The Byron Bay solar train – the world’s first solar powered real train – has taken its first runs across the coastal track between Byron township and the North Beach precinct.

The train arrived from Lithgow, where it underwent its solar conversion, on 3rd November. “There are still a number of processes we need to go through” outlined Jeremy Holmes, Development Director for Byron Bay Railroad Company. This not-for-profit accredited heritage rail organisation has spent the best part of six years getting to the point where the two carriage 1949 era train can take paying passengers. “We are now on our final test runs and commissioning” he said. “Staff training has commenced and will continue for the next month. We are still hopeful that passenger services will commence pre Christmas. Time will tell”.

Safety is now the crucial discussion according to Byron Bay Railroad Company. A flyer the company recently distributed details issues regarding safety at the Kendall Street level crossing on the road in to Belongil from Ewingsdale Road as well as trespassing on the railway line. “Railway level crossings and rail corridors are very dangerous and trains have the right of way” states the flyer.

While there are some trains throughout the world with technology that allows them to run parts of the train like lights and air conditioning on solar power, this is the first real train to run fully on power from the sun. “This is an exciting world first, powering a train with solar power, day, night and in every type of weather” said John Grimes, Chief Executive of the Australian Solar Council. “It shows Australia’s fantastic sunshine can be harnessed in smart ways not just to power our homes and businesses, but to address another pressing problem – cutting emissions in the transportation sector.”

The Byron Bay train seats 100 passengers with additional room for standing passengers and luggage including prams and bicycles. The 3km journey will cost just $3 for adults with some concessions provided for children. The project has been achieved with no funding or support from government at any level.

“Solar doesn’t stand still” said Dan Cass, Strategist at The Australia Institute. “It has been growing exponentially for a decade and more solar PV generation capacity is being installed than any other technology internationally. This train demonstrates that Australian solar scientists and their innovations are changing the world”.

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