If you're heading to Byron Bay this summer, get ready to ride the world's first solar-powered train. The two-carriage chugger was built in Sydney in 1949, but, as of later this year, will travel along a three-kilometre track between downtown Byron Bay and Northbeach Station up near Sunrise Beach and the Byron arts and industrial estate, driven solely by the sun's energy.
Byron Bay Railroad Company, which is operating as a non-profit, has spent four years restoring the train, which was in disuse. There are seats for 100 passengers, as well as standing room for extras and, importantly, space for surfboards and bicycles. To begin, the train will run once per hour between 8am and 10pm, at a cost of three bucks per person.
Back in the day, the train ran on diesel. Its conversion took place at the Lithgow Railway Workshop, where solar panels were added to the roof and solar-charged batteries installed. While Indian Railways did launch a solar-powered train earlier this year, the sun only powers the lights, fans and displays on that vehicle. By comparison, on this train, the batteries can power every system, including lighting, air compressors, control circuits and traction. And, should the sun hide its face for a while, they'll gain energy from the grid's green arm. One diesel engine has been removed and replaced with an electric drive package. The remaining diesel engine is staying on-board for to provide emergency back up in the case o an electrical glitch.
The Byron Bay Railroad Company will commence its first service by the end of the year. For more information, visit byronbaytrain.com.au.