WSOR’s Preston Nelson Named a Rising Star

May 2021 – Preston Nelson’s motto is: “I want to be better tomorrow than I am today.” This could be part of the reason the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad (WSOR) General Manager gained recent recognition as a Progressive Railroading Rising Star.

The trade magazine recently announced 25 winners selected from 215 nominees who work for freight or passenger railroads, transit or government agencies, academic institutions, engineering firms, or rail contractors and suppliers. “It was a complete surprise!” Nelson said. “I had no idea I’d been nominated.”

Nelson joined Watco in 2015 as the WSOR’s Superintendent of Operations. Within a year, he became Assistant General Manager and within two years, General Manager. 

“I’ve worked with Preston since he joined Watco,” says Vice President of Operations Garrett Bolyard. “The biggest things (about Nelson) are his drive for safety and professionalism, his presence in the field, and his expectations of his team.”

The successes of the WSOR team include an impressive safety record. The railroad, which operates over 778 miles including trackage rights, had just two reportable injuries in 2017, one in 2018, and none in 2019 and 2020 – remarkable in that it’s one of Watco’s biggest and busiest properties. The team’s safety record earned the railroad a President’s Safety Award from the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association for 2019 and 2020. In February, the railroad surpassed a million man-hours without a reportable injury.

Success also includes an improved operating margin. When comparing 2020 to 2015, the WSOR has made a 30.2% improvement in margin. And when comparing 2020 to a three-year average, the improvement was 5.4%.

Preston’s contributions to the railroad industry began in 2008 and included four years at Rail America and three at Genesee & Wyoming railroads. That’s where he first teamed with Aaron Dean, who later followed him to Watco as Assistant General Manager at the WSOR. “He’s by far one of the best in the business,” says Dean. “I’m not just saying that.”


Read about others like Preston who are making a difference at Watco and beyond. Learn More