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Byron Shire
June 15, 2024

Byron train will be ‘quieter than a bus’

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The diesel train,  currently under restoration, which is planned to run between Byron Bay and Elements resort. Photo supplied
The diesel train, currently under restoration, which is planned to run between Byron Bay and Elements resort. Photo supplied

Chris Dobney

Owners of the Elements of Byron resort, which has approval to run a train into the town along the disused railway line, have responded to criticisms of the plan.

A re-announcement of the plan has provoked a spike in opposition in recent weeks from Sunrise residents and, as reported in Echonetdaily yesterday, tourism businesses along Shirley Street.

Objectors cited concerns about noise, pollution from diesel particulate, frequency of services and piercing whistles at railway crossings.

But an Elements spokesperson told Echonetdaily the concerns were based on ‘misinformation’.

She added that there had been widespread consultation, and supplied Echonetdaily with a considerable log of data reflecting that, despite residents’ claims to the contrary.

‘Some residents have admitted to us that they had heard about the train, they just didn’t believe it would happen. They were shocked to get the letter with dates of when it will be up and running,’ she said.

But she admitted that Elements might have inadvertently contributed to the concern.

‘We did proudly exclaim that it was built just after the Second World War,’ she said.

But in fact the diesel rail motor, which is due to start its runs into town this summer, has been completely rebuilt with a much more modern engine.

‘The diesel engine is generally quieter than a bus. The rail noise at our slow speeds will be comparable to rubber on bitumen under a truck at the same speed,’ Elements said in a media release.

‘The rail in this section is 110m-length welded (so minimal joints) which helps to reduce track noise at the rail joints. In addition to this, running one engine at low throttle on a straight track with zero grade and easy braking all collectively minimize the noise output from engine and rail.

‘When built as 600 class units in 1949 they were fitted with screaming GM diesels. But these were replaced with much quieter Cummins engines when converted to 660 class in the mid 70s. The rail version of the Cummins 14 litre NT855 engine is much quieter than the automotive version,’ the release continued.

No black smoke

Responding to concerns about diesel particulate, Elements said the rail cars will be burning ‘the same standard diesel available from any petrol station; the same diesel that is burned in every truck, 4WD and school bus.’

‘Cummins diesel engines are renowned as a clean burning engine. They will only start to blow smoke if the owner hasn’t invested in regular maintenance like servicing fuel injectors, replacing worn piston rings and burnt valves, etc. In addition to being a clean burning engine design, all Cummins engines are fitted with a turbo manifold pressure fuel limiter, which limits the amount of fuel being fed into the engine during acceleration until the turbo pressure increases,’ the resort owners said.

‘During the 30-year operational life of these Cummins engines (mid 70s to mid 00s) the engines were rebuilt numerous times. During this 30-year period Cummins upgraded quite a lot of engine parts (particularly in the combustion area) to improve economy and emissions to keep up with their competition and compliance with emissions targets in USA and Europe.

‘Original engine parts (pistons, injectors, valves, etc) would have been discontinued and replaced with upgraded parts automatically, so these same engines would be more economical and emit less emissions than when they were first built 40 years earlier,’ they said.

The fuel limiting device was fitted to the 660 class engines when the Cummins engines were first fitted in the mid 1970s, thus the 620 and 660 class railcars never emitted black smoke.


Regarding the frequency of the trains, the resort owners said they are ‘yet to determine a timetable for services, however this will generally based around patronage and demand once we start operating, and we encourage residents in Byron and Sunrise to contact us to suggest operating times that would be suitable for them.’

They added that during peak holiday times and when there is a lot of traffic on Ewingsdale Road, they are likely to run the service more frequently.

The company has also restated its determination to seek a long-term solar solution for powering the train, as mentioned in yesterday’s Echonetdaily.

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    You don’t need smoke for diesel contaminants to be toxic. Whilst the “same diesel fuel” might be be used, the proponents have not supplied any information on whether or not pollution kits have been fitted to the engines as per requirements in all modern 4WD, trucks, and buses – This is different to a “fuel limiter”.
    As you say the engines upgrades are “30 years old” and for USA and Europe not current AU standards. The engines are built in the 70’s so they are 50 years old.

    The slow speeds that may help to reduce noise, however will mean the emissions hang around longer within 50 meters of kids playing in their back yards and accommodation guest rooms backing Shirley Street.

    And again there is no confirmation on noise levels from the sounding of the train’s​ horn at Kendall St.

    Lets just put a line in the sand then shall we? Letting a developer dictate frequency based on demand is akin to letting the rubbish truck go up and down your street whenever the driver feels like it. ​

    This is not a service for residents: it’s for patrons of the two resorts and the pub.​

    “likely to run the service more frequently during peak holiday times” … there is no proposed parking in the DA. Please tell us where all the alleviated traffic is going to park and stop making such unsubstantiated claims.

    The Bayshore Drive station/platform is planned to be 20m from residential bedrooms. Lights at night, noise from patrons from Sun Bistro at 10pm effect on native wild life, significant storage of fuel, all have not been addressed in DA. Train station platforms are significant infrastructure – they deserve more than a 14 day exhibition period!

    There are genuine concerns regarding missing information in relation to the DA and train proposal fundamentally due to the lease being with NSW Rail and not with Council.

    Trading off the back of Byron’s clean image as an ‘eco resort’ ​does not bode the resort well when they have no researched and costed plans for solar trains. Instead ​they are rebuilding old engines as a starting point.

    • Honestly.

      Your concerns reek of NIMBY-isms. This is a service open to all who wish to use it. The company already made it clear they’re not running it to make a profit.

      The trains have a suburban whistle chime. Blows air through a brass whistle, quite quiet. A country horn is also on the train.

      This plan has been in the making for over two years and it’s taken you this long to formulate your reply? The railway was there many, many years before you were, and you moved in likely when trains may have been running. Buy next to a railway – there may just be trains running.

    • 1. The resort keeps asking residents to comment on the frequency of services. why don’t sunrise /shirley st residents figure out what they would be happy with, and ask the resort to limit the services to maximum one an hour, or something like that?
      2. People need to appreciate that for a rail service to be viable it has to be more regular than two trips a day.
      3. The rail shuttle has already been supported by Council, before it went to State gov.
      4. Also, the resort has created a design and submitted a proposal to council for a carpark on council owned land.
      5. As for your comment that “The Bayshore Drive station/platform is planned to be 20m from residential bedrooms” i find that hard to believe! Looking at the maps in the DA, it looks like the corridor is about 20m from ONE house. The corridor is also more than 20m wide, the tracks look to be about 30m from the ONE house, and the station is about 40m away, NOT 20m.

  2. Has anyone thought about extending the rail track to the new sports centre, to allow for a viable park n ride service?

  3. TOOT – good to see the train almost back – without it the line will be well and truly lost to the scrub coming back in the rail corridor. Would play right into the hands of the State Govt of either political leaning who have no interest in rail transport on the North Coast. Perhaps it could be extended down to Old Bangalow Road to collect from the southern end of Byron.


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