Above: A Bluebird railcar casts a solitary image as it stands at Jameston, ahead of working SAR Train Number 542 – the daily except Sunday passenger service to Adelaide. In the background, another OB wagon of super phosphate (fertiliser) awaits unloading. Thanks to Mark for this cracking shot – one which really captures the intended “feel” of the Border District.
The October 2017 operating session was another “milestone” session – the 30th (yes … the big 3-0!) session held on the ‘District over the last three years. Such an accomplishment this was … the owner didn’t remember this fact until AFTER the session! With a couple of late apologies received, a crew of six took on the revised “AM” timetable for the session – resulting in a very enjoyable afternoon’s worth of work in and about western Victoria and south eastern South Australia, circa 1976. Brendan returned to the familiar haunt of Tatiara Downs as the Station Master/Sheriff/Boss – and did a great job with a new timetable and a few very busy periods. Mark continued his South Australian sojourn by working the SAR Crew 1 role, which included the most “shunt intensive” working (and one of my favourites) – SAR TN 547 South East Goods.
Craig took the SAR Crew 2 job and although having not worked the ‘District since July, needed little re-orientation (yes, even despite being NSW railways modeller!). Jeff, much like his premiership winning football team – go the Tigers, dominated the Victorian side of things while working the VR Crew 2 gig. Jeff ably supported his father, Ian, who did a great job as a first timer on the Border District (it clearly runs in the family …) in the VR crew 1 role. I juggled between Train Control, Loco Hostler at Tatiara Downs and also ran most of the trains assigned to the VR Crew 3 position.
Below: There is certainly plenty of Alco power on hand at Tatiara Downs to start the session! On the left and to the front is the classic “back to back” pairing of 958 and 946, set to work SAR TN 240 “Overland” Passenger to Adelaide. Next is 702, which will be second out on SAR TN 338 Westbound Jet Goods. To the right is single ender 931, the assigned power for SAR TN 6/7 Mount Gambier Goods. 836, the shunter for Tatiara Downs, rests on the road behind the mainline power.
Above: Two completely different approaches to railmotors by two different railway systems are on show at Tatiara Downs station. On the left is an SAR 250 class “Bluebird” while on the right is a VR 153HP “Walkers” railmotor. Thanks to Mark for this interesting image.
The afternoon saw a continued focus on “immersive” operations, with the scene for the session being set through the use of the recently developed “working descriptions”. There are simply an A5 page of information about the trains/workings for the afternoon – their influence/link to the prototype, as well as a few tips and tricks and the occasional bit of humour. They are designed to inform and inspire all operators – from rookies with little to no knowledge of the prototype, through to those who know the areas and operations very, very well – all without providing too much of “information overload”. Only in use for their second time, reception has been generally positive and a big nod must go to Mark, as these descriptions are inspired by some of the operational aides used on his “Arden Street” layout.
Also in use for the second time was the “flexible operator numbers timetable and approach” – which facilitates anywhere from three to nine operators being able to work the session without needing to make any changes. Truth be told, this approach could keep up to fourteen operators busy if two person crews were employed – but those who have visited the Border District would know that fourteen people would struggle to all fit in the layout room! The flexible approach certainly worked with late apologies being received – in fact, only two trains of the possible thirty-four didn’t run in the session.
Below: Compare this shot with the image two above – presenting a very different looking Tatiara Downs loco, just past the midpoint of the session. All the previously present SAR power has headed out on assignments – with only the Bluebird railcar flying the South Australian flag. Two examples of mainline VR power are now on shed though – X45 to take out the eastbound VR TN 954 Jet Goods and S304 to work VR TN 90 Goods. I guess the images above and below show that there can be plenty of “blue” about the Border District …
Above: A ZF Brake Van brings up the rear of VR Train Number 90 eastbound Goods at Tatiara Downs. This is one of the final workings for the session, so the yard at Tatiara Downs is a little less “full” than earlier. In the background, louvre vans for express loading and a VR 280 HP Walkers railmotor can be seen in the dock platform.
The session only saw a handful of minor hiccups. A couple of train cards were found to have insufficient or incorrect information (the dreaded “cut and paste” error strikes again!) and one loco took off like a rocket from staging, having been incorrectly dialled up (to be fair, the loco number on the intended engine is a little hard to read …). There were also issues with some points – a couple being incorrectly set (perhaps taking on three roles for the afternoon may have been two too many for me at times …) and two “wire and dowel” thrown points had their wire actuator drop out (easily fixed after the session, and points were still able to be thrown by hand during the session). However, none of these matters detracted from the afternoon. In some ways it was disappointing that the 30th session didn’t see any operator perform a “Craig” – although maybe this should be viewed more as a positive and that it has taken 30 sessions to get people to remember to take their cards with them!
As always, what makes or breaks operating sessions are people – and the October session again reminded me how fortunate I am to have a great group of friends and crew to bring the Border District alive each month. The session saw equal amounts of attention to detail and the usual banter/gentle ribbing that is often associated with operations. An added bonus this month was having Jeff’s dad, Ian, attend – all the way from Port Fairy – and share some first hand accounts of experience with the areas, locations, trains and operations modelled in the debrief afterwards – great stuff!
Below: Another ripping shot courtesy of Mark – capturing Alco 950 shunting SAR TN 152 Goods at Tatiara Downs.