May 2017 operating session (Part 2 – Nankiva images)

NAN 89 and 241

After focussing on images captured around Border Junction in the first blog post from the May 2017 session, we now head “over the border” to Victoria and the small but important rail served town of Nankiva.

In the image above, Jeff has brought his first ever working on the Border District – Victorian Railways Train Number 89 Goods – to a stand in the loop at Nankiva. Not too long after having had the B class bring this train to a halt, double S class diesels can be seen barreling through on the mainline at the head of the Overland (VR Train Number 241), Adelaide bound. Once the crack overnight express has passed, Jeff can go about shunting here (drop off one, pick up one) before also continuing westwards …

NAN 12

Seen above a little later in the session, the two S class diesels have been captured on film again, but this time working VR Train Number 12 BONA (light engines and van) back eastwards. It is 1976 and the VR are very, very frugal with their motive power – long layovers at far flung locations were not on! This working replicates the prototype, where the locomotives from the westbound Overland would often work as light engines back to Dimboola to haul the next morning’s eastbound passenger service to Melbourne. The Ss in the images below have a “green over red” clear normal speed indication on the departure signal as they leave Nankiva, heading towards Edenhope.

NAN 339

Above, on the eastern outskirts of Nankiva, newish VR power in the form of X45 can be seen bringing VR Train Number 339 Jet Goods upgrade and under the signal gantry (the work of Nick Lapthorne – thanks Nick!) with a decent load in tow. Usually, VR TN 339 would cross the previously depicted VR TN 12 light engines and van working here … but the often experienced delays on the western line see the Jet well behind its “normal” operating time on this day! After passing through Nankiva and Border Junction, the Jet will swap the VR loco for a South Australian one at Tatiara Downs, before continuing west to Kybybolite … and eventually Adelaide.

May 2017 operating session (Part 1 – Border Junction images)

BJN 582

The May 2017 operating session on the Border District was the first in two months, a line having been ruled through the planned April session as it coincided with the Easter long weekend. The time without operations was put to good use though – Brendan accepted the position of Border District C.S.E. (Chief Signalling Engineer) and the “March to May” period saw all control panels, signals, points and interlocking at Tatiara Downs rethought, rewired and improved across a number of “signal working bees”. Indeed, the underneath of this section of the layout is now immaculate, exceptionally tidy and something to behold, rather than an eyesore and bird’s nest of wires! A big, big thanks to Brendan for his time and effort – it was great to see the hard work pay off during the May session, particularly with yellow signal aspects appearing clearly as yellow, rather than “shades of red” as had been the case in the past!

A slightly different approach has been taken for blogpost recounts of the most recent May session – with all images in a post focussing on one particular area of the layout. For this first post, the hamlet of Border Junction and surrounds is the centre of attention – which also includes the significant industry of “Southern Aggregates”. In the lead image above, a bird’s eye view (or drone … though probably not in 1976?) gives a slightly different perspective of “loading the Stonie” at Southern Aggregates. Below, Victorian Railways X45 stretches Train Number 339 Jet Goods out through the curve from Border Junction, not too far from Tatiara Downs and handover to South Australian Railways’ power.

BJN 339

BJN 905

While the April operating session was postponed/cancelled due to Easter, the May session could have gone the same way. Dates for operating sessions were set at the beginning of the year and I hadn’t noted the May session coinciding with the “Modelling the Railways of NSW” convention in Sydney, to which several operators were heading. Additionally, a number of other operators tendered apologies due to work, play and/or travel plans. However, a crew of four participated in a session that was about quality, not quantity! Regulars Brendan and Iain took on their “favourite” Tatiara Downs Station Master and SAR Crew 1 roles respectively, first timer Jeff took on the VR crew 1 gig (and did a great job of quickly grasping both the role and how the layout as a whole operates) and I grabbed a combination of Train Control and the best bits from both the SAR crew 2 and VR crew 2 jobs.

In the image above, SAR branch line power in the form of 858 has paused at the platform at Border Junction, heading  a “replacement set” of carriages working a connection from the South East Overnight passenger (Train Number 905). The lead louvre van (grey DS) will be shunted to the goods shed at Jameston before the mustard pot Alco brings the green and cream consist back through Tatiara Downs and on to Kybybolite. Below is another aerial view of the Southern Aggregates facility, with 907 going about loading SAR Train Number 582 “Stonie”. The two tracks and operating limitations here make getting nine hoppers loaded a challenging but enjoyable task!

BJN 581

BJN 263

The May session trialled the most recent revision of the “am” timetable … and while I am probably biased, I feel this is proved to be the best yet, with a good mix and balance between prototypical accuracy and interesting operations that weren’t overly complicated or confusing. With a small crew (and a mix of experienced heads and a new operator) it was great to see a focus on taking time, working together and doing things right – including the resetting of signals and points upon passing … and the checking of card cards and consists to ensure they matched up. The session was relaxed and enjoyable … thanks to Jeff, Iain and Brendan for being a part of it!

