The Little Train Powered by the Sun

With the emerging use of solar power, it was only a matter of time before solar-powered vehicle concepts would start popping up. Maybe a little solar powered car but surely not a big bulky train? The Byron Bay Railroad Company had other ideas. Big vintage locomotive size ideas.

Who would have thought that the first solar-powered train would be born in a little coastal town called Byron Bay in Australia? They restored a derelict heritage train, took out one of its two diesel-powered engines (keeping one as a backup) to run on batteries fed from roof solar panels and a charging point in its depot. They even repaired three kilometers of the railway line and a bridge so you can take a scenic train line along the bay.

The tech used to power this amazing train is generated from the train shed roof solar PV panels. All the equipment on the train is powered by the Lithium-ion batteries including traction power, lighting, air compressors, and control circuits. Solar panels on the train and train storage shed over a twelve-month period generate the equivalent amount of energy required to operate the train daily plus power 17.5 three person homes for a year. All of the surplus energy gathered is exported to the electricity grid and can be used to charge the train on overcast days. All of the normal globes and lighting on the train were also replaced with LED lighting that uses a considerable amount less energy.

A little bit of history

The two-carriage rail set was constructed as the first of ten “600 class” sets at the Chullora Railway Workshops, Sydney in 1949, the same workshops used to build aircraft bombers during the Second World War. They used the same aluminum aircraft tech that was used to build these aircraft to produce high-performance lightweight trains. Featuring aluminum fuselage construction – like the body of an aircraft but designed as a train – bolted onto lightweight steel railway carriage frames.

The train cars modified for solar power (carriages 661 and 726) were withdrawn from service between 1991 and 1994 and from 1995 sat in yards at Lithgow State Mine Railway until they were found in 2013.

You can also volunteer for different job positions at the railroad company, from passenger attendants to driving the train!

We are just in love with the idea of creating more sustainable solutions for the future and we hope that more companies hop onboard with these types of ideas. Who knew that green energy use could look so fabulous?

All photographs via The Byron Bay Company.

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Anriette van Wyk
Anriette van Wyk

Tech Editor

Anriette is an alumni of The Open Window Institute where she studied Visual Communication. Currently she is the Boss Lady at Kief Kreativ with more than 10 years experience in the creative industry where she works as a professional photographer on big productions and concerts with both local and international artists. She has a wide portfolio, ranging from weddings, fashion, studio and editorial photography under her belt. Anriette is a photographer, designer, illustrator, model, car fanatic, dinosaur lover and Indiana Jones wannabe.

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