Solar powered trains in India soon on Heritage Kalka-Shimla route

Coaches of Kalka-Shimla toy train — the Himalayan Queen — have been converted to solar- based power system

SHIMLA: It is the first train in the country to have all its coaches solar powered. The experiment will earn carbon credit for the track that is on the heritage list of UNESCO.  Each coach has been built at a cost of Rs 1.25 lakh and is provided with a 100-watt solar panel. The florescent tube has been replaced with the much brighter LED lights. The coach can function two days without the sun and can make two trips. The coaches have also been provided with solar power charging sockets. Trial runs were earlier done on trains running on the Pathankot-Jogindernagar track. For the past one year, one coach each on two trains were being run on solar energy.

Divisional electrical engineer R K Gupta said that the new system will require little maintenance and reduce energy saving by Rs 4.35 lakh per annum.  “This is one of the green initiatives taken by the Indian Railway authorities for the ecologically fragile hill state,” said P K Sanghi, Divisional Railway Manager, Ambala.  “All seven coaches of the train are lit by solar energy. A major advantage on this track is that the coaches do not require air conditioners or fans. If the system works successfully we will extend solar lighting to regular tracks on this UNSECO heritage route having more than 806 bridges and 103 tunnels,” Sanghi added.

In a first of its kind, engineers of Indian Railways have pioneered solar lighting system in the heritage toy train that runs on the narrow gauge from Kalka to Shimla in Himachal Pradesh.  In 2008, the Kalka-Shimla Railway was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the World Heritage Site Mountain Railways of India.  This initiative of solar electrification was taken up with an aim to provide clean and pollution free environment to the passengers and tourists as well as save on fuel.

Bullet trains are considered by many to be one of the greener forms of transport, so imagine how environmentally friendly they might be if the sun’s power was harnessed to power them. That’s precisely what Solar Bullet LLC hopes to do with its 220mph solar bullet train, which the company claims can travel from Tucson to Phoenix in just 30 minutes.

Although the project is still in the very early stages of development, the company is hopeful it can start operating by 2018.

Initially, trains would run on two tracks reserved for the direct route between Tucson and Phoenix. Eventually, though, four additional tracks would be built to extend the route north and south and take in additional stops, including Chandler, Maricopa, Casa Grande, Eloy, Red Rock and Marana.

The system would need 110 megawatts of electricity to run, which would be generated by overhead solar panels mounted above the tracks, making use of the Arizona’s abundant sunshine.

The pair behind the proposed system, retired civil engineer Bill Gaither and his business partner Raymond Wright, believe their timing is right. US President Barack Obama has made it clear he’s keen to investigate alternative energy transport projects, and last month he unveiled plans to put money into high speed rail networks around the country. Gaither and Wright are seeking to raise USD$35,000 for a feasibility study.

According to Gaither and Wright: “Tourists will go out of their way to travel to Arizona to see its spectacular and accessible scenery as well as travel on its unique solar-powered high-speed rail system. New businesses and residents will be attracted to the forward-looking developments that will spring up along this new passenger-rail system.