Music City Star

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Music City Star
MCSLineup01 jpg 79417.jpg
Three EMD F40PH locomotives in use by the Music City Star lined up within the Lebanon, Tennessee yards. The third F40PH on the far right is painted in Amtrak Pacific Surfliner scheme.
OwnerTennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT)
LocaleNashville Metropolitan Area
Transit typeCommuter rail
Number of lines1
Number of stations7
Daily ridership1,225 (FY 2011)[1]
WebsiteOfficial website
Began operationSeptember 18, 2006 (2006-09-18)
Operator(s)Tennessee Regional Transportation Authority (RTA)
Reporting marksNRTX
Number of vehicles4 Locomotives
7 Coaches
Train length3 Multi-level cars
System length32 miles (51.5 km)
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)
System map

0 mi
Connection to CSX
10 mi
16 km
15 mi
24 km
19 mi
31 km
Mt. Juliet
25 mi
40 km
28 mi
45 km
Hamilton Springs
32 mi
51 km

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 stops at seven stations: Riverfront, Donelson, Hermitage, Mt. Juliet, Martha, Hamilton Springs and Lebanon. The operation covers 32 miles (51 km) of rail line. Service began on September 18, 2006.[2]


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 and the Broadway Dinner Train.

Rolling stock[edit]

Model Built Number Road Numbers
F40PH 4 120-122, 381
Gallery cars 7 400-402 (cab cars), 500-503 (trailers)

The Music City Star regional rail service is currently served by four rebuilt ex-Amtrak EMD F40PH locomotives and seven former Chicago Metra coaches, standard gauge. The coaches are bilevel rail cars with seating on both levels.[2]


Riverfront station in downtown Nashville

Currently there is only one line, with six more planned to other satellite cities around Nashville.

The current line is 32 miles (51 km) long with seven stations. The line is mostly single-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.[3]

East Corridor line[edit]


Music City Star ridership steadily increased from 104,785 passenger trips in 2007 to 277,148 trips in 2012.[4] In 2013, ridership decreased to 253,421 trips,[4] but then steadily increased to 298,800 passenger trips in 2018.[5]



The Nashville Chattanooga & St. Louis Railroad, later part of the Louisville & Nashville had commuter service on the line from the 1850s to 1930. This is a revival of the old commuter operation.

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 annual cost of $3.3 million, of which $1.3 million was covered by revenues.[6]

In the first month after service began, ridership failed to reach the projected goals,[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

During 2010, a third passenger car was added to all Music City Star trains to accommodate increasing ridership.[9]

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.[10] The line was repaired in one week.

A proposed expansion of the system to Clarksville and Ashland City is projected to cost $525 million.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Music City Star experiences record year of ridership" (PDF). Regional Transportation Authority. September 13, 2011. Retrieved January 12, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "A Star is born: Nashville commuter trains to begin Sept. 18". Trains. August 21, 2015. Retrieved August 6, 2010.
  3. ^ Latham, Garl B. (2008). Rail Transit: An Oklahoma Economic Opportunity (PDF). OnTrac. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 28, 2010.
  4. ^ a b Harrison, Scott (May 2, 2014). "The little engine that hasn't: Thinking it can hasn't been enough for Music City Star". Nashville Business Journal. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
  5. ^ "Public Transportation Ridership Report" (PDF). American Public Transportation Association. April 12, 2018. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Music City Star fails to meet ridership goals". Trains. October 27, 2006.
  7. ^ "Tennessee offers to bail out Music City Star". Trains. July 17, 2008.
  8. ^ "Music City Star gets two more years of funding". Trains. June 22, 2009.
  9. ^ "Music City Star ridership continues to climb" (PDF). Regional Transportation Authority. October 12, 2010. Retrieved October 19, 2010.
  10. ^ "Bus, Train Service Suspended". May 2, 2010. Archived from the original on May 6, 2010.
  11. ^ Gonzalez, Tony (May 10, 2016). "Middle Tennessee's Best Hope For New Commuter Rail Is Taking Shape; Here's What It Looks Like". Nashville Public Radio. Retrieved April 14, 2018.

External links[edit]

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata