March 2018 operating session

Double mustard

Above: Double mustard pots – well, sort of! Narrow gauge Alco 869 holds court with the Jameston Station Master’s prized vehicle, prior to the commencement of the March operating session …

The March 2018 operating session on the Border District saw the layout once again come to life, circa 1976 and Victorian and South Australian Railways style. With eight people in attendance, the session equalled the “most ever operators” mark on the layout – and nearly set a new record/benchmark, with one late apology received that would have seen a new record of nine operators be set.

Of the eight operators, there was a great mix of experience and “youth”. The three most seasoned and long term operators were present – Mark, Brendan and Iain, with over eighty collective ops sessions on the layout between them! At the other end of the spectrum were three “Border District beginners”, with Malcolm and Ian (Jeff’s dad) attending only their second ever session on the Border District, and Duncan attending his very first session. That said, Duncan is no stranger to operations – his UP/BNSF Joint Division empire is somewhat a Mecca for operations “USof A style” … and you can check out his blog here: UP/BNSF Joint Division. For all three “rookies”, their knowledge of operations and/or the prototype saw them settle in fairly quickly to life on the ‘District.

For the March session, Mark bravely took on the role of Train Control – normally falling to yours truly – and did a great job of managing trains and traffic, designed by someone else and without any appropriate induction or training first! Iain and Malcolm took the two SAR crew roles, while Ian, Jeff and Duncan took VR crew roles 1-3 respectively, Brendan and I shared the load at Tatiara Downs, with Brendan looking after Station Master responsibilities while I took on the shunter’s job.

Below: Operations can be a bit of a blur. Somewhat artistic, somewhat poor focus – a very quiet and fairly empty western end of Tatiara Downs yard at the start of the session. By mid session, every one of the six through yard tracks here was full …

Ops are a blur

The session didn’t start as planned, nor did it even start on time! In a somewhat serious shortcoming from the host, six “driving” roles requires there to be six “throttles” to drive with … and I only own four throttles. Brendan kindly brought his throttle along, but we were still one short of the six needed to run the session. As I started to think about which role or roles to change and which trains to cancel, Malcolm saved the day by undertaking a quick dash home to his place to grab the sixth throttle – thanks Malcolm! The later start meant a later finish – but all 34 workings planned were undertaken and completed, with all wagons and car cards ending up in the right place – well done team!

After the late start, the layout also didn’t perform at its best for the crew, with one loco being a complete (and somewhat inexplicable) failure, requiring the fairly ungracious and completely unprototypical “0-5-0” removal from the situation … though at least the replacement loco was worked correctly from the nearest station to save the day. A dowel-thrown point also lost its piano wire actuator during the session … and while repaired (thanks Brendan!) it was, of course, one of the hardest to access to do so. The three-way point in staging – a great space saver – continued to cause frustrations with “trouble free running” and is likely to find itself removed/replaced. Perhaps this is what happens for operating sessions held on St Patrick’s Day – a combination of both the luck of the Irish and Murphy’s Law?!

There were, however, a couple of positive additions to the layout and session. One of these was the recent expansion of the Grain Elevators’ Board (GEB) sidings at Nankiva – providing a more simplified look at this station, but also significantly increasing the operating potential here. The other was the inclusion, for the first time, of “loads” for all trains that worked the Southern Aggregates facility at Border Junction – no more needing to guess/remember which wagons were loaded and which were not.

Below: A very grubby 950 gets the final train of the session, SAR Train Number 312, away from Tatiara Downs, having received a “red over green” clear medium speed signal.

SAR TN 312

The session probably showed – or perhaps even “confirmed”, because I fear I may have been in a state of denial – that eight operators might just be too many. This is not so much for the layout itself – which could support as many as ten “roles” I think – but more for the space available for operators (two narrowish “pits” – one serving Nankiva/Border Junction/staging and the other Tatiara Downs/Jameston – separated by high but wide duckunders).

I look forward to viewing (and sharing) Brendan’s time lapse capture of the March session as I feel it will confirm my thoughts – people generally enjoying the session, but being a little too close for comfort at times to really enjoy any sense of surrounding “personal space” – with the warm weather possibly also another contributing factor in this matter.

