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Byron Shire
June 1, 2023

Train hits track, powered by solar

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Byron's solar train has finally arrived. Photo supplied
Byron’s solar train has finally arrived. Photo supplied

Two restored 1949 rail motor heritage carriages were delivered to Byron Bay on Friday, marking the final stages of a six year project to run a train along three kilometres of track from Belongil to the CBD. 

Touted as the ‘world’s first solar train’, the project is headed by not-for-profit Byron Bay Railroad Company (BBRC), an offshoot of the Elements of Byron resort.  

According to BBRC, ‘One of the two diesel engines has been removed and the other remains on board for weight and balance and also to provide an emergency back up in case of electrical fault. The remaining diesel engine is not required for normal operation, even in cases of prolonged lack of sunshine.’

The cost will be $3 for adults with some concessions provided for children.

Project manager Jeremy Holmes said his team were looking forward to running the passenger service and sharing the experience with residents and visitors soon. 

The train, which has been fully refurbished in its heritage colours, seats 100 passengers with additional room for standing passengers and luggage including prams and bicycles.

Holmes says, ‘While there are some trains throughout the world with technology that allows them to run parts of the train like lights and air conditioning on solar power, this is the first real train to run fully on power from the sun.’

Chief Executive of the Australian Solar Council John Grimes said, ‘This is an exciting world first, powering a train with solar power, day, night and in every type of weather. 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.’

Byron Bay Railroad Company is hopeful that passenger services will commence before Christmas. In the meantime, they say they will be training the nineteen new local staff, undertaking test runs and commissioning the new solar equipment. For more information visit www.byronbaytrain.com.au

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  1. Thanks to the folk at Lithgow Rail for doing the train fit out, including installation of its solar capacity. They deserve a mention.

  2. I am overjoyed to see this truly visionary project come to fruition. Now let’s get it to Mullumbimby! I’m also so grateful the rail trail proposal hadn’t already destroyed the tracks – None of this would’ve been possible.

    • The 3km tourist tram will doubtless give some pleasure and perhaps for some public transport to those going to and from the Elements resort and the nearby beach and precinct, but tourists trams like this are hardly a visionary concept I suspect Gary is referring to the much trumpeted idea of its solar power. In a year when solar buses have commenced production in Adelaide, and Canberra has just started running electric buses that will run on 100% renewable power all day, a solar tram with diesel backup is an interesting and commendable novelty but it is hardly visionary. The Byron Line study will look at whether running a tourist tram to Mullum might be feasible; that might be fun and might also serve some of the public. Shame the terms of reference do not ask the study to consider how it will integrate with existing public transport services and planning – how for example will people get from Mullum to Byron hospital, a key destination for the mainly older residents who are over 80% of adult public transport users in our region? And nowhere in the terms of reference is their consideration of how a rail service, or the Elements tram for that matter, will contribute to the establishment of the rail trail, noting that this is an objective in the Byron Line proposal, and needed as there will be additional costs for building and fencing a cycle trail (unless of course the Byron Shire wants to stand out as the one LGA along the line not seriously interested in cycle tourism) . As it stands the terms of reference for the Byron Line study, like the state of the Bay’s cycling infrastructure, and the lack of any recent transport needs assessment – its dated 2008 Transport Strategy has none – all show how little heed the Green Byron Shire Council gives to real public transport, and to the most sustainable transport of all, the cycle

    • It won’t be coming to mullum it will always end where the resort is because this is about servicing private enterprise and tourists and not the community we can kiss away ever having a nice train to get locals around. It would have been perfect if something ran from murwillumbah to Lismore but now the line is blocked servicing tourists!


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