World-first Byron rail line to create 19 jobs

The Byron Bay Railroad Company's magical solar train.
The Byron Bay Railroad Company's magical solar train. Contributed

THE government department charged with regulating rail safety in Australia has "never seen anything like” the new Byron Bay train - which is one reason why the ground-breaking solar rail project has been delayed for several months.

It was originally hoped the solar-powered train might be have its maiden 3km voyage over Easter, but it now won't open until July at the earliest.

Byron Bay Railroad Company development director Jeremy Holmes said while approval was granted two years ago to run the heritage train as a diesel service, the decision to transform it into the world's first solar power train was only made in December.

"Changing from diesel to solar requires a modification to the existing accreditation from the National Rail Safety Regulator and the timing for this is out of our control unfortunately,” Mr Holmes said.

"We understand that we are the first to run a solar train and it's complex new technology.”

Parts for the solar conversion have been shipped in from Italy, Korea, the US and China to the Lithgow State Mine Railway where the heritage train has lived for the past 14 years.

Lithgow State Mine Railway was commissioned to restore the train, a two year process headed by managing director Tim Elderton.

He said most of the parts were in the country now except the 240 volt inverters used to drive the air compressors.

"This is a first of its kind product being made by an American company in China and there is a three month delay releasing it to market.

"We are now expecting to receive them late June.”

The good news is the project is set to employ 19 people, creating the equivalent of 7.5 full-time jobs.

In Byron Bay staff are already gearing up for the first services.

"The platforms and train storage shed were completed last month including the installation of a 30kW solar system on the roof of the storage shed,” Mr Holmes said, "and the track work was completed earlier this year”.

"Our focus has shifted to operational detail and recruiting and training staff.”

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