The Byron Bay Railroad Company has restored a 1949 NSW train and turned it into a solar powered train.
Byron Bay Railroad Company has restored a derelict heritage train, repaired three kilometres of railway line and a bridge and reinvigorated and consequently preserved a section of an out of action rail corridor all to provide an affordable public transport solution for locals and visitors. The train operates on energy from the sun. Solar panels on the train and train storage shed will generate the equivalent amount of energy required to operate the train daily, charging the on-board battery bank. This is a world-first truly solar train according to the Byron Bay Railroad Company.
In the rail industry the 600 series rail cars are known as one of the quietest trains. This service will operate on a section of track which is almost dead level and straight for its entire length and which has long-welded 110m rail lengths. Further, the train will be operating at slow speeds. These factors, when combined with the retrofitted solar powered electric engines, will substantially reduce the overall noise. The train has also been fitted with a suburban whistle which is far less intrusive than the country horn that people are familiar with.
There is capacity for 100 seated passengers, additional standing passengers, wheelchair access and luggage room for bikes, prams and surfboards, carried free of charge. The train will run a return shuttle service for the three kilometre journey between North Beach Station in Sunrise Beach and the Byron Beach platform.
The solar charged batteries are designed to operate all systems including traction power, lighting, control circuits and air compressors. The custom designed curved solar panels on the roof of the train combined with the solar array on the storage shed roof generate sufficient energy to power the train. The regenerative braking system recovers around 25% of the spent energy each time the brakes are applied.
In the case of prolonged lack of sunshine the on-board batteries can be charged from the grid supply using 100% green energy from local community based energy retailer Enova Energy. Like a bank, Byron Bay Railroad Companys arrays of solar panels will deposit energy and then withdraw when required.
This diagram outlines the solar conversion components and how the system works.
The train has been modified to have a single Cummins 14 litre NT855 diesel engine, which is renowned within the industry as a clean burning engine.
One of the two diesel engines has been removed and the other remains on board for weight and balance and also to provide an emergency back up in case of electrical fault. The remaining diesel engine is not required for normal operation, even in cases of prolonged lack of sunshine.
All Cummins engines are fitted with a turbo manifold pressure fuel limiter which limits the amount of fuel fed into the engine during acceleration until the turbo pressure increases. More oxygen than fuel is fed into the engine which ensures complete combustion and no unburnt fuel being emitted as black smoke.
The existing engine was fitted new to the train in the mid 1970s and during its 16 year operational life was upgraded numerous times. The engine is far more economical and gentler on the environment than when it was built 40 years ago. It has been fitted with exhaust emission controls which have been progressively updated over the years.
Due to the fact that the track is level with only one small curve, the train can run on a minimal amount of energy with the engine idle most of the time. During diesel operation, with a capacity of 100 seated passengers the train will use only 3.2 litres of fuel for the 6km return journey. This is less than a Sydney bus with a capacity of 50 seated passengers.
"I think this is a world first," said John Grimes, chief executive of the Australian Solar Council, which is not connected to the project. "There is a train in India that has solar panels to power lights and fans, but not a whole train."
Source and images: Byron Bay Railroad Company