8 months ago


Preservation & Tourist

Preservation & Tourist Byron Bay solar train Text and images by Darren Tulk On Saturday 16 December 2017, the world’s first solar-powered train opened for business. The tastefully refurbished 660 set, built at Chullora workshops in 1949, broke a white ribbon in a low key ceremony at the North Beach station, three kilometres north west of Byron Bay, before taking VIPs on the first public service. Getting approval for corridor re-development, rail operator accreditation and acquiring the solar-powered 660 series has been a long and at times, fraught, affair. Re-use of the track was opposed by some locals, who claimed noise and pollution issues arising from the diesel-engined rail motor on the mostly straight track. During the developmental period, evolving engineering meant that the option became available to power the train solely by electric motors. As such two electric motors were fitted, powered by batteries fed by solar panels on the train and topped up by electricity collection and storage facilities at the North Beach station. A single diesel engine remains fitted for backup purposes. The rail motor was refurbished at The Lithgow State Mine and Railway and operated several excursions before being trucked to its new home. Once on the track in Byron, test runs found numerous battery-powered journeys are possible before recharging is needed. When in regular service, the train batteries will be periodically topped up as required. And yet, the promise of a nearly-silent rail motor replacing dozens of cars on Byron’s heavily trafficked streets still raises hackles. After a triumphant departure, with cheers and claps the loudest accompaniment, the inaugural trip was delayed by a protester who was removed from the track by police and emergency services. Police patrols continued throughout the day to ensure no further disruptions to train services. The re-used track once formed part of the Casino-Murwillumbah branch line, which last saw active use on 16 May 2004 when the final XPT departed Murwillumbah for Sydney. The formation is flat and mostly straight, the track crossing one significant bridge over the Belongil Creek and one level crossing at Kendall Street before terminating at a new single platform station, avoiding the need for a second level crossing. Heavy traffic along Shirley Street made re-use of the original station complex impractical. Above: Loaded with VIPs and a regional media contingent, the first train quietly returns to North Beach station after a three kilometer journey from town. Below: A happy passenger conveys thanks to the drivers after the first run. Interestingly, a new Council proposal for a $20m city bypass to the west of the old station complex would truncate abandoned trackage to the south, further isolating the yard and buildings from possible railway re-use. Many attending the opening were quietly jubilant, expressing strong support for the resort owners that steered the railway through the re-development process. TOOT supporters were evident among the crowd, with at least two cheeky rail trail advocates spotted boarding one service complete with bicycles. The new service links Elements resort with Byron Bay, offering one-way travel for $3. A partial timetable began immediately with full services following in January. 56 RAILWAY DIGEST

