Byron Bay rail revived after 13 years with solar train

Passengers Kali Byles and Jasper Bennett from New Brighton, on the first train ride.
Passengers Kali Byles and Jasper Bennett from New Brighton, on the first train ride. Jasmine Burke

ENTHUSIASTIC cries and cheering greeted the launch of the world's first solar powered train which now services Byron Bay.

One passenger yelled: "We're going to go into town and get the train back. What a theory that is. Woohoo!," - which was echoed by many who gathered to get on one of the first rides.

It is the first time in 13 years a train has been on the Byron tracks, and almost everything went according to plan.

The first ride stopped momentarily as a man sat on the tracks in a wheel chair in what seemed like mock-protest, but the hitch was over quickly as police and emergency services where there to remove him.


Man in wheel chair disrupted the first train ride.
Man in wheel chair disrupted the first train ride. Jasmine Burke


The future of rail

Run under a not-for-profit entity, The Byron Bay Railroad Company, the two-carriage restored 1949 NSW train now carries passengers between North Beach Station and the centre of Byron Bay township.

Train and station manager, Brian Flannery, said the trains' power source meant it was very quiet.

"There is a lot of train buffs around the world who love trains so it's getting a lot of international interest," Mr Flannery said.

But he said while it was "the way of the future" for rail, he thought it unlikely rail would service other parts of the region.

"Rail costs a lot of many to build and upgrade."

"They did a study on this line through to Murwillumbah and they said it would be about $150 million to upgrade it."

"Traffic into town is very congested and this should help locals get in and out of town in those busy times."


A world first

The project was the realisation of a five-year dream held by the owners of the resort Elements of Byron and Byron Bay Railroad Company development director, Jeremy Holmes.

He said the first ride was "fantastic", but also a "little bit stressful".

"It's a 70 tonne train moved by energy from the sun."

"The new-world technology adds a beautiful quirk and married up with the heritage train, it's real charming."

The train has 6.5 kilowatts of solar power panels on its roof charging a big lithium battery.

On top of the train shed at North Beach there is also 30-kilowatt solar system, to top up the train every four or five trips.

On days where there isn't enough solar the local green energy supplier will supply power from the grid.

The train will also run on diesel about once a week.


Running on existing 110-year-old rail tracks that last saw regular service in 2004, it costs adults $3 one-way for a three-kilometre trip that takes about seven minutes.

There's room for 100 seated passengers.

The Byron Bay train will operate a limited service until January when the full schedule will commence.

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