A father and daughter converted a 50-year-old train caboose into a cozy Airbnb

A unique Airbnb in Decorah offers guests railroad nostalgia.

Jim Dotzenrod, 65 years old, stumbled upon a row train cabooses on a city street. He was inspired to create the tiny home. He had driven past them many times before taking the time to stop and take a look. He realized that he could make it an Airbnb.

However, the owner of the cabooses wasn’t looking to sell any of the 10 he had, so Jim had to search for one himself. He was able to find one at a salvage yard just 30 miles away.

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Jim was able to make a deal and purchase a caboose that weighs 52,000 pounds, built in 1973, for $8,000.

The retired carpenter knew how to navigate home renovations and Airbnbs. Despite his previous experience, nothing could prepare him for the task of moving the caboose to his property from the scrapyard. He was able to do it with the help of a crane and lift and a semi-truck.

Inside the CR Station Train Caboose in Decorah, Iowa
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Jim also purchased railroad tracks to be used as a base once the caboose was transferred to his yard.

To make it ready for renovation, the first task was to remove the caboose.

“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 explained. “It was strong — it was just that lingering odor of diesel fuel.”

Then, he returned to his home with an air-freshener to keep it smelling fresh.

The caboose can sleep up to four people and has a queen-sized bed as well as a bunk-bed set.

The queen bed in CR Station Train Caboose in Decorah, Iowa
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The queen bed is upstairs and the bunk beds on the first floor.

The bunk bed in CR Station Train Caboose in Decorah, Iowa
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It also features a fully equipped kitchen, including a microwave and a refrigerator.

The kitchen in CR Station Train Caboose in Decorah, Iowa
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The property has a bathroom with a toilet…

The toilet inside CR Station Train Caboose in Decorah, Iowa
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…and a shower.

The shower inside CR Station Train Caboose in Decorah, Iowa
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The caboose comes with WiFi, a TV, air-conditioning, and a refrigerator. The living room has a couch, where visitors can relax and enjoy the electric fire place.

The living area in CR Station Train Caboose
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Danielle Dotzenrod, Jim’s daughter who helped design the space, said her dad used his carpentry skills to replace the caboose’s original ironwork with woodwork.

“My dad can do anything he sets his mind to — like, absolutely anything — but my dad is so low maintenance himself,” she said.

“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.’”

Jim built a staircase, placed the cabinets, and created space for the queen size bed. He also built an outdoor wooden deck visible through the windows of the caboose. There, guests can enjoy a view of Jim’s pasture, where visitors can feed and pet horses.

The horses outside CR Station Train Caboose in Decorah, Iowa
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If guests wish, they can also take a horse-drawn carriage ride.

“When we see guests sitting on the deck having a cocktail during sunset or watching the horses in the pasture, it feels nice to offer city people that chance,” Danielle said.

“It’s something that we country people probably take for granted, but it’s something that they really appreciate.”

Jim worked full-time at his day job so Jim had to work weekends and nights on his passion project.

He spent approximately $4,000 on the renovation, which took six months to complete in November 2016. He said he spent approximately 300 hours working on the caboose, which they named “CR Station Train Caboose.”

Jim was responsible for most structural changes while Danielle added personal touches to the space. She chose much of its overall design, including the floor in black tiles that were surrounded by oak wood.

CR Station Train Caboose in Decorah, Iowa
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The father and daughter wanted to preserve the caboose’s charm, so they kept the original conductor’s chairs and railings.

“I think that’s something we pride ourselves on,” Danielle said. “There’s a few other cabooses out there, but sometimes when you’re in it you don’t even really realize it’s a caboose.”

“The outside, of course, looks like a caboose, but you have to keep just a little bit of the novelty of it in there, so visitors know what it was like back in the day,” Jim added.

Guests can travel into town and enjoy activities such as kayaking, sightseeing on the 11-mile trail, visiting Decorah’s Toppling Goliath Brewery, or taking lessons at a nearby shooting range.

To learn more about the beautiful CR Station Train Caboose, check out this Airbnb listing.

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