The inside track on a quirky place to stay: Old railroad car is transformed into a one-of-a-kind Airbnb, complete with the original conductor’s seats

  • The CR Station Train Caboose, which is situated near the town of Decorah, Iowa, can sleep up to four people 
  • It features a shower, a refrigerator, a double-burner hot plate, a microwave, and barware for mixing cocktails 
  • Jim Dotzenrod and his daughter Danielle bought the caboose for $8,000 and renovated it for $4,000

If you’re looking for somewhere quirky to stay, we’ve got the inside track on an Airbnb that could be just the ticket.

The CR Station Train Caboose Airbnb near the town of Decorah, Iowa, is a former caboose – a type of American railroad car used to carry train crew, commonly the conductor and the brakemen, at the end of a freight train.

Inside, it’s got accommodation for four people – with a double bed and bunk beds – and comes complete with the original conductor’s chairs and overhead handrails.

The CR Station Train Caboose Airbnb (pictured) is situated near the town of Decorah, in Iowa

Pictured is the caboose before it was converted into an Airbnb. A caboose is a type of American railroad car that is used to carry train crew at the end of a freight train

THINGS TO DO IN IOWA

 Visit the ‘Field of Dreams’ movie site

Maquoketa Caves State Park

The Putnam Museum & Science Center

Blank Park Zoo

Visit the Des Moines Capitol Building  

Jim Dotzenrod and his daughter Danielle, who live in Decorah and renovated the Airbnb, first heard about the caboose when a friend spied it sitting at a salvage yard about 30 miles (48km) away.

Though the family are not sure where the caboose, which has a locomotive number of ‘SOO 124’, originated, they subsequently discovered a 1986 photograph of it that was taken in Clinton, Iowa, so it dates back to at least the 1980s. 

Danielle tells MailOnline Travel that this specific style of caboose is called an ‘extended-vision’ or ‘wide-vision’ caboose due to its cupola, which is a small windowed protrusion on the roof.

She adds that some of the train conductors who travelled in the caboose would have ‘used the cupola windows to monitor the train’. 

Jim and Danielle splashed out $8,000 (£5,864) on the salvaged caboose, and also bought some original railroad tracks to place under it as a base. 

The pair transported the caboose to the site of the Airbnb by semi-tractor and trailer, and used a crane to heave it into position on the tracks. 

Throughout 2016, it took six months and $4,000 (£2,925) for the father and daughter team to transform the caboose into the ‘charming and cosy’ rental it is today. 

 Pictures show a crane lifting the salvaged caboose into position on to a set of original railroad tracks

Jim Dotzenrod and his daughter Danielle bought the caboose for $8,000 (£5,864). Pictured is the interior of the caboose before it was renovated

Danielle says: ‘My father was a carpenter by trade. He is now retired, but when we renovated and began renting the caboose he was still working full time so only able to work on it nights and weekends.’

The biggest challenge of the renovation was ‘cutting out and removing the old iron’ that they were not able to repurpose in the railroad car, such as the iron stove and the iron platform that the conductor’s cupola seats sat on.

Danielle explains: ‘We did repurpose both cupola seats, however, which are reversible. They now sit in front of the main windows and can be flipped to face the sitting area or out the window facing west overlooking the horse pasture, which is particularly nice at sunset.’ The pair also built a staircase leading to the sleeping area. 

A staircase was built to lead up to the sleeping area. It took six months and $4,000 (£2,925) for Jim and Danielle to repurpose the railroad car

The renovated caboose. The biggest challenge of the renovation was ‘cutting out and removing the old iron’ that they were not able to repurpose in the railroad car

Finally, it was ready to rent out. ‘The caboose was very popular from the beginning,’ Danielle reveals.

It features a refrigerator, microwave, a double-burner hot plate, dishes for cooking, and barware for mixing cocktails. What’s more, there’s a toilet, a six-gallon water heater and a shower, as well as Wi-Fi, air-conditioning and a TV.

Guests can help themselves to the fruit from the raspberry bushes and the apple tree on the grounds of the Airbnb. The caboose is set opposite a horse pasture, and guests are welcome to pet horses across the fence. Jim also offers carriage rides throughout the countryside and through Decorah.

Pictured are the conductor’s seats that used to be in the cupola. ‘They now sit in front of the main windows and can be flipped to face the sitting area or out the window facing west overlooking the horse pasture, which is particularly nice at sunset,’ says Danielle

The Airbnb’s kitchen features a refrigerator, microwave, a double-burner hot plate, and dishes for cooking

Pictured is the Airbnb’s barware for mixing cocktails. There’s also a toilet, a six-gallon hot water heater and a shower

‘Nearby Decorah (pictured above) offers guests a lot to do,’ says Danielle. Picture courtesy of Creative Commons 

The family also own and operate a second Airbnb near the caboose called Silo on the Ridge (pictured)

Danielle adds: ‘Guests really enjoy barbequing or having a glass of wine [on] the attached large deck that abuts the horse pasture. The horses themselves are a huge draw and many of our reviews include them by name.

‘Nearby Decorah offers guests a lot to do… hiking and mountain biking trails as well as a popular 10-mile bike trail that encompasses the town, kayaking and tubing the Upper Iowa River, and award-winning breweries to name a few.’ 

The Airbnb’s reviews are overwhelmingly positive – one recent user wrote: ‘The caboose was the perfect mix of cosy and unique!’

While a second added: ‘Our son loves trains so this was really exciting for him! They did a great job converting the caboose into a cute cabin.’ 

The family also owns and operates a second Airbnb nearby, called Silo on the Ridge, a ‘restored and repurposed’ barn silo. 

The caboose costs around $135 (£100) a night. For more information visit the CR Station Train Caboose on Airbnb.

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