The train, which features restored vintage carriages with flexible solar panels on their roofs, will travel between its solar-charging train station and a resort property in Byron Bay.
The Byron Bay Railroad Company is putting a disused track to work again with a restored "derelict heritage train" that has been converted to be 100% solar powered. The not-for-profit company refurbished a 3-kilometer stretch of tracks, as well as a bridge, between the town of Byron Bay, where a 30kW solar array, battery storage system, and charging station has also been installed, and the nearby Elements of Byron Bay resort.
The solar train features a 6.5kW solar array comprised of flexible solar panels on the roofs of the carriages, which can together carry up to 100 passengers at a time. The rooftop solar array will feed into the onboard 77kWh battery, which also gets partially charged between trips by the station's solar array. According to RenewEconomy, the battery is about the same capacity as that in a Tesla Model S, but the solar train only requires about 4kWh to travel each leg of the trip, so there is plenty of juice for it to make "12-15 runs off a single charge," and the regenerative braking feature will allow the train to recoup "around 25% of the spent energy each time the brakes are applied."
The train was originally intended to be put into service as a diesel unit, but after "a fair bit of community resistance" to the idea of having a diesel train running there, the company explored the option of using an electric drive system coupled with a solar charging station, and found it to be a feasible alternative. The original carriages, which were built in 1949 at Chullora Railway Workshops in Sydney using lightweight aluminum aircraft technology (the facility was used from 1942-1945 to build bombers) were restored by Lithgow Railway Workshop.
All of the train's systems, including traction power, lighting, control circuits, and air compressors, are powered by solar (via the battery), which the company believes qualifies it "as a world first." The Byron Bay solar train also includes one of the original two diesel engines as an emergency backup in the event of a fault in the electric drive system. More information about the service, which is set to begin December 16th, is available at the website.
And if you needed another reason to go to Byron Bay other than just to ride a solar train, remember that it's also the most spiritual place on Earth.