World's first solar train launches in Australia

The world's first solar-powered railway has begun taking passengers, in the northern New South Wales coastal town of Byron Bay.

It's the realisation of an eight-year dream held by the owners of the resort Elements of Byron and their development director, Jeremy Holmes.

Run under a separate not-for-profit entity, The Byron Bay Railroad Company, the two-carriage lovingly restored 1949 NSW train now carries passengers between North Beach Station, about 300 metres up Bayshore Road from the upmarket resort, and the centre of Byron Bay township.

Running on existing 110-year-old rail tracks that last saw regular service in 2004, it costs $3 one-way for a three-kilometre trip that takes about seven minutes, allowing resort guests - and anyone else who wants to board, to avoid the Byron township traffic. There's room for 100 seated passengers, plus luggage, surfboards and some people standing.

The train may have been eight years in the making, but it was only last year the project went solar.

"We'd been thinking about it long before but finally the technology caught up and it actually made it feasible," says Jeremy Holmes.

The 70-tonne train has 6.5 kilowatts of solar power panels on its roof charging a big lithium battery. On top of the train shed at North Beach there is also 30-kilowatt solar system. When the train comes back every four or five trips, it's topped up.

"And then we've got a regenerative brake which means we can regather energy when we brake to use to accelerate," explains Holmes. There is a diesel engine, only for emergency back up in case of electrical fault.

Aside from Elements of Byron business, other facilities in its vicinity include a pub, shops, cafes, light industrial businesses and a Bunnings as well as residences. Also underway, is a development designed as a creative small business hub.

The train service has not been without its detractors. Some residents whose properties back onto the train line - with the tracks running between their homes and the beach - have protested against it and threatened legal action.

Talks are underway for at least one stop to be installed along the line, at Discovery Park between Elements and Byron township. The train will run on a limited timetable throughout January before starting full service.

It coincides with Elements of Byron launching 99 new villas with kitchens and an adults-only pool area with swim-up bar and Mexican food truck, as well as a new Beach Club that takes more advantage of the resort's direct beachfront with extra deck chairs and a bar in a teardrop caravan. There's also a new children's adventure playground.