A heritage rail operator in New South Wales is planning to launch the world’s first solar-powered train before Christmas in the coastal town of Byron Bay.
Byron Bay Railroad Company has taken delivery of its newly restored two-car Class 600/700 DMU, which has undergone a conversion to run on solar power.
The train will retain a back-up diesel engine in case of an electrical fault but otherwise it will run entirely on solar energy which is gathered from curved panels on the roof and stored in a battery bank on board.
During extended periods of poor weather, the train can also be plugged into the grid and its batteries charged using green energy purchased from energy provider Enova Energy.
This is believed to be the first train in the world to generate its traction power using solar energy. There have been recent examples of solar power being harnessed on the railway but only to power ancillary systems, such as lights and air-conditioning systems.
Built at the Chullora Workshops in Sydney in 1949, the lightweight trains are constructed from aluminium bodyshells on steel frames. Byron Bay’s train is formed of cars 661 and 726, which were withdrawn from regular passenger service in 1991 and 1994 respectively.
Although they will only operate at low speeds through Byron, the trains are capable of speeds of up to 115 km/h.
The new service will operate along a 3km stretch of the Casino-Murwillumbah line between the Byron township and the North Beach precinct.
Testing and commissioning is now being carried out alongside staff training.
Byron Bay Railroad Company development director Jeremy Holmes said: “This is another big milestone for the project and we’re just glad to see our beautiful train
in its new Byron home.
“Even more so, we’re really looking forward to running first passenger services and sharing this experience with residents and visitors soon.”
Photos courtesy of Byron Bay Railroad Company