Nice Caboose! Pennsylvania RR Caboose

Well, as you can see, this Early-1900s Pennsylvania Railroad Caboose is quite a project, quite a project indeed. This one will test your skills, your patience, your stick-to-itiveness, and maybe most importantly, it’ll test your marriage. Hey, but at least you’ll have a place to sleep when you have it restored! It’s listed on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $2,500 or you can make an offer. Now, about those shipping costs from Hainesport, New Jersey.. Thanks to Alexander M for submitting this unusual find!

Yep, you’ll need to bring your A-game to this one. The logistics of having this shipped in and of itself will be tough. No, it most likely can’t go by rail, which is painfully ironic. The PRR, or Pennsylvania Railroad, or, the “Pennsy”, was started in 1846 and at one time it was the largest publicly-traded corporation on earth and it had a budget larger than even the US Government. It’s core routes were in the northeastern portion of the US and at one time they employed a staggering 250,000 people! It holds the record to this day as having paid out dividends to its stockholders for more than 100 years in a row! Google-schmoogle.. Sadly, the PRR merged with rival New York Central RR in 1968 and within two years the company filed for bankruptcy. A fun fact: the curved roof cupola was referred to as a “Mae West” due to its, ahem, voluptuous shape.

Here’s where you’ll stand when you steer the caboose.. no, wait a minute. I can’t imagine what a huge project this will be for a brave new owner, but once it’s done, you can rent it out as a B&B or a cool, hipster vacation rental somewhere and maybe pay it off in a year or two at $200 a night. I think that the moving costs may be much more than the purchase price and even though it’s basic wood construction, it’ll literally need every board, nail, window, hinge, door, door knob, and everything else replaced. Not to mention blasting and painting all of the metalwork that’s still in decent condition. Bbbbb.. scary. It makes the restoration of a rusty Studebaker Lark seem like an easy task! It’ll help to have some similar historic drawings so you know how to put this Humpty back together again.

A splash of paint and maybe some curtains; badda-bing bodda-boom, Bob’s your uncle, you’re open for business! Ok, maybe This Old Caboose would have to come in and work on this one, but again, it’s all wood construction so most folks here could take this one on. But, is this too much of a project to make it financially viable? An age old question asked by vehicle restorers probably since the first Quadricycle was restored.. at a loss.. Have any of you taken on an unusual project like this caboose?

Fast Finds


  1. Jeff Staff

    Came here for the “nice caboose” reference; leaving satisfied.

    • Scotty Staff

      Ha. You’re too kind, sir.

  2. dm

    Somebody that does early 30’s Chevy restorations could probably take it on.

  3. Rod

    I have restored many things over the years but nothing quite this ambitious.
    Interesting enough I know of a place in Manitoba where a bunch of hippie squatters brought in these types of cabooses to live in. This happened in the sixties and the little community is still there. It’s hidden in a valley and is not well known unless you are a local.
    There are people who think that the tiny home concept is new but many of these cabooses were used for homes for years.

  4. jeff

    Not sure if “moving” would be that expensive. It’s more the time required to disassemble and rig on site. It looks like it would fall apart if moved as is, so you’ld need to go to the site and break it down there. As long as you’re not half-way across the country, I think several trips with a decent sized trailer would do it. The whole thing is going to have to be disassembled anyway. Just try and keep all the pieces in one place so it’s convenient to sell all together at your eventual estate auction.

  5. Dairymen

    It only needs 1 thing: a lighter!

    • Christopher Lynch

      Hate to tell you, but it is halfway through its full rebuild already. Search “PRR N6b No. 492406 Restoration Project” on Facebook.

  6. CJay

    That looks so damp, wet and rotted.
    I don’t know if you could afford the gas to get it to burn!

  7. Jeffro

    The lead paint should provide a nice glow as it burns down! Followed by a nice visit from EPA.

    • Skloon

      EPA? What is that does it still exist ?

      • Ed P

        As soon as the EPA ceases to exist we will see the beginning of the end for our planet.

  8. Woodie Man

    As you move it, it will “self disassemble”!

  9. Howard A Member

    Does anybody else hear a banjo playing in the distance? Oh mercy, this certainly is an odd BF. (if it would even fit in a barn) I know someone in Oregon that has a restored one as a guest room on their house. I’d love to see that. The caboose was from a more, shall we say, romantic time in the railroad history. I knew an older WW2 vet, Ed LaRue was his name, great guy who, after the war for 44 years, worked for a RR in NJ. Was his only job. He was the guy that walked along and uncoupled the hitches and hoses, and sat in the top part, watching the train for derails. The caboose had sleeping quarters and they would take turns, 8 or 10 hours each, I think. He’d be gone for several days. Sadly, the caboose was replaced with a red blinking light. Everything else is electronic.