The irony is not lost on me that the changes I made in response to viewing Brendan’s time lapse capture from the previous session (here if you are interested or didn’t catch it from the January op session blog: Border District Jan 2018 time lapse) has resulted in somewhat of an over-correction – from too many operators in the Tatiara Downs/Jameston pit to too many operators in the Nankiva/Border Junction/staging pit. Finding that “sweet spot” in operations is often a bit of a balancing act, which is certainly how I feel after an enjoyable March session …

Below: How many operators can you fit in one pit? From left to right, Jeff, Mark, Duncan, Malcolm and Ian test the limits of what the “maximum” is for numbers in an operating pit on the Border District. There were times during the March session when six bodies were present here – perhaps not quite a case of being “not so squeezy” (with apologies to a 1980s truck commercial …)?!

There were five in the pit


More images from the January 2018 operating session

JAM at rest

With thanks to Iain, enjoy a few creative (and in my opinion somewhat evocative) images from the most recent session on the Border District – giving some different perspectives of the layout and operations. Above is yet another submission for “how’s the serenity” – as the small locale of Jameston is captured lying asleep. The panel van (slightly obscured by the SAR 4 wheel water tank in the foreground) and the open door on the “Southern Dairy” building (in the background) are the only signs of movement or life. That will soon change though, with no less than three goods workings and two passenger workings to call on this South Australian branchline terminus during the operating session.

Below, the other (west) end of the yard at Jameston is also quite quiet. A number of “early style” SAR 8300 vans rest in the sidings here (one scratchbuilt, one constructed from the excellent Rocky River Models’ kit), as does an SAR 4 wheel ballast plow (also from the Rocky River Models’ stable). The ballast plow is often shunted off and left here, as any ballast train loading at Southern Aggregates will need to come “down the branch” to reverse the loco and van, so can also collect the plow at the same time. The upper quadrant signal to the left of the image suggests a train will soon arrive and disturb the peace here …

Perway at JAM

Cattle yard at TAT

Above, perhaps a case for the advantage of smell-o-vision being yet to be invented? A number of  SAR bogie “C” cattle wagons (modified from the Oz Rail “CS” wagons by swapping out bogies, straightening the internal rails, re-decalling/renumbering and weathering) rest by the livestock loading facilities at Tatiara Downs. Sheep are also handled here, evidenced by the VR four wheel “L” wagon to the far right of the image. Both South Australian and Victorian trains have already taken loaded livestock wagons out during the session, as well as bringing in the empties captured above (and more).

We see a busy moment below, both on and off the railway, at Nankiva in far south-western Victoria. Jeff makes a final check of the paperwork for his train, VR TN 89 Melbourne to Tatiara Downs Goods, which has already completed shunting (one wagon “off” and two wagons “on”) at Nankiva. Jeff is also looking for opposing movements and nearby workings on the timetable – the Overland (VR TN 241) is already ahead (having overtaken VR TN 89 at Nankiva earlier in the session), a Jet Goods (VR TN 847, right of image) sits in the loop, also looking to head west and the “South East Goods” (SAR TN 547) is due to head down the branch from Tatiara Downs before VR TN 89 arrives there.

Jeff at NAN

January 2018 operating session

S315 at TAT

Above image:  The classic lines of the Victorian Railways’ S class diesel are on display as S315 brings VR Train Number 7 Through Goods to a stand at Tatiara Downs. Here, the engine and crew will be replaced by South Australian ones, and after some brief shunting (one pick up) the train will continue to Mount Gambier as SAR TN 6. Image thanks to Jeff.

A warm Brisbane Saturday afternoon saw the first operating session for 2018 take place on the Border District. A crew of seven were in attendance – the largest crew size for a January session since regular operations commenced in 2015. The session saw a continuation of the focus on “immersive operations” – using a number of devices to support and assist operators to feel that they were indeed working on the Victorian or South Australian Railways in 1976. The session was very enjoyable and I thank the operators for their attendance and efforts – what a great way to spend an afternoon: model trains, friends, beverages and banter!

The January session included one Border District “first timer”, Malcolm, who models South Australian Railways in N scale. Malcolm’s “Belair and Murray Bridge” layout accurately captures the prototype, but his layout also has (in my opinion) the best representation of the colours and scenery in and around the Adelaide Hills. While Malcolm is now a fellow Queenslander, it has taken us some time to coordinate his attendance at a session on the Border District! For the first time on the ‘District, the January session saw both South Australian Railways’ crew roles taken up by SAR modellers – Malcolm as SAR crew 1 and Iain as SAR crew 2.

