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 to provide a heritage rail service linking two key Byron Bay centres. The train operates on energy from the sun. Solar panels on the train and train storage shed 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 and BBRC is proud to bring this technology and solution to Byron Bay.

Solar power

Our original intention was to get the train up and running as a diesel service prior to converting to solar power. However with the accelerated development of technology in this area it became technically feasible to convert the train prior to its first run in Byron Bay. The conversion was undertaken at the Lithgow Railway Workshop under the direction of Tim Elderton.

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 (“regen”) 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, BBRC’s arrays of solar panels deposit energy and then withdraw when required.


Byron Bay Railroad Company are proudly working with the following partners, experts and suppliers to deliver the solar conversion project.


Diesel emergency back-up

Our 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.


“They are and always have been one of the cleanest burning and fuel efficient diesel engines, which is one of the main reasons why the NSW Government, at great cost to the public purse, replaced all the Detroit and Rolls Royce engines with Cummins on all diesel railcars”. 

Tim Elderton, Managing Director, Lithgow Railway Workshop

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 would 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*. The vast majority of buses run on diesel fuel.

fuel consumption graph

This graph compares the fuel consumption per 3km passenger journey for a range of vehicular transport modes.

* Information from Transport for NSW.

Use of resources

Whilst Ewingsdale Road experiences traffic gridlock, the 120 year old 40 metre wide rail corridor running parallel to the Byron coast laid fallow for 13 years. BBRC revitalised this historically significant railway line, making it once again an important transport corridor. With the support of Lithgow Railway Workshop BBRC fully restored to heritage status a train that had been out of action for twenty-five years, bringing it back to life. In addition BBRC restored the state owned railway infrastructure to its former standard suitable for operating trains.


Possible future opportunities

Rail Trail

The rail corridor is typically 40 metres wide throughout. There is ample room to provide a Rail Trail and cycle path within the rail corridor and clear of the operating rail line. BBRC has a non-exclusive licence to use the rail corridor and operate trains. Transport for NSW can licence other parties including a Rail Trail or other rail operators to also use the rail corridor. The refurbishment of the Belongil Creek rail bridge has accommodated the option to simply attach a pedestrian or cycleway gantry to the existing structure in the future. BBRC has worked with and will continue to work with the Northern Rivers Rail Trail organisation in accommodating their objective of delivering a cycle way within the same corridor.

Park and ride

To further reduce cars on Ewingsdale Road BBRC supports Byron Shire Council’s intent to establish a dedicated park and ride facility west of Bayshore Drive (toward the highway) or on any number of other appropriate sites along the rail corridor. Such a facility could very simply integrate with the existing operation of the train service and would provide enormous social, economic and environmental benefits to the Byron shire.

Extending the service

From the outset Byron Bay Railroad Company has supported an extended train service along this branch line and is hopeful that this project will be a catalyst for possible future service extensions. BBRC’s focus, however, is to make this 3km section of line operational and cost neutral.


02 8123 2130

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