    • Scotty Staff

      A lot of the romance went out of railroads when the caboose went away, Howard, good call on that. Who among us hasn’t dreamed of just riding the rails as a kid, I know I did.

  10. Bruce chisholm

    “Ran when parked…”

  11. terry

    Every bit as sad as leaving a collector car to rot.

  12. Rocko

    Change your name to Barns Find or Fire Wood Find or Hell On Wheels or Train Wrecks or Hobo Reno…

  13. Don

    It would not be to hard to fix this up .If you have ever built your Kidd’s a wooden clubs house you can do it !It’s easier to replace 2by 4s than metal

  14. Howard A Member

    Actually, this was called a “cabin car” and is indeed almost 100 years old. ( I should look so good at 100) Clearly, the outside was stripped and is in someones basement, and that wheel, obviously a pun, is the brake. Here’s some great info on these, if you are a vintage RR buff, like me.

    • Dave Wright

      It would be great fun to see Scotty “steering” the caboose with the wheel……..these are great pieces of history, I would think there are better examples around to start with. I saw some program on tv that showed a Texas company restoring one of these. It was not bad to move but it was in better shape than this one, simply loaded and unloaded it onto a low boy with a crane. Speaking of that……on the way back from Portland a couple of weeks ago, I saw rail freight cars being transported by truck…..laid on there side. In all my years of equipment and trucking, that was a first. So, Scotty……how do you steer a caboose?

      • Scotty Staff

        Ha! Well, Dave, you drop it on an extended 3-ton truck chassis and..
        No, we always try to show a driver’s-side interior photo showing the steering wheel, I was just trying out my humor. I’ll stick with my day job.

  15. Joe Nose

    BBL = big block Locomobile.

  16. JW

    A guy outside our small town has a mint one he uses for a changing room for his pool. We have a lot of railroad workers in our town and surrounding area. This one would be a big project and for what ??? Too much $$$ and work for a pool bath house.

  17. grant

    Wow. It’s cool but I don’t know if there’s enough left to restore. You’d be basically building a new one. There’s a guy in town where has a much newer, much nicer one hidden in his backyard rotting away. A family member retired from the railroad tried for years to buy it but he wouldn’t sell. I’ve got a pic I’ll try and attach.

    Like 1
  18. Dave Wright

    There are actually many around that can be purchased. I know of several towns that have them sitting on sidings doing nothing, they would love to find someone to take them off there hands and give them some attention. There is an entire hotel made with them in Dunsmire California, I sold him one 20 or so years ago that came from the Army. These are not tough to move because they are pretty small as rail stock goes. I bet there are many sitting in rail museums like Fillmore Ca, the Western railway or Perris California. They gathered them up when the companies deemed them obsolete and have way more of them than they can ever get to. These guys would be really happy to have someone put the time and energy into restoration. I have owned a fair amount of rail stock, made barges out of tank cars in Stockton, bought and sold a locomotive and other cars from the army, demoed locomotive and converted the engine to marine use. Bought and sold several Pullman type cars. It is a different world but a lot of fun. There was a lovely stainless steel Pullman car sold by the army a few months ago…..was really tempting but was in Pennsylvania, it sold for less than what a classic VW beetle sells for today. I have a rail siding at my new shop….will find something to park on it one day.

    • Dave Wright

      This 88 foot car sold for 5000.00 a couple of months ago.

      • Howard A Member

        Make a nice diner, Dave.

    • Bill McCoskey

      At the old Chestertown, MD railroad station are 2 80′ passenger cars from the 1950s, one is a dinning car, the other is the matching kitchen car. They were used until about 10 years ago as a rolling dinner theater, took groups out on the rails as they had dinner & enjoyed a murder mystery on the train.

      Company went bust, and while in bankruptcy the cars could not be moved. During the years the bankruptcy process did it’s slow march, the railroad removed about 10 miles of track, leaving the 2 cars stranded alongside the old station. Still sitting there today.

      I’m told the process of getting the 2 very long cars moved to the point where the rails are still in use, will cost more than the value of the 2 cars. Too long to go thru the narrow town streets, the other direction is the Chester river, and the cars are too heavy for the only bridge around. Best alternative is to move them the 1 block to barges on the river, & float them away. Except this method is even more expensive. So there they sit.

