This train is going nowhere fast physically — but online, it’s off the rails in popularity.
Inspired by a row of cabooses he repeatedly drove past in 2016, Iowa-based carpenter Jim Dotzenrod made up his mind to acquire one and turn it into an Airbnb.
After salvaging a 52,000-pound caboose built in 1973 and slated for parts, he got to work on first moving it from the scrapyard to his property — an approximately $2,000 process which required a semitruck, crane and lift — and then commencing a $4,000 restoration process.
“I had to get the iron out of there, and after I gutted it I had to power wash it to get that diesel-fuel smell out,” Jim told Insider of the first steps in transforming the train into what is now: a wildly popular short-term rental.
He then cut windows into the caboose’s sides, handcrafted a staircase to the second-floor queen bedroom, replaced the ironwork with woodwork and built an outdoor deck adjacent to the train car. While Dotzenrod’s carpentry skills were vital to the project, his daughter ended up becoming a key player in the renovation too.
“My dad can do anything he sets his mind to — like, absolutely anything — but my dad is so low maintenance himself,” Danielle Dotzenrod, Jim’s 42-year-old daughter, told Insider. “So when we built this together it was a good combo, because he could build whatever and have me nudging him like, ‘Hey, let’s make this as cool as we can.’”
So she got to work on the smaller details: designing the black tile and oak wood floor, creating the caboose’s color motif, repurposing rake heads as wine-glass holder wall hangings and hunting for cute furniture.
In all, the father-daughter team spent about six months on the project and finished in Nov. 2016 — and their work paid off.
The train, now listed as the CR Station Train Caboose on Airbnb, has proved a runaway hit, with folks flocking from across the state to stay in the $124-per-night accommodations.
Jim also rents out a restored barn on the platform.