Below image: A busy few moments at Jameston! From right to left – Malcom is at the controls of “blood nose” (an experimental austerity paint scheme from 1976) 956 and has just brought SAR TN 263 Goods from Tatiara Downs to Jameston to a stand. This will allow Iain a clear line to run SAR TN 906 Passenger back to the ‘Downs, today in the hands of vulnerable English Electric 909 and assigned a motley collection of carriages. To the left, narrow gauge 869 is shut down, ahead of working a small goods later in the afternoon.

A busy moment at JAM

TN 955 at TAT

Above image: Feel the grind! One of the units from the final run of 930 Alcos delivered to the SAR – 965 – has worked SAR TN 955 Jet Goods up the grade from Kybybolite to Tatiara Downs. With Jeff in charge, the SAR power will have a chance to recover from this ordeal, being exchanged here for a VR engine (the third series X, nose just in shot to the far right of the image) before the train continues eastwards as VR TN 954 Jet Goods.

As for the SAR crew roles, the Victorian Railways’ crews were undertaken by Victorian modellers for this session – Jeff as VR crew 1, Shelton as VR crew 2 and myself combining VR crew 3 and Train Control (TC). The session also featured the most ever number of locos equipped with sound – five – which meant 10 of the 34 workings were “noisy”. Four locos were Border District regulars (one recently having undergone some repairs to the drive train – thanks Richard!), but B60 from Shelton’s “Western Victoria” layout made a debut on the ‘District too. Shelton has recently installed a sound decoder in this engine , with the two speakers in this install really adding to the quality of the sound (and perhaps the volume too?!) You can read about the install on Shelton’s blog here: EMD 567 Sound

Brendan once again took on the Station Master/Sheriff role at the main station of Tatiara Downs, but enlisted a deputy to assist in Darren, who undertook the Head Shunter position. This is one intended feature for sessions in 2018 – two people working at and looking after Tatiara Downs. This is not to say the job here cannot be a one person role (quite the contrary, Brendan repeatedly excels at this!) – but having two people here promotes a little bit of sharing of knowledge, as well as working together. Call it good luck, good management or both, Darren expressed he had thoughts about working Tatiara Downs at some stage! The dynamic duo here did a great job of keeping things moving nicely, but also of taking the time to look at the “what” and “why” of their roles in operations. While Tatiara Downs is indeed the hinge point of the layout, both Brendan and Darren are keen to pair up again there for the next operating session – thanks guys!

Below image: A “Blues Festival” at Tatiara Downs – Victorian Railways’ blue that is! Shelton’s B60 takes pride of place at Tatiara Downs loco – with three VR units in view you would be excused for thinking this isn’t a South Australian loco depot. Image thanks to Jeff.

VR blues at TAT

TN 81 at NAN

Above image: The early morning quiet at Nankiva is disturbed by the arrival of VR TN 81 Roadside Goods. Shelton is in control of loco Y131 for this working, and will soon go about organising the drop offs (for four separate locations/industries – super/fertiliser unloading, goods shed, fuel, vegetable loading) – as well as making up the return working, VR TN 62 Roadside Goods.

Another regular feature of recent sessions has been the coverage from budding videographers – there are indeed many video files getting about, just waiting to be uploaded to the interweb, from a number of recent operating sessions. Unfortunately, the planned “slow TV” tour of and around the Border District in January wasn’t able to take place, so will be done and shared another time. However, Brendan recorded an awesome time lapse of the first two thirds of the most recent session – capturing the action on the bulk of the layout. You can view Brendan’s time lapse here: Border District Jan 2018 time lapse

If viewing the time lapse and you are not familiar with the layout, locations from the left to right (as viewed on screen) are: Border Junction (SAR/VR) (far left) with the staging yards of Edenhope (VR) and Kybybolite (SAR) just below (“through” and “open” staging), operating well, Nankiva (VR), backscene divider (Brendan mounted the camera on this), Tatiara Downs (SAR/VR), operating well, Jameston (SAR). The time lapse is interesting to follow trains and operators (look how busy we all are?!), but I have also found it valuable to review the flow of people on the layout – Tatiara Downs and surrounds is often a mighty popular place!