      • Dave Wright

        There is a bunch of interesting rolling stock in Eureka Ca in the same situation. Single track in was washed out and never replaced. Having cars moved by rail is surprisingly inexpensive if they will pass inspection. Was still 1.00 per mile when I checked a few years ago. I used to know people that had a magnificent Pullman converted to luxury accommodations by one of the rail tycoons in the 20’s. they would move it from Montana to Arizona with the seasons………an interesting twist on the snowbird theme……I thought about it but most rail sidings are not in the best parts of town.

    • Jay E.

      That $8800.00 Pullman car is beautiful. Caboose motel in Dunsmuir is a lot of fun, a nice Willamette is kept there too.

  19. That Guy

    If the wood isn’t completely rotten (a big if), this is probably most worthwhile as a source of old-growth lumber for decorative use.

  20. Jeffro

    PATINA!- (drops microphone and walks away)

  21. Ed P

    I worked with a volunteer group at the B&O Museum in Baltimore to restore a similar caboose. That one had a steel frame superstructure with wood siding. It took years to finish. This caboose has a wood frame superstructure and not much of it is usable. This is not a project for the faint of heart.

  22. Dolphin Member

    The railroads did away with cabooses and the workers who rode in them years ago, so many were available. The reasons? 1) cost cutting, 2) no real need for anyone to ride at the end of freight trains, 3) did I mention cost cutting….?

    Since the older ones were mostly made of wood there wasn’t much scrap value, so I guess they were left to rot. As EdP said, not much of this one is usable. Even the steel is now a low cost commodity.

    Unless someone knows of some hippies who need a place to live, I can’t see it being worth anywhere near $2500.

  23. Alexander

    I’m the guy who submitted this to Barn Finds.

    This turned up on a forum for railway preservationists. The initial round of comments was the typical “bring the marshmallows and wieners, time for a bonfire” category, but it quickly became apparent that there WAS serious interest in the wheelsets, called “trucks” in railroading jargon, and perhaps the brake rigging under the frame, to use on other rail preservation projects. A rather common practice was for cabooses to be saved as a guest house, fishing cabin, or the like sans trucks, and there were some parties seeking not just any vintage trucks, but accurate PRR-made trucks. (Yes, the PRR was big enough and had enough resources to build its own steam locomotives in Altoona, Pa. in addition to ordering from commercial locomotive manufacturers. Cabooses would have been trivial by comparison.)

    Another mystery evolved: There are groups that maintain databases, online and offline, of preserved or surviving cabooses (over 7500+ in the database printout on my desk here) and Pennsylvania Railroad equipment (the PRR ceased to exist in early 1968 when it was merged into the ill-fated Penn Central). This specific caboose, of a fairly unusual model not well represented in preservation (class N6b) for the PRR, had managed to escape detection and inclusion on both caboose and “PRR survivor” databases.

    One of my associates contacted the seller, and made arrangements to inspect the car to confirm the truck type, search for “serial numbers” in various hidden places (and found one), etc. While he was there, a fellow rail preservationist showed up who wanted precisely what this thing is: a “caboose kit.” Someone will have to retrieve the frame, trucks, etc. and then use the “box” atop it along with other known plans as a pattern to build a replacement from scratch. Supposedly, negotiations are now ongoing between this ambitious craftsman and the current owner.

    Why? Oh, come on, you’re car nuts. You should know better than to ask. Why would anyone buy the burned-out remains of a 1960 Corvette just because it has matching numbers? Or a 1939 Ford Coupe in kit form with rusty sheet metal? Or ANY sports car where parts are impossible to find? There are equally irrational and preposterous projects ALL OVER this website! Don’t go asking “why?!?”

    • That Guy

      Thanks for putting our collective idiocy into perspective, Alexander! :-D

      I think railroad buffs are in their own league when it comes to ambitious projects. There’s pretty much no other kind.

      • Alexander

        The difference between rail preservation and almost any other transportation preservation–car, truck, boat, plane, buggy, sneaker–is that you can’t really take it out for a spin once you’re done. It’s pretty much impossible to have a full-sized, real, historic railroad on your own estate, unless your name is Disney or you’re some dictator ruling a country. (Michael Jackson had one on Neverland Ranch, but it was strictly a former amusement park miniature, not the real thing.)

        There have been many privately-owned locomotives and passenger cars out there, but you’re at the mercy of the major railroads and/or Amtrak to actually get a chance to operate them, or else on a private excursion railroad, so by default, owning an active piece of railroad rolling stock is much worse than the proverbial “hole in the water into which you throw money.”

        I once ran the news of a “parts source” vintage passenger loco newly on the market past an associate who owned three in operable condition, and he said “Do I look like I have holes in my–no, sorry, do I look like I need even MORE holes in my head?!?!?”

