Music City Star

Music City Star

Music City Star
All three EMD F40PH locomotives in use on the Music City Star lined up within the Lebanon, Tennessee yards.
Owner Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT)
Locale Nashville Metropolitan Area
Transit type Commuter rail
Number of lines 1
Number of stations 6
Daily ridership 1,225 (FY 2011)[1]
Began operation September 18, 2006 (2006-09-18)
Operator(s) Tennessee Regional Transportation Authority (RTA)
Reporting marks NRTX
Number of vehicles 4 Locomotives
7 Coaches
Train length 2 Multi-level cars
System length 32 miles (51.5 km)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)
System map
0 mi Riverfront
Connection to CSX
Briley Parkway
10 mi (16 km) Donelson
Stones River
15 mi (24 km) Hermitage
19 mi (31 km) Mount Juliet
25 mi (40 km) Martha
Lebanon Pike
32 mi (51 km) Lebanon

The Music City Star (reporting mark NRTX) is a commuter rail service running between Nashville and Lebanon, Tennessee. The service uses the existing track of the Nashville and Eastern Railroad. The line currently has six stops: Riverfront Station, Donelson, Hermitage, Mt. Juliet, Martha (State Route 109 and U.S. Highway 70), and Lebanon. The operation covers 32 miles (51 kilometres) of rail line. Service began on September 18, 2006.[2]


The train began operations on September 18, 2006, becoming the 18th commuter rail system in the United States,[2] with a projected daily ridership of 1,500 passengers. The service launched with an estimated cost of $3.3 million, of which $1.3 million was covered by revenues.[3]

In the first month after service began, ridership failed to reach the projected goals,[3] a situation which continued for several years, culminating with a financial shortfall of $1.7 million by the summer of 2008, of which the state of Tennessee covered $1 million in a bailout of the service.[4]

Financial difficulties continued into the next year; in June 2009, the service was nearly shut down for lack of funds until state and local authorities granted the service $4.4 million to continue service until 2011.[5]

After the initial decline in ridership between 2006 and 2009, service began to increase through 2011. Fiscal year 2011 saw a 24 percent increase in total trips from the previous year, with a daily average ride increase of 45 percent at 1,225 per day.[1] During 2010, a third passenger car was added to all Music City Star trains to accommodate increasing ridership.[6]


The Star is considered a "starter" project to demonstrate the effectiveness of commuter rail service to the metro Nashville area. Expansion plans include as many as six more lines, terminating in Gallatin, Columbia, Murfreesboro, Dickson, Springfield, and Clarksville via Ashland City. All are planned to use existing CSX Transportation railroad lines. The planned seven lines meet in central Nashville in a star formation, hence the name of the system, which also alludes to the city's many country music stars.

The Star is the first passenger train service of any kind for Nashville since the discontinuation of Amtrak's Floridian in 1979. The Nashville and Eastern line, part of the former Tennessee Central Railway, had not seen passenger service for many decades prior to the Star, with the exception of excursion trains operated by the Tennessee Central Railway Museum.

Rolling stock

Model Built Number Road Numbers
F40PH 4 120-122, 381
Gallery Car 7 400-402, 500-503

The Music City Star regional rail service is currently served by three rebuilt Amtrak EMD F40PH locomotives and seven former Chicago Metra coaches, all of which are standard gauge. The coaches are bi-level gallery cars with seating on both levels.[2]


The Riverfront Station in downtown Nashville.

Currently there is only one line, with one under construction and five more planned to other satellite cities around Nashville.

The current line is 32 miles long with 6 stations. The line is mostly one track, so this limits arrivals and departures to how long each train has to wait for the other to pass. The first "starter line" cost $41 million, or just under $1.3 million per mile, which made it the most cost efficient commuter rail start-up in the nation.[7] By comparison: San Diego Coaster, $91 million for 41 miles; Seattle Sounder, $860 million for 33 miles; Salt Lake City FrontRunner, $360 million for 43 miles; and New Mexico Rail Runner Express, $125 million for 29 miles.

East Corridor line


In the third quarter of 2011, average weekday ridership was 1200 passenger trips per day.[8] The service's highest ridership on a single day occurred on February 19, 2011, when 1,339 passengers were carried.[9] In 2012, the service carried approximately 261,500 passengers total.[10]

May 2010 floods

On May 2, 2010, the East Corridor line was closed because of damage related to the floods that hit Middle Tennessee. Flood waters pushed tracks off a concrete trestle over Sinking Creek in downtown Lebanon. This trapped Star trains at their Lebanon storage yard, causing RTA to suspend service until the trestle was repaired. MTA substituted chartered buses instead, picking up passengers at all stations except Martha.[11] The line was repaired in one week.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Music City Star experiences record year of ridership". RTA. 13 September 2011. Retrieved 12 January 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "A Star is born: Nashville commuter trains to begin September 18". Trains Magazine. 31 August 2006. Retrieved 6 August 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "Music City Star fails to meet ridership goals". Trains Magazine. 27 October 2006. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  4. ^ "Tennessee offers to bail out Music City Star". Trains Magazine. 17 July 2008. 
  5. ^ "Music City Star gets two more years of funding". Trains Magazine. 22 June 2009. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  6. ^ "Ridership continues to climb". RTA. 12 October 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2010. 
  7. ^ Latham, Garl B. (2008). Rail Transit: An Oklahoma Economic Opportunity. OnTrac. 
  8. ^ "Q3 2011 Ridership Report". American Public Transportation Association. 
  9. ^ "Soaring gas prices drive up Nashville Star's ridership". Progressive Railroading. March 17, 2011. Archived from the original on March 18, 2011. Retrieved March 18, 2011. 
  10. ^ Public Transportation Ridership Report: Fourth Quarter 2012. American Public Transportation Association. p. 5 . Retrieved 27 November 2013. 
  11. ^ "Bus, Train Service Suspended". May 2, 2010. 

External links

  • Music City Star – Official Website