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.
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.
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.