR TN P2 grain, currently loading at the silo to the right of the image.

I believe another significant contributor to the overall positive operating experience is the increased and enhanced reliability of systems within the layout. Two of the biggest “wants” for my sessions … and layout … were an operating signal system as close to the prototype as possible, and the use of the ABLO car card system to govern the movements of wagons and loadings. The latter of these is now well established and widely understood by the crew,  supplemented by a range of operational aides that, for the most part, assist (well, they can do when you read and use them completely …). The former has been improved with big thanks to Brendan, who as well as being the “sheriff” has also taken on the role of “chief signalling officer” on the Border District – recently overseeing a complete rebuild and restructure of everything “below the baseboard” for the signals at Tatiara Downs. The result? Correct, reliable, bright and easily identifiable coloured lights for all signals – as well as interlocking between arrival and departure signals … AND points! As an aside and added bonus – Brendan’s wiring is “military grade” and has put my previous efforts – more “bird’s nest” – completely to shame!

Below: Nearly done … late in the session and having loaded a string of “goofies” (Victorian Railways’ GJF bogie grain hoppers), the classic lines of the VR B class diesel are clearly on show as B75 lifts a loaded wheat train away from Nankiva, headed for Portland and export.

Wheatie leaves NAN

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