Byron Bay Solar Train takes its maiden voyage.

The Byron Bay Solar Train we wrote about back in October has taken its maiden voyage on the three kilometre stretch of unused rail line it calls home.

Byron Bay Solar Train 

The maiden trip was made last Friday with around 100 passengers (the train has a max capacity of 100 seated passengers but there is a little extra space for those who don’t mind standing) on board, and proud owner Brian Flannery discussed the train and its potential impact on tourism to ABC

“Hopefully it attracts people to Byron Bay,” Mr Flannery said.

“I think international tourists will come here to have a look at this world’s first solar train.

“So let’s see, in five years’ time they’ll probably still say I’m mad, but it’s a bit of fun.”

The train was created in conjunction with Tim Elderton from the Lithgow Railway Workshop who installed the curved solar panels (including 30 kilowatts of solar panels on the roof of the train station) and battery system to power the train. Elderton said that on a sunny day they’re able to to make ‘four or five trips before we have to plug it in’. 

The train runs on a track between Casino and Murwillumbah which was closed by the New South Wales Government in 2004 due to low numbers. Despite this, Jeremy Holmes from the Byron Bay Railroad Company thought that this novel concept could be embraced by the residents, saying that “I think everyone knows that Byron’s very conscious about anything to do with the environment,”

If you’ve been looking for the Byron Bay Solar Train’s timetable, they’ve provided a graphic below which shows the dates and times it will operate until January 2018, when full service will commence. 

If you’ve got any queries then you can contact the company on the phone via 02 8123 2130 or email them by clicking here!  

Byron Bay Solar Train Timetable
Byron Bay Solar Train Timetable (site: byronbaytrain.com.au)

Solar Train on the rails in Byron Bay

A world first in Byron Bay this week – the world’s first ‘true’ solar train will run on a 3km section of the now disused Casino-Murwillimbah line, linking the Byron Bay town centre with the Elements of Byron resort north-west of Byron. It’ll be delivered within the next week or so. 

Byron Bay Solar Train

Byron Bay Solar Train
Byron Bay Solar Train (source: byronbaytrain.com.au)

Funnily enough, in an apt sign of the times with regards to the shift to renewables Australia is currently experiencing, the Elements of Byron resort is owned by coal businessman Brian Flannery. He also owns the solar train company itself – a not for profit named The Byron Bay Railroad Co. 

Solar panels have been used to power train lights before, but the Byron Bay Railroad Co. say their train will be the first to run purely on solar power. The 100-seat train will also have a diesel motor as a backup. 

It’s currently being sent from Lithgow, the train has had eArche solar panels and battery storage installed. The eArche panels were recently introduced to Australia by Chinese businessman and longtime solar power enthusiast Zhengrong Shi. They’ve been manufactured by his Hong-Kong based company SunMan Energy. 

30kW of PV Solar panels have been installed on the station and storage shed built next to the Elements of Byron resort, and the train itself will feature 6.5kW of the SunMan eArche flexible, lightweight solar panels Shi brought to the market earlier this year. This is important as the flexible panels are able to be adapted to the contour of the train so as not to interfere with its aesthetics. The train will also have 77kWh of Kokam solar batteries installed, and the timetable has been tweaked so they are able to use renewable energy at almost all times.

Nick Lake, from Nickel Energy, who consulted on the project, told RenewEconomy last week that the solar train was chosen due to community resistance to the idea of a diesel train (noise, pollution, etc.)

“There was fair bit of community resistance to the idea of a diesel train,” Lake said. “So we started exploring what the options were. We looked at how much power was needed, noted it was a flat run, and that helped size the electric motors.”

Have a look at their website by clicking here. Have you been on the Byron Bay Solar Train? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear about it! 

The Byron Bay Solar Train in action
The Byron Bay Solar Train in action (source: byronbaytrain.com.au)