Better Know a Rental: Cabooses

Like many campgrounds across the country, Heavenly Acres Campground in Stanardsville, Va. complements its RV and tent sites with rental cabins.

But Heavenly Acres also offers unique accommodations that are available in only a handful of campgrounds across the country: fully furnished, historic cabooses that harken back to a bygone era of American railroading.

“My cabooses attract a whole new group of campers,” said park owner Gary Schneider, adding that his three cabooses are just as popular as his rental cabins.

In fact, the cabooses, which sleep four to six and come equipped with a two-burner stove a microwave oven, a refrigerator, a bathroom and shower, are just as popular with adults as they are with kids.

“You get a mix of people,” Schneider said. “There’s a lot of older railroad buffs out there. But Thomas the Train also gets children hooked on trains and that’s been a real positive thing.”

Heavenly Acres’ cabooses include a Burlington Northern caboose from the late 1960s, a wooden 1926 B & O Railroad caboose and a Chesapeake and Ohio caboose. Schneider hopes to start renting out his fourth caboose — another Burlington Northern caboose from the late 1960s — after completing repairs.

“That’s my winter project,” he said.

Other campgrounds across the country that offer historic cabooses as rental accommodations include the following:

  • Caboose Lake Campground in Remington, Ind.: This park has a historic four-wheel Baltimore and Ohio caboose, which dates to 1900 to 1910. It has been remodeled into a cottage.

  • Historic Route 66 KOA in Eureka, Mo.: This park has a converted caboose which is available as a rental unit.

  • Lake in Wood Campground in Narvon, Penn.: This campground has a caboose rental.

  • The Point South KOA in Yemassee, S.C.: This park has an original I & M Railroad steel caboose, which was built in 1963. The park also has a 1992 Victorian style trolley car, which was used by the city of Charleston, S.C. to transport tourists.

Cabooses have largely vanished as a result of evolving technology.

Cabooses were historically used used as sleeping and office quarters for railroad employees who performed safety functions on trains. However, the development of automatic air brakes, radio transmitters and other electronic equipment have made cabooses obsolete. New labor agreements also reduced the hours of service and eliminated the need for cabooses as sleeping quarters.

Two other campgrounds across the country are also in the process of restoring vintage cabooses, including the Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Madison, Fla. and the Oregon Dunes KOA in North Bend, Ore., which has Santa Fe and Southern Pacific cabooses.