A Palette of Rust and Dreams

Story and Photography by Karen Healy


I have always been drawn to trains. The way they wind through towns, behind homes and across fields. Their intimate perspective of place. The constant movement forward. How the flickering of light between pine trees and the gentle rocking of the locomotive lulls me into a dream-state. Memories come and go, and for a fleeting moment —  as the world rushes by outside — I feel as though every town I pass through and every landscape I perceive is a place that I belong.

Nearly every other week over the course of a year, I’ve boarded the Piedmont and the Carolinian —  two trains that travel between Rocky Mount and Charlotte —  to document the travelers and communities touched by the North Carolina Railroad. These trains pass through Wilson, Selma, Raleigh, Cary, Durham, Burlington, Greensboro, High Point and Salisbury — towns that owe much to the railroad, which opened the interior region of the state in the mid-1800s.

This is a story about the history and modernity of trains, told through eyes of a nostalgic, romantic traveler. Anchored in North Carolina’s Piedmont, these images depict travelers bearing witness to a world and landscape both ephemeral and historic.  All at once this world belongs to me, to them and to none.

This selection of photographs is part of a larger series, including an audio component, that will be exhibited at the Imperial Centre Arts Gallery in Rocky Mount, NC, Spring 2018.