Monday, September 15, 2014

Music City USA

CSX Transportation; Nashville, Tenn.; June 8, 2014
We're moving along with the big circle trip across the midwest from New Jersey to Arkansas and return. In both directions my brother Bruce and I stopped in Music City USA -- Nashville, Tenn. -- to check out the rail action. Our first stop on the outbound trip was at Lebanon, Tenn., where the Music City Star commuter trains lay up. Since this was a Sunday (June 8, to be precise), no Star trains were running.
Music City Star; Lebanon, Tenn.; June 8, 2014
Moving into Nashville our next stop was at the yard of the Nashville & Eastern just east of downtown. The railroad had some interesting locomotives in the yard, including a couple in modified BNSF Heritage II paint, relettered for the N&E. B40-8W No. 568 showed off the modified scheme, with N&E lettering replacing the BNSF on the nose and flank; it has also been named City of Nashville.
Nashville & Eastern; Nashville, Tenn.; June 8, 2014
Next we went into downtown, where the event formerly known as Fan Fair was going on (back before Nashville sold its soul to Clear Channel -- but I digress). Demonbraun Street provides a nice overview of southbound CSX trains passing under Broadway (below) and going by Nashville Union Station (top photo of this post). The station used to have a large train shed extending south from the headhouse, but all that's left is an empty parking lot. A steady stream of trains paused here to change crews.
CSX Transportation; Nashville, Tenn.; June 8, 2014
From here we continued west to Arkansas, but we would pass through Nashville again on the return trip, this time on Thursday, June 19. Our first stop was to get an inbound Music City Star train passing the bowling alley at Donelson as it pushed into Nashville.
Music City Star; Donelson, Tenn.; June 19, 2014
Next we had an outbound train passing through the station in Donelson. It would meet another inbound train just east of the station.
Music City Star; Donelson, Tenn.; June 19, 2014
Music City Star; Mill Creek, Nashville, Tenn.; June 19, 2014
Music City Star began operating on November 6, 2006, with the hope of capturing 1500 riders each day. Those numbers have never come to fruition, with 2013 ridership running around 900 passengers (which is actually slightly less than the previous year). Part of the problem is the Star only has three inbound trains in the morning and three outbound trains in the evening, with no midday service; to a large extent, many jobs are moving away from traditional work hours, making the train impractical. The other issue is the Nashville station is located outside the core of downtown, forcing riders to finish their trip to work on a bus. Nonetheless, Nashville remains committed to making the service work.

Service is maintained with three EMD F40PH locomotives that originally worked for Amtrak. Numbered 120-122 (Amtrak 332, 398 and 399 respectively), they pull two or three ex-Chicago & North Western gallery cars. Surprisingly, the trains don't lay over in Nashville during the day. All three sets return to Lebanon as revenue moves (although ridership is extremely light). They then return to Nashville (once again as lightly-used revenue moves) for the evening rush hour.

After finishing at Donelson we moved to the scenic highlight of the line -- the through truss bridge over Mill Creek outside Nashville, where we caught an outbound almost-deadhead move behind No. 122.

Moving into downtown, we caught one more outbound move near the Nashville & Eastern yard. In retrospect, we should have gone downtown and shot the train departing from the station. Next time...
Music City Star; Nashville, Tenn.; June 19, 2014
We wrapped up our look at Nashville when we found a Motive Power Resources leased switcher working what appeared to be gondolas of scrap metal outside of downtown. We were unable to determine the company the locomotive was working for, however. From here, we headed north -- I had to drop Bruce off at Lafayette, Ind., to catch Amtrak's Cardinal home, while I continued on to Owosso, Mich., for Train Expo.
Motive Power Resources; Nashville, Tenn.; June 19, 2014
More photos from the first day around Nashville (including the Union Station area) can be found here. Photos from the second day (including more Music City Star) can be found here.

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