Engineering, Environment and Sustainability, Passenger Rail

Solar train enters service in Byron Bay

A solar-powered passenger train has entered operation at Byron Bay in New South Wales, with limited services until Christmas, ahead of a full schedule launch in the new year.

The first official trip of the Byron Bay Railroad Company’s new solar train, which the company says is the first of its kind in the world, left The Sun Bistro on Bayshore Drive around 11am on Saturday, December 16.

The train, which has a capacity for 100 passengers at $3 an adult ticket, operates between The Sun Bistro at Byron Beach and the burgeoning North Beach precinct, along a three kilometre stretch of the Casino to Murwillumbah line.

It is made up of two restored carriages from the ‘600 class’, manufactured at the Chullora Workshops in Sydney in 1949.

“We searched the country and found a dilapidated vintage train, restored it, and are now powering it with a 4.6-billion-year-old power source,” Byron Bay Railroad development director Jeremy Holmes said.

“We partnered with the incredible Tim Elderton from Lithgow Railway Workshop to restore the train and to oversee the solar conversion along with our other partners Nickel Energy and Elmofo. Local rail industry expert Geoff Clark has been guiding the project and helping to navigate the complex regulations and safety requirements.”

“This is an exciting world first, powering a train with solar power, day, night and in every type of weather,” Smart Energy Council chief executive John Grimes said.

“It shows Australia’s fantastic sunshine can be harnessed in smart ways not just to power our homes and businesses, but to address another pressing problem – cutting emissions in the transportation sector.

“With no support from government at any level the Byron Bay Railroad Company have delivered the world’s first solar train.

“True innovation meets roadblock upon roadblock so we congratulate them on their incredible achievement. Hopefully this one train in regional Australia can demonstrate the possibilities of solar technology and the power of perseverance.”

After opening day on December 16, the train will operate eight times in each direction, each day from December 18 to December 23, before closing until December 27. The operator has said a “full schedule” will commence in January.

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