The non-profit Byron Bay Railroad Company has been working on restoring a track in Australia between the Byron Bay town centre and the North Beach precinct for a number of years, according to the local Broad Sheet paper. Not only have they had to contend with the track, but the company also wanted to push train traveling into the current century by making it run entirely on solar power. Development director Jeremy Holmes told reporters that it's been a more complicated process than initially anticipated.
“Converting rail motors to solar electric power had never been done before,” said Holmes. “Sourcing components from all over the world to create this system has been challenging. We have designed the overall solar and charging system with a mains connection and patterned with Enova Energy to supply and withdraw green energy from the grid as it is required.”
That's a lot of new technology attached to a classic frame: the carriages were bought from the Lithgow State Mine Railway and were originally built in 1949 at Sydney’s Chullora Railway Workshops. “Internally the trains have been restored to as close to their original condition as possible,” Holmes explained. “Some people will be attracted to the heritage nature of the train and service; others will be fascinated by the world’s first solar-powered train.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that there is a train in India which has fans and lights powered by solar energy in the interior, but nothing like the plans for the Byron Bay train. The track only extends about two miles, but can carry 100 seated passengers, with room for more standing. The fare will be $3 one way, and it will run hourly, as they see what the popularity of the line looks like.
Most public transportation in Australia is subsidized to some degree by the government, but as the Byron line will be something of a novelty, it remains to be seen if they'll be stepping in. The official train opening is set for Christmas this year, which is the perfect season to try out a new ride.