• Benji Sills

Vintage Train Airbnb

Paige and I have long advocated that adventure does not have to stop when you check in to a room and unpack your bags. When we visit new towns, we will typically try to stay in the most obscure (and occasionally uninhabitable) types of rentals available. This has lead us to overnighting in a triple-decker treehouse, a converted prison and a school bus deep in the New Hampshire woods. There is something charming about all the comforts of home jumbled inside an impossible shell. To satisfy our thirst to sleep in places usually reserved for convicts on the run, we spent our first night en route to Pittsburgh in a converted vintage caboose.

The Fire Engine Red railcar is available through an affordable Airbnb rental and sits parked on its tracks in the sleepy town of Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. We couldn’t quite believe we were allowed to stay there as we pulled the car up in front. It half seemed like a security guard was going to come barreling out from behind the caboose and tackle us to the ground - everything about the property says ‘museum’, not ‘hotel’. The caboose shares a stretch of preserved track with a second car, each labelled with historical plaques and both seated next to a domed informational kiosk. The kiosk has no doors but rather several open frames, allowing you to wander in and view displays of Lock Haven history at any hour.

It was way past nightfall by the time we arrived and Lock Haven seems very much like the type of town where it’s lights out at 6PM, so that everyone will be rested for a full day of sitting on the porch swing. Despite the dark and quiet, we ran around excitably and explored the tracks and museum. After exhausting ourselves, we decided to check the inside of the train as well to make sure there was indeed a bed and not just a coal furnace.

The experience of throwing open the heavy car door and walking into a hotel room bursting with comfortable amenities is bizarre. We checked the inside against the outside several times and simply could not reason that it was the same space. Inside there were two beds, a television, a bathroom with a shower and a kitchen area that included a sink and a booth to sit at. The only reminder that you’re still inside a train car is the vintage furnace preserved in the back. The hosts have also worked hard to make the caboose homey and included cute amenities like a stack of board games and a guest book.

We were overwhelmed and spent a large chunk of time acclimatizing to the comforts. I took a shower and couldn’t stop exclaiming that I was taking an actual shower on an actual train. We spent a relaxed night in the car before waking for an early photo shoot. Now bathed in morning light, we snapped ample photographs of the train. This included several that we took in black and white with the intention of convincing friends that we’d found vintage photos of Paige’s parents traveling on the same train - never mind that the caboose was retired in the 1940’s and I looked very much like myself and not Paige’s father.

After wasting a solid block of time on themed photo pranks, we went for a local breakfast at the relevant “Train Station Restaurant”. We figured it was probably cash only and spent a chunk of time driving around town looking for a bank. We made it back eventually (only to find there was naturally an ATM inside) and settled in, looking entirely out of place. The waitress seemed to know everybody by name and bustled around, checking on individual family members at each table. The average age of the patrons inside was such that they could have probably all been conductors on the train while it was still running routes. We were as convincingly local as we were convincingly Paige’s parents, and the waitress immediately spotted us and came over to help.

The food came quickly and was gigantic. We ordered pancakes which were almost large enough to list as rooms on Airbnb themselves and we ate with glee. Lock Haven may only just about have a bank, but for enthusiasts of trains and pancakes, it really can't be beat.

You can find the train in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. The caboose’s exact address can be viewed by booking it on Airbnb: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5549399

Currently it’s available for $99 a night and comfortably fits two travelers.

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