RJ Corman eager to grow Nashville freight, commuter rail businesses

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NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. — R.J. Corman’s family of shortline railroads now includes a significant part of Nashville’s shortline railroading scene. R.J. Corman announced this week it has finalized an agreement to purchase the Nashville & Eastern Railroad Corp.; Nashville & Western Railroad Corp.; Transit Solutions Group, the operator of Nashville’s Music City Star commuter railroad; and three other related operating entities.

The purchase of these shortline railroads grows R.J. Corman’s business by 12,000 carloads annually and adds more than 140 miles to the company’s portfolio. It is also Corman’s first business dealings with a commuter rail operation.

“There is significant economic activity in the Nashville area and in the surrounding counties that the NERR and NWRR operate and we look forward to working with the rail authorities and local economical development agencies in continuing to capitalize on those growth opportunities,” R.J. Corman representative Todd Bivins tells Trains.

Bivins says maintaining the high level of rail service that has been provided in the past will be critical in continuing growth with the existing customer base on the line while also attracting new opportunities.

“Having multiple short lines in a general geographic area enhances opportunities for short line to short line business,” Bivins says.

As for the geographical scope of the Nashville area railroads that are part of the purchase include the 130-mile Nashville & Eastern Railroad from Nashville to Monterey, Tenn., using tracks leased from the Nashville & Eastern Railroad Authority. The deal also includes the 18-mile Nashville & Western Railroad using leased tracks from the Cheatham County Rail Authority from Nashville to Ashland City, Tenn.

Both railroads use tracks that are part of the original Tennessee Central Railway.

Combined, the railroads haul a mix of chemicals, aggregates, waste, paper, energy products, metals, and building materials. The shortlines interchange with CSX Transportation’s former Louisville & Nashville main line in Nashville.

In addition to its freight business, Trains asked R.J. Corman about its plans for operating the Music City Star.

“The breadth and history of our successful freight operations will nicely complement the safe and reliable operations that have been provided by [Transit Solutions Group] for the Music City Star,” Bivins says.

Bivins says the company does not foresee any changes to commuter rail operations at this time.

“The Music City Star is a critical piece to the transportation network of the Nashville area and it fits nicely with the freight operations of the NERR. We believe both ridership on the Music City Star and carloads on the NERR can continue to grow together creating significant economic value to a booming area,” Bivins says.

“We see the joint use of the available infrastructure and right of way as an economical way to add value to both freight and the Music City Star,” he adds.

The Music City Star has been serving the greater Nashville area since its inception in 2006. It provides daily passenger service between Nashville and Lebanon, Tenn., on Nashville & Eastern rails. The commuter railroad operates former Amtrak EMD F40PH locomotives and ex-Metra bi-level commuter cars. The operation handles around 300,000 passengers annually.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but R.J. Corman did say it expects the deal to be finalized by January 2019.
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