About me, my world of railfanning.

Bill Vandervoort

At the Steel Yard, home of the Gary South Shore RailCats minor league baseball team. There are railroad themes to the game experience.

An actual K5LA locomotive horn is used to get the crowd fired up, visible towards the top of this photo. The Steel Yard is located a few blocks east of the Gary Metro Center station, served by NICTD/South Shore Line. The South Shore Line is just on the other side of the left field scoreboard.

I have been fascinated by trains for as long as I can remember. I grew up on Chicago's South Side, near the Illinois Central Railroad main line. As a child in the early 1960's, I used to watch the orange and chocolate IC passenger trains speed by, along with freight trains powered by these black locomotives. At the time I was too young to know that the passenger locomotives were known as E6's through E9's, and that the freight locomotives were GP7's and GP9's. But I knew the differences in the sounds produced by the locomotives, and knew whether it was a passenger or freight train approaching before I actually saw the train.

The one train which sometimes confused me as a child was what I later learned was known as the "James Whitcomb Riley". This was a passenger train, but it had "freight" locomotives (GP7's) from the New York Central Railroad. My mother used to point out a car on that train painted blue yellow and silver. This was a Chesapeake and Ohio Railway sleeping car which, upon the train's arrival in Cincinnati, would be switched to the C&O's "Sportsman" to continue east into West Virginia. One of the few times that I haven't lived in Chicago was when I was 3 years old, when our family briefly lived in West Virginia, then New Jersey. It was this train which carried us for that move to West Virginia.

Another time I lived away from Chicago was at 10 years old, when our family lived in the Netherlands for a year. More on that later. But after becoming familiar with the railways of the Netherlands and other European countries, I concluded that the United States is too dependent on private automobiles. I feel lucky to live in Chicago, where I can get around without driving. I grew up riding the Illinois Central electric commuter trains, which at the time used the old heavyweight MU cars built in 1926. Those old cars were replaced with the new bilevel "Highliner" cars in 1971 and 1972, IC sold the commuter operation to Metra in 1987, and by 2016 the Highliner cars were replaced with new stainless steel bilevel cars. But unfortunately, political circumstances has resulted in Metra to be a less attractive transportation option within the city, with the less efficient CTA express buses having emerged as the more popular option.


From living in the Netherlands and traveling throughout Europe, I concluded that passenger trains there were never neglected the way they have been in the United States. So I use this web page to hopefully give one an appreciation of the way passenger transportation should be.


Comparing the passenger rail and public transportation systems in the United States and Europe, the history of neglect of these systems in the US, and hoping for greater availability and popularity for alternatives to driving in the future.


Articles which I have written on various trips which I took between 1978 and 1984, along with items which I posted on CompuServe's "TrainNet" Forum between 1995 and 1997. Photos are included.


Breakdown on railroad segments in North America and Europe which I have ridden, and their mileages.


Scanned images of some of the more interesting train orders in my collection, mostly from trips which I have taken. Orders are generally from the 1970's and 1980's.


On being part of a growing railfan presence in cyberspace, and hoping that rail and transit fans elsewhere create their own fan Web sites, covering regions beyond Chicago.

Bill Vandervoort