All in all, the plan worked. As Farquhar says, "Used equipment? OK, it doesn't have the clean car smell, but it works real well for us. Used conductors? They don't have the new conductor smell, but they work real well for us."
Anyone getting on the Music City Star in Nashville will notice its distinctive platform, Riverfront Station. Farquhar explains that most of the line's platforms as just that, with no building there, but for this end of the line, the local government wanted more.
"Davidson County didn't want a plain station downtown, so they paid an additional amount of money to actually build the building there in Nashville. And we were fortunate that it gives us a real nice terminal station to have," Farquhar says.
"Our hope is to get a vendor in there. We're working with several vendors to do that. This is the public dock for Nashville. So we will get cruise ships tying up here. The river cruise ships, big steamboats and barges tie up here. And then there is also a stage that they bring in for events. And then this area becomes backstage, so we are working with everybody so that if we do get a vendor in here they can stay open when they are backstage and they are doing shows.
"That and the fact that when we first tried to get vendors into the station they kind of wanted proof from us that people are really going to ride the train. We've done that, so now we are talking with a series of vendors."
The Music City Star is only one of a planned series of commuter rail lines into Nashville from surrounding counties.
Interestingly, though, is that where it terminates at Riverfront Station isn't where the other lines will terminate. The other lines all come together at nearby Union Station. As Farquhar says, there is a physical connection between the two spots, but "typical railroad, you can't get there from here."
"It looks like we can build a couple of connections and then get these trains there and then this will just become a special events facility. Or we may just use it for extra capacity," Farquhar says. "Of course the challenge is all of the other lines are on CSX [rails] so we need to chat with them.
"Pretty much the infrastructure is there. There are some sections that need to be double-tracked but they are fairly short. And fortunately the big yard, Radner Yard, all the main lines bypass it. It's great. It's a central location and all of the lines feed into it, but you can go right by the yard without getting close to it on all the main lines. And Nashville of course is a hub so we've got lines going in six or seven different directions."
Farquhar doesn't think a temporal separation, running the freight and commuter lines at different times on the same tracks like other systems do, will be needed in Nashville, though.
"You figure out what you need to build the capacity so you can run the trains. You don't need to do a temporal separation. You just need to have good dispatching and make sure you build the infrastructure so that you can run all of the trains."
As with all major transit projects, the future of the Music City Star comes down to the RTA getting it funded. To date the system has been predominantly funded by federal and state money, but to not only continue operating, but expand, Farquhar says the system is going to need a permanent stream of local funding.
"We know that we have to get a local dedicated funding source. We are working on that," Farquhar says.
"We need to get some way of controlling liability concerns. CSX, justifiably, has some real concerns about getting themselves in a situation where there is an accident because of a passenger train, but it is on their property and they certainly have deeper pockets than any local government does.
"So they want a very healthy amount of liability coverage. You can go back and forth if it's excessive or not, but it's their property that's what they want. So we have to find a way … and really the amount they want doesn't make any economical justification on the public side to make that kind of investment.
"So to do that we have to mitigate that issue absolutely. That has to be added to the legislation. They have to be protected. We are working on that."