Above: Two Victorian Railways’ wagons, a JX cement hopper and TW oil tanker, make up part of the load on SAR Train Number 17, the Mount Gambier to Tatiara Downs Goods. This image, captured through the spring grass at Kybybolite (SAR staging), is provided thanks to Mark’s ever creative photographic eye.
A damp Queensland Saturday afternoon set the scene (well, of sorts …) for the November operating session on the Border District. A crew of six were in attendance to give the “PM” timetable a shake – the first time doing so using the “flexible operator numbers” approach – and the session was another very enjoyable one.
Jeff headed down the branch for the first time, taking on the SAR 1 crew role, while experienced hand Iain worked the SAR crew 2 spot (after a slightly delayed arrival and exciting morning …). Brendan made himself at home looking after all things Tatiara Downs – undertaking both the Station Master and Head Shunter roles.
On the other side of the border, Darren eased back into life on the ‘District in the VR crew 1 spot (9 workings – 6 of them passenger services!) with Mark getting his shunting fix through working the VR crew 2 spot (only 5 trains, 4 of them goods workings, 2 of them taking the bulk of the session). I had intended to take on the VR crew 3 gig, as well as Train Control, but started out as SAR crew 2 for Iain and didn’t end up running a train after his arrival.
Below: Having already arrived on Road 1 (the empty track between the railcar and louvre vans) to undertake a station stop, RM91 has then pushed back down the main before taking the loop. This move is in anticipation of a cross with an opposing passenger service – VR Train Number 35, the afternoon “Flyer”. This move is a common safeworking practice on the old Victorian Railways when two passengers trains were to cross on a single line. The louvre vans are sitting in the Edenhope Valley Vegetable Growers’ siding and once loaded with produce for the market, will head east to Melbourne on VR TN 880 Fast Goods. Scene captured by Mark – who was also the driver of the Walkers’ railmotor.
Above: The classic Victorian Railways’ combination of back to back S class locomotives – in the even more classic blue and yellow colours – get the “Overland” underway, bound for Melbourne. The crack overnight express between Adelaide and Melbourne (and vice versa) is the highest priority working on the Border District. Image with thanks to Brendan – who by the look of the yard has also done a great job of clearing things up, ahead of the end of the session. The large black tower in the background (next to the radio antennae) is Jeff’s phone and tripod – filming a time lapse sequence as discussed below.
An early noted highlight of the session was the manner in which all operators reported in to Train Control, as well as resetting points and signals upon passing. To continue the “immersive operations” approach, all drivers were asked to sign their locos in and out of the Tatiara Downs loco depot – not too heavy on the paperwork side, but adding a reason for a little “pause” to workings.
In terms of mishaps, there weren’t too many … as is the intended outcome of operating sessions on the Border District! One highlight was a two part “Craig” (forgetting your train cards), with the honours shared/owned between Jeff and Brendan. Darren scored the only (noted) SPAD, quickly pointed out (somewhat gleefully) by Mark, to whom Darren was talking to at the time! Jeff also enjoyed shunting with the double crossover at Jameston, but at times found it difficult to remember which way the points were set …
However, Jeff’s wagon sideswiping ways were easily forgiven, as he instigated a new Border District tradition … commencing the operating session briefing while chowing down on jalapeño poppers (thanks Jeff – an awesome idea!). Not content with that, Jeff also recorded the entire session at Tatiara Downs via time lapse – so watch this space for a very interesting future posting. There may also be another filming surprise, given an additional and extra working during the session …
As well as video, the photographic coverage of the session was extensive – plenty for some interesting and focused future blog posts (a big thank you to Mark and Brendan for making this possible). Nearly three years in to regular operations, and 31 sessions “in the books”, the Border District continues to provide enjoyment (and a little challenge …) each month – due largely to the fantastic crew and friends I’m fortunate to have – thanks everyone!
Below: Another “how’s the serenity?” moment on the Border District, captured by Brendan. All appears quiet at the sleepy locale of Jameston, South Australia, as the operating session draws to a close. However, take a little closer look … as in the background, various wagons go about being loaded and unloaded …