Above: “Silver dreams” … first series Victorian Railways’ GJF grain hoppers (sometimes referred to as “goofies”) await loading at the ‘under construction’ enhanced Grain Elevators’ Board complex at Nankiva. Another interesting and another unique perspective on the operations of the Border District, courtesy of Mark.
With a number of regular operators and friends interstate, overseas or otherwise committed, the May 2018 operating session on the Border District saw a crew of five in attendance. This was perhaps somewhat serendipitous, as after the March session operations were restructured to do away with the third VR crew. This was a result, in the main, of having 8 operators last time and the issues created by not having enough throttles on hand!
For the May session, Jeff and Mark took on the Victorian Railways’ crews roles (1 and 2 respectively). Duncan and Iain undertook the South Australian Railways’ crew jobs (again, 1 and 2 respectively). I looked after Tatiara Downs and Train Control at the same time – assisted by others setting points and signals. An additional Cab 06 throttle was purchased after the March session – so May saw the number of operators and number of throttles be in balance.
The session proved to be a very enjoyable one. While there were less operators than for recent sessions, the banter was possibly greater than usual – with plenty of “supportive” comments (… and a greater amount of general ribbing!). At the same time, there were a couple of occasions when, with no sound equipped loco running, the silence demonstrated five people all hard at work, undertaking the cognitive gymnastics that are operations – Border District style!
Another highlight of the May session was the commissioning of the revised signalling and point control at Nankiva – with significant thanks to Border District Chief Signalling Engineer (CSE), Brendan. While Brendan wasn’t able to share (this time) in the fruits of his labour, it was rewarding to have aspects displaying correctly and interlocking adding realism. It was also great to have all points on the main at Nankiva thrown electrically for the first time – a long planned project.
Below: The Tatiara District Farmers’ Co-operative finally has a building! Seen beyond the livestock sidings at Tatiara Downs, the structure is a ‘standard’ South Australian Railways’ corrugated iron goods shed – in the very attractive cream with red roof scheme. The building, replacing the previous ‘piece of cardboard with industry name written in texta’, is with thanks to the very talented and prolific Don Bishop (belated birthday wishes too, Don!).
Above: Another view of the new Tatiara Downs Famers’ Co-operative shed. Positioned to the left of the entrance to the train room, the reactions from long time operators to this structure were, simply, priceless. As the number of structures on the Border District grows, so to does the ‘immersive’ feel of operations.
The May session seemed to have less operating “issues” than the previous one in March – even the three way point behaved itself – but perhaps this was a result of responding to and addressing things from the previous session? While there was no time lapse capture for the whole session, as per previous 2018 sessions, Jeff was kind enough to record a few shorter time lapse sequences at Nankiva. Unfortunately, WordPress won’t allow me to upload video content directly to this blog, so I’ll explore another way to share these in the near future.
The removal of the third Victorian Railways crew role meant there were less trains this session (28 scheduled – compared to 34 in March), so opportunity was taken to trial some “additional workings”, as required. These were 6 unscheduled trains (think conditional workings, charters and the like) that were able to be assigned to any operator if and when they were well ahead of the schedule/sequence. I think this worked fairly well, with 4 of these 6 “additional workings” taking place, and three operators sharing in the running of them.
The May session certainly has me considering that age old maxim of “less is more” – particularly in terms of both the number of trains for a session and the number of operator roles on the layout. However, one “less” I still find myself a little unsure of is the bi-monthly approach to sessions. There has certainly been more progress on the layout this year than in the past three (when sessions were held monthly), but it does seems a long time between operating Saturdays.
As always, the operating sessions are as much – or more – about the people and friends in the hobby. I count myself very fortunate to have such an amazing group that help bring the Border District to life each session – as well as provided advice, support, experience and progress, away from and outside of these sessions. Thanks to the “awesome foursome” that made the May session such a great one!
Below: Another image courtesy of Mark – a look across the stub-ended staging roads of Edenhope towards the end of the session reveals a sea of Victorian Railways’ blue and gold goodness!