While thinking of videos, I was reminded of some footage of the Border District taken and edited by Shelton way back in 2015. While the layout has changed a little since then (not significantly, mainly improved by experience from multiple operating sessions), the video does work nicely as a “companion piece” and gives more of a trackside/railfan view. You can view Shelton’s video here: Border District Running Session

Below image: Mustard Pot mayhem at the Downs – twice the number of 830s means twice the fun and enjoyment! Alco 858 (right of image) has worked SAR TN 161 Goods into Tatiara Downs and is assisting Alco 836 (left) – the usual Tatiara Downs shunter – with tidying up the yard and making and breaking up trains.

Mustard pots at TAT


December 2017 operating session

SAR steamers

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.

SAR steam at Kyby

VR steam too

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.

Mustard Pot on the narrow

TD revised Mill mock up

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.

Extended siding at Nankiva


All in a session’s work …

TD sidings not so chockers 1

I have found hosting regular operating sessions to be both challenging and rewarding – although honestly, I’d probably put it at one quarter for the former and three quarters or the latter. One of the most rewarding aspects of regular operations is being able to see plans, timetables and rosters be put through their paces and put into action – hopefully with a high degree of success. However, the biggest reward is the undoubtably the friendships developed with and amongst crew members. I am so fortunate to have such a great group of operators – and mates – on the Border District.

Witness the images in this post as an example of both “rewards” I mention above. Yes, the lead image above counts again for entry into the often featured “how’s the serenity?” category … a very quiet and not too busy look at the industrial sidings to the east of the railway yard at Tatiara Downs, the “main” and busiest station on the ‘District. However, the picture below paints somewhat of a different picture … a far busier and more congested time being experienced at the same location!

TD sidings are chockers

The congestion in the yard show above, with hardly a free spot anywhere, tells the story of a railway hard at work. This work is the “reason” for the Border District … and the reason for operating sessions. The image above was captured during the most recent session and demonstrates the well developed local knowledge of the Tatiara Downs “Sheriff” (Station Master and Head Shunter … and part Train Control … and “Jack of all Trades” too), Brendan. The Sheriff has taken a role that was once feared (and maybe still is?) on the ‘District and made it is own – with equal amounts of prototype and model learning happening along the way.

As much as the above image might appear at first glance to be “disorganised chaos”, the Sheriff is doing a great job of cleverly moving inwards and outwards vehicles about, for or from eight trains no less (four SAR and four VR), as well as keeping plenty of space in the “main” yard (to the right of image) for other movements. Indeed, witness a similar shot below, taken a little later and towards the end of the session, which demonstrates how things all worked out … and the serenity has returned. In fact, the Sheriff was finished at Tatiara Downs in record time this most session, perhaps suggesting it is time again for a bit more of the “challenge” aspect …

TD sidings not so chockers 2


A trip on a Victorian Railways Roadside Goods …

VR 19 shunts the vegie siding

With thanks to images provided by Border District regulars Mark and Brendan, let’s take a trip on one of the “jack of all trades” workings on the ‘District – Victorian Railways Train Numbers 19 (westbound to Tatiara Downs) and 26 (eastbound from Tatiara Downs) Roadside Goods. Regular power for these workings are either Victorian Railways’ T or Y class diesel electric locomotives. These Roadside Goods undertakes a range of shunting – pick up, set outs and loading – and take more than a third of the operating session to complete their work. They also requires a goodly amount of shunting at Tatiara Downs, which is usually provided by the shunter there, allowing the driver of the train to refuel and turn the engine (and take a break) …

Above: VR Y169 can be seen providing the power for VR TN 19 on this day, and has already completed the first leg of the journey from Edenhope (staging) to Nankiva. The Y has been captured shunting the Edenhope Valley Vegetable Growers’ Siding, off the mainline, under a “low speed yellow” signal. Work here is to collect a South Australian D bogie louvre van loaded with vegetables for transit to Adelaide and eventual sale at the Central Markets. The loading directly behind the Y – three tarped Victorian Railways’ GY open wagons (loaded with fertiliser) and a Victorian Railways’ U louvre van (loaded with sundry goods and parcels) – will be dropped off here at Nankiva. The remainder of the consist for VR TN 19 can be seen in Road 2, to the right of the Y class, and is carded for destinations beyond Nankiva.

