Conductor’s Work Ethic, ‘Extracurriculars’ Are Exemplary

SEPTEMBER 2022 – There are all kinds of ways workers can represent their companies. The most obvious might be using on-the-job skills well.

How about sharing photography skills?

That’s what Watco team member Jackson Vandeventer does when off the job. He’s not only a conductor for the Decatur & Eastern Illinois Railroad but also takes many photos of trains. 

“He has invested a lot of his spare money into photo equipment and really, really enjoys taking pictures of trains,” says DREI Trainmaster Matt Nicol. “If you look through Watco calendars for the last two or three years, you’ll see some of his work in there.”

Indeed, Vandeventer’s work has appeared in multiple annual Watco wall calendars (in the 2022 edition, the April 2022 featured photo is his photo). And he’s won a couple of the company’s quarterly photo contests. A couple of his shots hang on the walls of Watco offices.

Vandeventer’s role as a conductor takes him across east-central Illinois, reporting to any of four yards to make up trains. He’s on call six days a week and probably works an average of 50 hours a week. 

On top of his work and photography hobby, Vandeventer is pursuing academics. He is carrying eight hours a semester toward a degree in business administration at Eastern Illinois University, having already earned an associate’s degree. 

If that’s not enough, he volunteers a couple of days a month at the Monticello (Illinois) Railway Museum, where he teaches others how to run the museum’s excursion train.

Vandeventer’s work ethic and community involvement earned him a place helping to engage new DREI team members and as one of the railroad’s peer trainers. “More than anything, he provides us with a good example of what to present to a candidate who doesn’t know anything about the railroad,” says Nicol. “He’s a guy we want in the room on a Day 1 scenario to talk to new team members. And to be a mentor for those new guys. 

“He’s an example of a young person who’s flourished and taken on responsibility above and beyond anything we ever thought he would. Jackson represents Watco and the DREI well.”

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