Above, SAR 956 Alco, with the short lived “blood nose” austerity paint scheme on show, has been captured on film passing Southern Aggregates at the head of SAR Train Number 263 Goods for Jameston. Below – in the background/top of image – B67 can be seen heading from left to right as it leads VR Train Number 90 Goods out of Tatiara Downs towards Border Junction. In the foreground and heading from right to left, B85 leads VR Train Number 25 Passenger – supposedly miles away in the “Edenhope to Nankiva” section. Images from Nankiva, and also Jameston, will feature in the next blog post …

NAN 25

March 2017 operating session … part 4

Coal tower gets used

What? Four posts (five actually, if you include the “Nearly ready …” post) for the one operating session? Never been done before, possibly never to be done again …

I’ll blame the ridiculously good amount of ridiculously good images captured courtesy of Mark, whose pictures again provide 100% of the photographic content of this post. Thanks Mark!

Above, Mark has snaffled a shot of the star of the March operating session … Webb “Big Mikado” 730. The steamer worked two trains – SAR Train Numbers 147 and 148 goods, from Tatiara Downs to Jameston and return, as proving trials ahead of some possible hysterical society operations. The loco can be seen at rest under the coal stage at Tatiara Downs loco.

Below, Mark has recorded SAR English Electric 909, which today has provided the power for SAR Train Number 281 passenger. This train provides a connection from the daily Adelaide to Mount Gambier Bluebird railcars at Naracoorte and then works all stops to its final destination of Jameston. The big diesel has just had a spin on the turntable at Jameston, ahead of working back through Border Junction, Tatiara Downs and Kybybolite to Adelaide with SAR Train Number 166 – the thrice weekly “South East” overnight passenger. The good people of the Border District are certainly blessed with several passenger services each day – provided by both the SAR and the VR.


A bust moment at JAM

The “Paper Jet” – SAR Train Numbers 185 and 186, are the focus of the final two images here. This train works express from Adelaide to Jameston, conveying pulp paper, soda ash and empty vans for the Apcel Mill, and returns with empty open wagons (from pulp paper and soda ash traffic) and plenty of loaded vans full of paper products for parts west – Adelaide, Perth and even east to Sydney in some cases.

Above, SAR Alco 956 is running around the recently shunted return working (SAR Train Number 186), having spent a goodly amount of time breaking up SAR Train Number 185 before making up this train,. The empty OBf opens conveyed soda ash to the mill, while a seemingly ever present SAR 8300 Goods Brake will carry the markers and bring up the rear …

Below, 956 can be seen a little further into her journey, awaiting the green at Border Junction to exit the branch. The reason for the pause – the eastbound “Overland” overnight express between Adelaide and Melbourne is due through on the main very soon. Once clear, 956 will receive a red over green indication and permission to continue through to Tatiara Downs …

Paper awaits the green

March 2017 operating session … part 3

SA shunt 1

“Loading the Stonie” is possibly one of the most enjoyable operating jobs on the Border District. Early in the afternoon sees SAR Train Number 583 arrives at Southern Aggregates, just outside Border Junction. The empty consist has made its way from Adelaide in the east – a much longer run than that made by the more well known “Stonie” from Penrice. In the image captured above, English Electric 907 has already shunted the 8300 Goods Brake off before positioning hoppers for loading under the overhead loader. A closer look at the picture reveals that one hopper is already loaded …

SA shunt 2

Shunting Southern Aggregates is fun, but also a little challenging. Hoppers can only be loaded in groups of three at a time, due to the constraint of a short track under the loader. Above, 907 has already positioned the first three loaded hoppers back in the siding with the Goods Brake, and has returned to commence loading the second set of three hoppers. As a result of these constraints, most Stone trains on the Border District are made up of only nine hoppers. This also assists with keeping the loaded train tonnage down, given the working is usually handled by a single locomotive.

730 passes SA

Above, 907 is already into loading the second set of three hoppers when a surprise visitor – SAR Webb power 730 – travels past in the foreground at the head of SAR TN 147 goods. See the other two blog posts on this session for more information about the Big Mikado pictured here. Once 730 and her train are through Border Junction and down the branch, 907 will shuffle around the sets of empty and loaded hoppers to load the third and final set of three HS wagons …

March 2017 operating session … part 2

Rush hour at BJN

Many of the passengers on SAR TN 281 passenger have travelled the better part of the day from Adelaide on the Bluebird railcar working. Arriving at Naracoorte, they have then made their way to a small loco hauled consist, heeding the cry of  “all change here for the Border District”. Their new train serves the rural south east centres of Kybybolite, Tatiara Downs, Border Junction and Jameston … and can be seen in the image above at its penultimate stop. The crew have done well here, with both first and economy travelling passengers able to exit to the small carriage level station, before the train continues down the branch …

Thanks to Mark – long time friend and influencer of the Border District – for all the images in this post. Below, and also captured at Border Junction, SAR “Big Mikado” 730 has just received the green to head down the branch with SAR TN 147 goods from Tatiara Downs to Jameston. The DWf van immediately behind the engine is used for “take outs” and has required a little work from both the Guard and Station Master to unload supplies and parcels at Border Junction. The mainline to Melbourne continues eastwards to the right of the train.

