The company behind the plan to run a train in Byron Bay train says the conversion of its old diesel train to solar power is on track and test runs should start in a few months.
Byron Bay Railroad Company, the not-for-profit group running the service from the new Elements resort to the town’s CBD, has released new images of the two-carriage train’s solar conversion.
The conversion is taking place at the Lithgow State Mine Railway (LSMR) where the heritage train has been sitting for the past 14 years.
The railway facility was chosen four years ago for the restoration
LSMR managing director Tim Elderton said his team was ‘pretty attached to this train, having restored it and now undertaking the solar conversion’.
‘In between it did a lot of tourist runs in the area and down to Sydney. We will be sad to see it go but at the same time we’re thrilled to be part of this project,’ Mr Elderton said.
Byron Bay Railroad Company spokesman Jeremy Holmes says that once the train arrives in Byron Bay in the coming months driver training and test runs will occur.
‘We had approval two years ago to run the train as a diesel service, however in December we decided to convert to solar power prior to operation,’ Mr Holmes said.
‘Technology had advanced rapidly and so we accelerated the conversion. Changing from diesel to solar requires a modification to the existing accreditation from the National Rail Safety Regulator and the timing for this is out of our control unfortunately.’
Mr Holmes said that the National Rail Safety Regulator ‘has never seen anything like this’.
‘We understand that we are the first to run a solar train and it’s complex new technology,’ he said.
Mr Elderton said the solar panels had been fitted to the roof of the train and the main electric drive frame had been built.
‘The two traction motors and gearbox are being tested in Newcastle and we expect to receive them this week. Parts have come from Italy, Korea, the US and China,’ he said.
‘Mostly they are all in the country now but we have had a hold up with the 240-volt inverters which are used to drive the air compressors.
‘This is a first of its kind product being made by an American company in China and there is a three-month delay releasing it to market. We are now expecting to receive them late June. Worst case scenario they will need to be fitted once the train is in Byron’.
Mr Holmes said the Byron Bay staff were gearing up for the first services.
‘The platforms and train storage shed were completed last month including the installation of a 30kW solar system on the roof of the storage shed,’ he said.
‘The track work was completed earlier this year. Our focus has shifted to operational detail and recruiting and training staff.’
I need to clean and oil my chain, and pump up the tyres, and then allow a bit of time to fuel up the motor with some rolled oats and a cup of tea. All up me and my bike should be ready for some carbon-free riding on the rail trail in about an hour!
Congratulations to Elements, this type of innovation is essential for the transition from fossil-fuel dependence. A small scale application such as this is the perfect testng ground for larger scale applications on a national or even global scale.
I am sure there will be plenty of detractors, as with everything in this area, but I say hooray! If every larger-scale business interest that profits from this shire was interested in innovations such as these we might actually be able to create viable sustainable industries that piggy-back on these examples and transition from being a tourist town to a sustainability centre.