High costs of living have inspired some truly unique living situations over the years. There’s the old school bus turned RV, the tiny homes made of storage containers, and now introducing refurbished train wagons. If you’ve ever seen a vintage rail car, you have to admit that they’re quite captivating. They offer a quaint quality that few structures can provide for your home. They transport you back in time and can become quite the cozy living space.

Finding a caboose for sale might sound like it would be a challenge, but it just might be the easiest part of the process. As a form of tiny living, you might prefer refurbishing in a rail car over building a tiny house from scratch. Learn how you can turn a deserted train caboose into your dream home!

Living in a Train Wagon

There are a number of ways you can transform a train car into your new home. Here are some fine examples to help you find inspiration for your tiny house.

A Modern Rail Car

train caboose tiny house

Image source: Izaak Walton Inn

This rail car might look classic on the outside, but the interior has been fully modernized. With a full-sized kitchen and room for four, this tiny house’s layout ensures that guests are far from roughing it. If your dream house doesn’t include a wood stove or an impossibly small bathroom, then take inspiration from this modern design.

A Tiny House Caboose

tiny house caboose

Image source: Tiny House Hotel

For a more rustic way of living, a tiny caboose turned tiny house might be more up your alley. You might not be able to host a dinner party, but something this small would be far easier to power. If you’re looking for a tiny house on wheels, this size might be more suitable for traveling.

A Not-So-Tiny House

sterling train car house

Image source: Airbnb

The train car you select doesn’t have to be vintage. If you come across a sterling rail that’s out of commission, you might want to jump on it. Not only does it offer more space, but it has the potential to expand an existing structure if you know what you’re doing. It also helps to camouflage the building for those interested in living off the grid. No one would think twice about seeing this house from a distance.

A Boxcar Rail Tiny House

boxcar rail tiny house

Image source: Goods Home Design

Larger than the caboose and smaller than the sterling rail is the boxcar rail. Their high ceilings offer the illusion of open space, and could even be built with a lofted bedroom. Since boxcars are used for shipping, there’s no need to gut them during the restoration process. That tends to be a huge draw for those looking into the tiny house community.

Where to Find a Caboose for Sale

caboose for sale

Image source: Northfork & Southern Historical Society

Finding a train car for sale might sound like it would be a difficult task, but it’s actually fairly easy. All you need is access to the internet. A simple search can provide you with a number of options. Here are a few places you can start:

Check Online Classifieds

Websites like eBay and Craigslist are great for finding hidden gems like this. It might take you a while to find the right caboose for sale, but this is where you’ll find the best prices. You’ll also be able to find rail cars that have already been refurbished or fully converted into tiny homes. These are perfect for those who aren’t interested in having a big project on their hands. It might take you a few months to find what you’re looking for, but likely the price will make the wait worth it.

Caboose and Rail Car Sales Websites

There are many websites to choose from that are dedicated to selling train cars and related materials. You can buy a caboose, a boxcar, or even a sterling rail. Some of these websites have full refurbished rail cars listed as well. The prices are a little higher, but you won’t have to wait for something to pop up on Craigslist. Here are a few websites to check out:

Call Local Scrapyards

If a scrapyard near you ends up with an old rail car, you might be able to buy it for close to nothing. Contact a few places and let them know that you’re in the market for a train caboose or boxcar. They might be nice enough to give you a call when they come across one.

Cost of Restoring a Train Cabin

train car tiny house

Image source: Inhabitat

Now that you know where you can buy a train cabin, you’re ready to start coming up with a budget. If money is tight, stick to buying your materials at local junkyards and garage sales. When it comes to tools, try borrowing from friends and family first. Here are the average costs you can expect when restoring a rail car:

Rail Car Shipping

$1200 for loading plus $1.10 to move by highway
$1.30/mile to move by rail
Note: You might have to pay costly repairs for a train car to be shipped by rail

Rail Installation

$4,000-7,000 for every 99 feet of rail installed

Setting Rail Car On Tracks

A crane operator for $300 to $1,000 per hour

Securing Caboose To Track

Chains and lock $50

Exterior Restoration

$1,000-$3,000 for a rail car up to 1,500 square feet

rail car house interior

Image source: Airbnb

Interior Restoration

Windows And Skylights - $4,000

Flooring - $300

Light Fixtures - $400

Insulation - $1,200

Plumbing - $700

Solar Power System - $2,800

Water Heater - $1,100

Bathroom Appliances - $1,400

Kitchen Appliances - $2,700

Summary

If you’re ready to leave behind high living costs and get creative with your dream home, restoring a rail car is the perfect solution. Unlike other tiny homes, starting out with a caboose or boxcar will save you from having to build a shell for your new house, office, or she-shed. The possibilities are endless, and you’ll spend far less than you would on most other living spaces.

Joining the tiny house community means you won’t be going at it alone. You have the support of hundreds of people online that are familiar with the restoration process and are eager to answer any questions you have. Now that you know where to find a caboose for sale and have the tools you need to create a budget, you’re ready to start preparing for your very own rail car tiny house!