Innovation That Matters

Solar train

Restored heritage train operates on energy from the sun

Travel & Tourism

An Australian derelict heritage train has been restored to become the world’s first truly solar train.

More and more new vehicles are being developed which use eco-friendly sources of power. We have seen this with recent innovations such as a motorcycle built to run on algae oil and electric drone taxis. Now an Australian rail line has proven that a fully-solar train is also feasible. The Byron Bay Railroad Company, in New South Wales, has restored a derelict heritage train for use as public transport, by converting it to operate entirely on solar energy. The not-for-profit company originally intended to get the train up and running as a diesel service, but realised that the fast pace of technological advancement in solar energy made is feasible to convert it to solar.

The work was done by the Lithgow Railway Workshop, and included custom-designed curved solar panels on the roof of the train and construction of a track-side charging station, as well as a regenerative braking system which recovers around 25 percent of the energy used each time the brakes are applied. The solar panels will deposit energy with local supplier Enova, to withdraw if there is a prolonged lack of sunshine. While the train originally held two diesel engines, it has been modified to run on a single Cummins 14 litre NT855 engine, while the second diesel engine remains on board simply to act as a balancing weight and as emergency back up in case of electrical fault.

The train has a capacity of 100 seated passengers and runs on a restored track along a 120-year-old, 40-meter-wide rail corridor running parallel to the Byron Coast. The track runs adjacent to the Ewingsdale Road, which experiences a good deal of traffic gridlock, making this an important area for improved public transport. The train, three kilometres of railway, and a local bridge have all been restored to operation at no cost to Australian taxpayers. Will this model of a solar-powered train work for commuter trains in other cities?




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