One night in 1970, my mother was driving the family’s red 1968 Chevelle, with my brother and I seated in the back. Even though we were in the city, I remember it being quite dark. Suddenly, my mother slammed the brakes, and out of the blackness rushed a train. It barely missed us. A foot, maybe. The crossing had no lights or bells or gates. My mother had stopped inexplicably, and she attributed it to divine intervention.

For several weeks before that night, she had dreamed that she was driving when she became enveloped in blackness. On the night of our near-accident, we all were wearing the same clothes and were positioned in the red Chevelle—I behind the driver’s seat, my brother to my right—exactly as she had dreamed. My mother began praying, she told me later, and that’s when she stopped the car. And that’s when the train came seemingly out of nowhere.

Since she told me that story, I’ve been mesmerized by trains, which elicit in me both fear and awe. I love riding them, and when I stand near one I’m overwhelmed by their power. It’s similar to how I feel about horses.

I drove to Cary on Monday afternoon—I missed catching the Amtrak from Durham by three minutes—and shortly after I arrived, a Norfolk-Southern freight train came through the middle of town. I knelt on Academy Street before the gates and shot this picture.

Down at the depot, passengers waited near a bronze statue that pays tribute to a railman, who apparently, makes sure the trains run on time.