When a young Andy Fletcher first saw a Burlington Northern train being pushed through Morias Pass in Glacier National Park, he was hooked. Rather than becoming a railfan who photographs or records video of trains, he instead learned to draw them. This passion has since evolved from a passion to a cross-country career in creating artwork, preserving railroad history, and advocating for railroads for more than 25 years.
Earlier this year, Andy rode an Amtrak train from California, where he lives, to one of his favorite railroad hubs: Chicago Union Station. He met with Metra’s Media Department to talk about his artwork and and his passion for railroads.
Andy started creating art when he was 6 years old with the encouragement of his mother and grandmother. He would draw full train consists on several sheets of paper and tape them onto the walls of his bedroom, at least his half of it.
“I shared a room with my brother and on my side of the room I would put little trains together,” said Fletcher, chuckling at the memory. “They would be all different sizes and whatnot. I’d make sure there was a crane car, and an engine, and all sorts of stuff.”
Years later, at age 13, an art teacher noticed Andy doodling pictures of trains in class and encouraged him to keep drawing what he was passionate about. He has since hand-drawn over 2,000 railroad pictures spanning every kind of historic and modern construction, with some of his artwork even hanging in guest rooms at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel and in railroad company offices across the country.
Beyond preserving the history of the United States’ important railroad systems in a visual form, Andy dedicates time to advocating for the funding and sustenance of freight rail and commuter transportation.
“My main push is, I want to see freight railroads succeed, I want to see commuter railroads succeed,” said Fletcher. “The more the public understands how freight and passenger work together, the more people will appreciate it.”
To this end, Fletcher will, with his characteristic smile and good cheer, hand out postcards of his artwork to fellow train passengers, visit with railroad representatives across the country, and share his love of the United States’ railroad tradition with railfans and aficionados alike.