Above: SAR steamers 606 and RX207 are “on shed” at Tatiara Downs, ahead of working some extended and extra passenger services. As well as increased passenger trains, the December session also saw a number of steam hauled workings on the ‘District.
The December operating session on the Border District was the tenth and final session held for 2017. With that time of the season approaching, opportunity was taken to replicate holiday operations, with some extended and additional passenger train workings, as well as railmotors replaced with loco hauled consists to provide increased capacity. A number of goods workings were cancelled or combined to facilitate the extra passenger traffic.
In keeping with the holiday/celebratory theme, the session started off site at a nearby eatery. A goodly amount of burgers and burritos, jalapeño poppers and onion rings were consumed here – perhaps not the best preparation for an operating session, but great food and great company none the less! A crew of six partook of the inaugural “Border District Christmas Lunch”, with Mark bidding us farewell before the rest of the gang returned to start running trains.
Jeff and Brendan took on operations on the eastern side of the border, working the VR1 and VR2 crew jobs respectively. Iain and Craig held down things on the western front, taking on the SAR 1 and SAR2 crew roles. I attempted to combine both the Tatiara Downs Station Master/Shunter and Train Control gigs – supported by the other four operators who set and reset points and signals. The crew did this quite well – so much so that the session has me questioning if a “Train Control” position is really needed (an often discussed reflection point after sessions).
Below: “Big Mikado” 730 sits at Kybybolite (SAR/points west staging) at the head of SAR Train Number 87 – the Roadside Goods to Tatiara Downs. After some shunting, the Webb steamer will then continue down the branch to Jameston with SAR TN 147 Goods.
Above: Steam hauled trains weren’t limited to just the SAR at the most recent op session – VR Hudson power in the form of oil burner R748 can be seen at Edenhope (VR/points east staging) at the head of VR TN 55, the afternoon fast passenger service to Tatiara Downs.
The “special” holiday timetable saw the cancelation of four VR grain trains and two SAR fertiliser workings. This allowed space in both the timetable and staging for a number of additional and/or extended passenger trains: a special Melbourne to Adelaide “Daylight” express, an additional Naracoorte to Jameston (and return, with connections) passenger service, VR and SAR railmotor workings (two of each) replaced by locos and carriages and an empty carriage working to ensure coaches were sent back to Adelaide for even more holiday traffic. The changes added a real sense of “holidays” to the session, and meant operators needed to often refer to their copy of the “Weekly Notices” (themselves an “extended” edition!) and revised “sequence” operations cards.
Opportunity was also taken to make the December session additionally “steamy” (and not because of the Brisbane climate in Summer …), with no less than nine workings under the control of VR and/or SAR steamers. On the SAR side an Rx, 600 and 720 did the honours (the latter working no less than four goods/freights!), while a solitary R class Hudson (one of the two oil burners) flew the flag for the VR, working the afternoon passenger service as was so common on the western line in the 1960s. I am confident that an “alternate” Border District, circa 1962/3, is even more likely now as a result of the steam workings in December! I just need someone to produce Victorian Railways’ J and N class oil burners …
Below: As well as being a bit of a “steam extravaganza”, the December session was the first time narrow gauge power turned a wheel on the Border District. Mustard Pot Alco 869 can be seen idling beside the station building at Jameston.
Above: A subtle change for the December session were the revised mock ups for the Tatiara Downs Milling Company buildings and facilities. With assistance and input from master modeller Don Bishop, a slightly different combination of structures is being thought about for this location.
The holiday “atmosphere” extended to the operations and the afternoon was another very enjoyable one on the ‘District. Things didn’t quite start out that way though, with the first two SAR trains derailing as the attempted to leave the staging yard at Kybybolite (despite being tested the day before … Murphy’s Law as always!). However, shimming of the new points, including a three-way, should address and remove the cause of this.
Safeworking breaches were only occasional, despite Craig’s thoughts that he may have got away with a few “unnoticed” – check out his blog here for his thoughts. Perhaps unbeknownst to Craig though, Jeff has conspired over the previous two sessions to undertake extensive video recordings of operations on the Border District – including both time lapse and video footage. I look forward to sharing some of these recordings in future blog posts (thanks Jeff!) – but for now can assure Craig that “Big Brother” has indeed been watching and a comprehensive review of the footage is already underway by the management …
And so ends three years of regular operations on the Border District – it really doesn’t seem that long, so I must be enjoying myself! As always, the ‘District wouldn’t come alive each month without the time, effort and input of so many – from regular crew members and operators to friends afar who all provide support, ideas and inspiration. My best wishes to everyone for a merry and bright Christmas and a happy and healthy 2018 … which who knows, might even see some track painted and ballasted and scenery progressed on a certain layout, where progress seemingly happens very slowly!
Below: Another infrastructure change on the Border District since the previous session was the lengthening of the vegetable growers siding at Nankiva. After feedback from Mark regarding safeworking and signalling protocols and operations, locos and wagons are now able to be completely behind the dwarf signal, protecting the main line and the siding.