Heading down to JAM

Jammed up JAM

Above, 730 can be seen a little later breaking up SAR TN 147 goods and making up SAR TN 148 goods (the return working to Tatiara Downs) at the branchline terminus of Jameston. This task can be challenging at times, but has been made even more so by the earlier than usual arrival of SAR TN 583A/584 loaded Stonie, with some of its consist of HS stone hoppers visible in the background. The Stonie will reverse the loco and van here, having come down the branch after loading at Southern Aggregates, before heading west to Osborne (Port Adelaide) and the ICI plant there. However, with only a small yard, the Stonie might just have to wait until 730 has finished her work!

Our final image below is the third in this post taken at Border Junction, and sees 730 now well clear of the “mess” at Jameston, having worked SAR TN 148 goods up the hill from Jameston, on the way to Tatiara Downs. As the compressor methodically thumps away, “take outs” are again being attended to at the station. The crew patiently await the green to head back onto the mainline and around to their final destination. Most of the loading from this train will eventually head further west on SAR TN 312 roadside goods.

730 at BJN

March 2017 operating session … part 1

730 and 907

A few weekends ago – in weather much drier than currently being experienced in Queensland – the third operating session for 2017 was held on the Border District. The session provided the first opportunity for the year to try out the revised and simplified “PM” shift – notionally from 16:00 hours in the afternoon through to 02:00 hours in the morning.

A crew of five were in attendance – Brendan again undertaking Station Master/Shunter/Sheriff duties at Tatiara Downs, Iain and Paul taking the two Victorian Railways (VR) crew jobs and Mark and myself scoring the two South Australian Railways (SAR) crew gigs. I also took on Train Control responsibilities, but increasingly these services are seemingly required less and less, with crews reading and following their sequence cards and information … as well as setting and resetting points and signals.

The session provided an opportunity for a few “different” operations to take place … such as the one seen in the lead image here, with SAR “Big Mikado” 730 in charge of SAR TN 147 goods from Tatiara Downs to Jameston. The Webb steamer is the pride of the Tatiara Downs Railway Preservation Society (TSRPS) and used this and the subsequent return working as proving trials. The loco performed very well from all accounts – and can also be seen again below, this time balanced on the turntable at Tatiara Downs.

730 spins

Mustard pots

Another feature of the session was the increased dominance of SAR “mustard pot” 830 class Alcos – with two seen above separately shunting at Tatiara Downs. The use of 730 and more 830s may or may not also have something to do with the ever increasing failure rate on the Trainorama 930s – not just the dreaded split gears, but now also issues with the idler gears in a few units …

The session wasn’t only about the SAR though, as can be seen in the image below. The empty Stonie is at Border Junction for shunting/loading at Southern Aggregates as VR TN 25 passenger travels past, at speed. Today, the consist doesn’t include any air conditioned cars – much to the disappointment of all but the hardiest of travellers!

The March session on the “District” was another enjoyable one, without any significantly reportable “event/s” (one train may or may not have left with a little more loading than it should have, and the host may or may not have performed a “Craig” … though most probably to honour him due to his absence …). Also enjoyable was the pictorial coverage from the day, so although this blog post is a little late, it will most likely be one of several that summarise the session. Thanks again to all those crew members that participated, more to come …

VR TN 25


Nearly ready for the March operating session …


“There was movement at the station …” well, not quite … or not yet at least! However, there was soon to be movement at a few stations on the Border District, with the March 2017 operating session not too far away.

Above, all is pretty quiet for early in the afternoon at Jameston in south eastern South Australia. The hot Summer has continued deep into March, and local visiting the station has sought some shade for his car …

Below, things are also quiet at Nankiva in the far western region of Victoria. At the eastern end of the railway yard here, vans are being loaded with local produce from the Edenhope Valley and surrounding area, soon to head to the markets in both Adelaide and Melbourne.

NAN east

NAN west

The western end of the yard at Nankiva is equally as quiet as the east, as can be seen above. An empty oil tank awaits collection from the afternoon goods service. The local freight agent will soon be busy at the goods shed in the distance, ahead of receiving and dispatching consignments.

But the award for “quiet” on the Border District must to go to the whistle stop of Border Junction – located along the mainline between Melbourne and Adelaide, and also serving as the junction for the branch line to Jameston.

The peace and quiet in the image below will soon be broken, with many trains from both South Australian Railways and Victorian Railways making their way past Border Junction – most travelling through at speed, but a few stopping and serving this rural outpost …