Below: Having collected the D van and added it to the consist, the Y has also completed shunting the GY wagons to the Pivot super siding and the U van to the goods shed and is now moving to the silo road. Here a South Australian OB open wagon, loaded with grain for transit to the flour mill at Tatiara Downs ,will be collected and added to the rest of the train (still able to be seen, this time behind the Y class). The driver will work to block all wagons for ease of shunting, prior to departing Nankiva. VR TN 19 will then “do the brakes”, ahead of travelling west through Border Junction for its next (and ultimate) destination – Tatiara Downs.

VR 19 at Nankiva

TD shunting VR 26 1

Above: Having arrived at Tatiara Downs, VR TN 19 has in effect completed its working. The VR Y class has headed to the loco depot for a fuel top up (able to just be seen in the far distance, in the extreme right of the image) – and will work the return roadside goods – VR TN 26. Being a South Australian station, Tatiara Downs’ shunt engine is a South Australian Railways 830 class Alco, resplendent in “mustard pot” colours. A regular engine for this role on the Border District is 836, captured above working to reverse the VR brake van (a 4 wheeled “ZL” van – not so sure the guard will be relishing the bumpy and hot ride!) to the end of the consist.

Below: Just a little later in the sequence, but still taken from the same location, the mustard pot Alco now has the ZL van behind the rake of empty Victorian Railways 4 wheelers (today comprised of RY and I wagons). These wagons will be loaded with stone at VR TN 26’s first shunt – Southern Aggregates at Border Junction. Prior to the two previous images, 836 had already shunted off the D van from Nankiva loaded with vegetables (which will later be added to the consist of South Australian Railways’ TN 312 Goods for transit to Adelaide), the OB wagon with grain from Nankiva for the flour mill here at Tatiara Downs and a Victorian Railways’ short U van, loaded with general goods and parcels for the goods shed.

TD shunting VR 26 2

TD shunting VR 26 3

Above: 836 has completed making up VR TN 26 Roadside Goods, with four more wagons having been added to the consist … an empty SAR D bogie louvre van (for vegetable loading at Nankiva, then to return to Adelaide), two VR GY open wagons (for grain loading at Nankiva, then return to the mill at Tatiara Downs) and a VR U van (behind the loco – conveying parcels and general goods from Tatiara Downs). In the distance and to the right of the image, Y169 – with both headlight and marker lights illuminated – has completed refuelling and is ready to head VR TN 26 eastwards. The driver of VR TNs 19 and 26 can also be seen, deep in thought …

Below: Having completed a brake test and checked all wagons and associated car cards, the driver gets VR TN 26 underway upon receipt of a “red over green” (clear medium speed) signal indication at Tatiara Downs. Once VR TN 26 has departed, local shunter 836 will go about delivering the wagons brought in on VR TN 19 to their respective industries at Tatiara Downs, or the next train for further/onwards travel.

VR 26 departs TD 2

VR 26 shunts Border Junction

Above: Y169 can now be seen a little further down the line, shunting the Southern Aggregates complex at Border Junction. As this location only has one set of facing points, it can only be shunted in the one direction (eastwards/up for Victorian Railways” trains). To build an even greater layer of complexity, the old timber loading facility here can only handle 2x 4 wheelers or one bogie open wagon at a time, so some thinking and manoeuvring is required! Add to this the fact there are also a number of other wagons already in the train, locos and brake vans cannot shunt under the loader, and a number of shunting and signalling restrictions are in place – this is certainly a working where I should consider paying the driver double …

Below: Perhaps feeling a little like being back to where it all started, VR TN 26 is undertaking a number of shunts at Nankiva again. Here, empty wagons for vegetables and grain loading are dropped off – the latter operation being captured below in the silo road. Once these drop offs are completed, there is still more work to do, with an empty oil pot and open wagon to be collected – from the oil siding and derrick crane position respectively. The driver will also check car cards and block wagons for destinations – ensuring also that loads are marshalled ahead of empties, oil and explosive wagons have “spacer” vehicles as appropriate, and livestock wagons are kept as far away from the brake van as possible (to save the guard from the smell!). With all this considered, VR TN 26 will then continue east to Edenhope … yes, working a couple of trains on the Border District can sometimes take a good part of an afternoon!

VR 26 shunts Nankiva


November 2017 operating session

Wagons amongst the grass

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.

VR 28 waits for a cross

Overland at TD

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 …