8S: The Great Survivor Re: Rod Milne’s article in the December RD (P38); it was a good article for most of the read except where its mentioned that Control ‘doesn’t bother’ with the Platform 10 stop and terminates the Westlander at the suburban platforms at Roma Street. This is totally incorrect. The Train always ends up on Platform 10, EXCEPT if there is a SCAS Closure that takes out Platform 10, when the Westy will then terminate on either platform 2 or 3 at Roma Street. Occasionally, the Westy will terminate at Corinda if there is a SCAS closure east/south of Corinda. Also, referring to the Empty running east of Toowoomba with 3987 terminating at Toowoomba, this does occur if there is a SCAS closure on the Western line and Range, and in this case the Train normally returns to Mayne early on the Monday morning as 4009 to the car shed. On a normal run there are always passengers travelling on 3987 east of Toowoomba to Brisbane. Certainly I agree with Rod – do it while you can!! Ian Wacker, Train Controller via email 8S: The Great Survivor I read with interest the article in the December 2017 edition concerning the Westlander train in Queensland. In June 2013, my wife and I undertook a Queensland Railways package tour of Charleville entitled Bilbies, Stars and Secrets Taxi Tour. This comprised a return train journey from Brisbane to Charleville on the Westlander benefiting from the sleeping berths and excellent cuisine of the dining car. On arrival it was evident that the local business people had combined to offer a fascinating itinerary showcasing many attractions of the area including the Cosmos Centre, bilby preservation, the iconic Corones Hotel, former World War 2 Army Base, the historic museum and viewing workings of a local property. The whole tour went without incident, was unique and highly enjoyable. It is hard to understand why the Queensland Railways have ceased the sleeping car service as tourists would quite properly deserve this facility for a long journey and it is evident that modern sleeping cars were initially available for passengers as well as crew. The potential for developing a local tourist industry, bringing much economic input to the area and perhaps rivalling Longreach was very apparent and deserves serious attention. William J. Fraser Holder, ACT NSW Transport Policy, I wish to make a few comments about matters that appeared in the RD December 2017, regarding the future directions of the State’s transport policy. In relation to the issues that were raised by Max Mitchell and Philip Laird, in their article, ‘Shorter South Coast Transit Times’, travel times between Sydney and Albury and Wallerawang and Bathurst could be reduced if the Southern and Western Lines were rerouting along their original alignments. For instance, the distance from Sydney to Albury was incredibly 21 kilometres shorter pre-duplication, than it is today. Therefore, reusing the original alignments should be investigated as a method of improving travel times. As for the investigations into electrification to Bathurst, Goulburn and Nowra as discussed in the news item ‘Transport for NSW releases draft 40-year plan for Regional NSW Transport’, on page 7, it is essential that the issue of track alignments is addressed before any plans to electrify these routes. Currently, there is a golden opportunity to introduce 25kV AC into the network. Coinciding with the introduction of new intercity cars is the need to replace the stanchions on the Blue Mountains line. In the event that these stanchions are replaced, will the 1500 Volt DC system be retained. If so, would it also be used between Lithgow and Bathurst in the event that electrification of that route materialises as mentioned in RD December 2017, p7. If so, up to twenty substations would be required for the entire route from Emu Plains to Bathurst. As it is with the NBN fiasco, it would be the equivalent of installing copper wiring instead of optical fibre. In contrast, if 25kV AC catenary was installed, a maximum of four feeder stations would be required, which would be similar to the quantity needed to electrify from Macarthur to Goulburn. Though the Maldon-Dombarton project was primarily intended to carry freight only, if construction of the line was recommenced (including electrification as planned) it would provide the opportunity to operate services directly from Wollongong to Parramatta/Badgerys’s Creek. Recently a proposal appeared on Facebook suggesting that a direct route should be constructed from Gosford to Maitland, via Cessnock, which would utilise the former South Maitland Railway. In my opinion, it was a brilliant concept that would breathe life into the former coalfields and provide a more direct route for North Coast trains. On a similar vein, it is inevitable that Hunter Valley coal traffic will face extinction in the next fifty years. This provides an opportunity for the development of a sophisticated transport network across the Hunter Valley as the region’s population grows. Already, Maitland’s population has exceeded 90,000 and housing estates are opening up at Lochinvar, Branxton, Huntlee, Kurri Kurri and Oakhampton. It is possible that the Hunter Valley could require a transport network the size of a small capital city in the future. Being a relatively clean slate, it is important that they do not repeat past mistakes like the choice to use 1500Volt DC for the Newcastle/Port Kembla electrification projects. The investigation into these matters need to be incorporated into any long-term planning for NSW. Stephen Miller Rutherford, NSW Elevated rail technology There is a bit of interesting technological development evident in the January Digest, albeit spread across two articles so it is not all that apparent. John Hoyle’s article ‘Melbourne Rail Works Upsurge Under Way’ has two pictures clearly showing the “T” girder construction used for the elevated grade separation that will remove all existing level crossings out as far as Dandenong (see pages 37 and 39). I would assume that this form of construction is a fairly conventional concrete girder form. Rails will be attached to specially designed longitudinal beams while separate sound walls will also be added during finishing. If, however, you move on to David Campbell’s article on ‘The Mernda Rail Extension’ and look closely at the pictures on page 44 and bottom right on page 45 you will note that a totally different girder form has been used - a sort of long bathtub shape. In this case the depth of the structure immediately below rail is much reduced as compared to the Dandenong line type, while the railway will be normal ballasted track contained within the integral walls (which are also sound barriers). It is my understanding that this latter design is likely to be the new standard for any future rail over road works in the foreseeable future. While the differences in design are quite evident in civilian pictures it would be interesting to get a more technical description and commentary on the evolution in concrete girder design over such a short period. How about a page or two setting out the basics you Civils? There must be someone out there who is justly proud of such development and would like to tell us ordinary humans more about it. Max Michell via email Standard Gauge in Queensland I was interested to read Robert Duncombe’s comment in his letter in the December 2017 issue of RD “It is about time the Queensland Government’s thinking changed ... why ... so reluctant to gauge-convert?” Readers Write FEBRUARY 2018 57

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