I guess that most Nashville tourists don’t even get to know that Music City in fact has a mass public transport system. Not Uber or buses – I would not even name them a mass transit option. However, there is a commuter train connecting Lebanon in the East of Big Nash with the heart of party and tourism, the Riverfront station. The most confusing fact about this piece of transport is the name: most will know it as Music City Star. During my visit in August 2022, it was called the WeGo Train or WeGo Star. However, as I read that Nashville’s public transport authority WeGo miight be renamed soon, there might be a new name when you try it.
WeGo Star – Network and Timetable
The WeGo Star uses rail track of an existing rail company, the Nashville and Eastern Railroad. The commute from Lebanon to Nashville is a 32 mile ride (51 kilometers), the scheduled travel time is 55 minutes. En route, the train serves an additional five stops: Hamilton Springs, Martha, Mt. Juliet, Hermitage and Donelson. Nashville terminus is named Riverfront. Most of the route is a single track route, so that trains may only pass in stations and on designated places. Unfortunately, the windows of the train cars are strongly tinted, so that I could not take pictures en route. The map above only shows the three key stations.
The train operates six service in each direction only. There are no services on Saturdays and Sundays. The services leave Lebanon at 5:40, 6:35, 15:20 and 15:55 hrs. Two services start at Mt. Juliet at 7:45 and 17:05. These are the last morning services each. Riverfront departures are 6:53, 7:45, 8:25, 16:20, 17:10 and 17:55. The 6:53 and 16:20 service run until Mt. Juliet only. This reflects the summer 2022 schedule, at which the full single trip between Lebanon and Riverfront was 5.25 USD. The Mt. Juliet commute is 4.75 USD, single trip. There are 10-Ride and Monthly tickets as well. There are ticket machines at the stations (the online information about this is imprecise. You may also use a card on which you can add on money, a ticketing app or pay at the conductor directly.
WeGo Star – Rolling Stock
The WeGo train I rode had four bilevel cars, which have formerly been used in Chicago. The upper level has an interesting layout as it is split to both sides of the cars, i.e. there is a “left-wing” upper deck and a “right-wing” one. The seats are absolutely fine regarding it is a commuter and the seat pitch is even rather comfortable. However, there is neither WiFi or power outlets (USB or 110V) on board. The WeGo Star also does not have tables. Few places are blocks of two or four, facing each other. Neither the train out-of-Nashville train stations nor the train itself comes with a bathroom. The Tennessee Regional Transport Authority driving the service is said to only have a total of seven of these cars (according to Wikipedia).
The WeGo Star uses F40PH diesel-electic engines. They are driven by a V16 diesel engine creating a power of some 2.2 MW. The maximum speed is about 100 mph, which is of course not reached on this route in Tennessee. The train can be operated from both sides, so that the engine does not need to change its position in the terminal stations.
WeGo Star – The Ride
I had the second Lebanon trip on a Tuesday morning (i.e. the 6:35 departure) with a direct return (after a 15 minute break) from Riverfront, departing 7:45 hrs). There were at most ten people sharing the ride with me from there. However, some other stations were much more popular. There is especially a rather frequent demands from Mt. Juliet. Nonetheless, the cars did by far not operate at levels of capacity, there were some 70 people finally getting of the service in Central Nashville. Tickets are checked short before the train reaches Nashville. The whole atmosphere on the train was very relaxed.
I was wondering if there was any demand for the train back to Lebanon. Finally, I feel that I have been the only passenger on this train service. The train typically did not even properly stop at the stations – the conductor knew anyway that I would be unboarding at the terminus. Apart from coordinating with the upcoming rail traffic, the train did not even properly stop at the stations in between. By the way: based on the ridership, the WeGo Star is the smallest commuter rail system in the whole USA.
WeGo Star – My View
I think that the WeGo Star could play a significant role in future Nashville traffic planning. The capacities feel to be too far to low, the train only operates practically does not operate outside main communing hours. That’s a real shame, especially for tourists struggling more and more with the ridiculous hotel and parking pricing in the city. Vice versa, that also makes you feel that this sensible bit of local transport shall not develop and grow in a sensible manner.