Throughout his 27 years with the railroad, Switchman Tracy Johnson has viewed his daughters, Courtney and Briarre, as a source of inspiration.
“I wanted to work safely to make it home to them,” said Johnson, who marked his service anniversary in April.
While his daughters are now traveling the world and constantly adding to their accomplishments, family is still at the center of Johnson’s world, including his fiancée, Beverly, and her children.
His work family has also enriched his life. He counts many co-workers as friends; some have enjoyed his acclaimed barbecued ribs.
“I have been around so many good people,” he said. “Everybody has a great attitude.”
He’s worked with some of his colleagues for more than two decades, including Switchman Rommie Arnold.
“It makes the job easier and safer working with people you’ve worked with a long time,” he said. “He knows what I’m doing, and I know what he’s doing.”
The Belt’s culture has been one of mentorship, with seasoned employees teaching newer ones. Johnson recalls retired Switchman Luther Harmon, who was his neighbor before he was his co-worker, suggesting that he consider a job with the Belt. When Johnson became a team member, Harmon acted as his mentor. Today, Johnson trains new employees and keeps the tradition alive.
Courtney and Briarre
While Johnson has accomplished a lot in his career, it’s his daughters who make him most proud.
Courtney is a graduate of Tuskegee University and has parlayed internships with the FBI into a budding career with the law enforcement agency.
Briarre studies user experience design at the University of Michigan; the discipline relates to designing apps and websites. In 2019, she volunteered in Panama. Her efforts included teaching young adults English, cleaning the community, working on a farm and rehabilitating a school. She followed that up with a trip to Peru where she volunteered to teach four English classes.
“It was very fulfilling giving back and getting away from tech,” she said. “It was a chance to make deeper connections and a hands-on impact.”
Briarre added that making her way to Peru required her to be more independent.
“It made me realize my worth and that I can make a difference,” she said.
Briarre is a member of Kappa Theta Pi, the first technology fraternity in the nation. She’s also the community outreach co-chair for the Black Student Union, the vice president for Creatives of Color and a peer mentor for the Kessler Scholars Program.
Briarre recounts seeing a BRC toy train circling the family Christmas tree as one of her earliest memories. It was distributed to employees as a safety award.
“My dad has inspired me and pushed me to succeed,” Briarre said. “He’s never questioned my dreams or second guessed them. His emotional support has meant so much.”
Tracy is one of the best. He always comes to work with a positive attitude and is great to work with. He’s even-keeled and that’s extremely important in a railroad environment.”
— Terminal Superintendent Terry Hartwig