    • Dave W

      I’m familiar with Alexander from the rail preservation website. Surprised to find him here– or am I? People interested in rail preservation are usually interested in cars as well.

  24. dogwater

    O my God if you had a smoker

  25. bcavileer

    Looks easy compared to the ’61 giulietta 101 coupe i did. At least the metal is there. Interesting, but not my cup of tea. Would look good inthe back yard though…

  26. michael streuly

    All that will buff out.

  27. Joe Howell

    I spent some time in cabooses. Ours were steel, with light, bunks, water, toilet, basin, desk and stove. Sturdy as hell, roomy and that stove would drive you out in the winter. We used to punch a hole in a can of water and let it drip on the stove as a humidifier or your eyes would dry out. The water tank was located above the stove and you had hot water in the winter :) They would make a great hunting cabin or even small home. I could live in one if it had a huge garage within spitting distance. I always said I could have lived in the hangar with my plane. The nearby pilots lounge had a microwave, TV and bathroom with a shower so what more could a man want. Mrs. Howell however failed to see the advantages of giving up our house :) No grass to mow, no snow to blow, no house to paint, etc.. She just didn’t get it :(

  28. Bill McCoskey

    Alexander [and others here]:
    About 20 to 25 years ago I found a guy with a lot of items from his grandfather’s days as a mechanical engineer with Lima Locomotive works. The man brought home many items when the company closed, and I bought most of it from the grandson. Included were quite a few of the original blueprints for Lima locomotives.

    I recently [last week on eBay] put an original 1931 working copy of a Lima Locomotive works [Type 468 if I remember correctly] Shay standard gauge steam locomotive blueprint, showing the full side and overhead views of the loco and tender. Since this was an actual blueprint from the Lima works, I figured there would be a large amount of interest. Put it on with an opening bid price of $149.95. At the end of the 10 day auction, I had no people watching the auction. Got exactly zero bids.

    This lack of interest or bids was a big surprise to me. I’m not a serious rail fan, more into the cars. But I know if I had posted an original working copy blueprint from the internal files of ANY car company, showing the side and overhead views of a 1930’s automobile, it would have sold. Probably for more than the opening bid.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Bill, that’s a shame, however, it would seem to me, the same folks that like 20’s and 30’s cars, also have an attraction to railroads. I think steam locomotives are some of the most incredible machines. But it’s the same old thing, as our generation dies off, younger ones have no connection to this grand time in transportation.

      • Bill McCoskey

        Howard – I agree with you 100%, the vast amount of the “ordinary” pre-war cars & trucks are not even holding their prices in relation to inflation. It’s only the rare and unique “Uppercrust” cars of the golden years that are maintaining their value.

        I remember about 20 years ago when Otis Chandler [Owner of the L.A. Times] decided to unload his incredible collection of 12 and 16 cylinder Cadillacs, Packards, Pierces, Lincolns, etc., and re-invest the money in 1960s and early 1970s American muscle cars!

        His peers said he was nuts. But in a fairly short time, the cars he had bought for under $50k each, were selling for mid to high six-figure prices, and a few are now over $1 million in value.

    • Alexander

      I’m in no way trying to be disparaging, but what scared people off was your high opening bid. That blueprint is strictly a collectible, of very limited use to anyone who actually repairs Shays in all probability.
      The youngest people in the United States with first-hand experience with real, non-museum-piece steam locomotives today are all collecting Social Security, or at least are eligible to do so. They don’t have the money. Similarly, autos from the 1910s and 1920s are being snubbed in favor of the “hot” market in cars from the 1960s and 1970s today. Look through this website for proof.
      Unless at least two people desperately want your specific blueprint for the same reason, and/or your print has some superlative attached to it (biggest/last Shay) you’re not going to even break three figures for it. Comparable drawings are up on eBay going wanting for $19.99. A much older one from 1889 sold the other day for $34.99.

  29. roundhouse

    Caboose restored in Greenfield Village

    • John W

      How old is that one? There is a similar one in the woods near where I live. Has everything but the wheels.

  30. Dave Wright

    Great photo…….there must be a steel frame to mount the trucks on. I have never looked under a wooden bodied one.

    • Ed P

      It depends on when it was built. Ohio passed a law requiring a steel frame about 1913 on trains operating in that state. Many RR’s go thru Ohio so it affected most RR’s east of the Mississippi River. Before that it was a wood frame and truss rods. I don’t see truss rods on this one so it must be steel.

    • roundhouse

      This does have a steel frame, about 18″ wide, to support the trucks. Wooden cabooses were fazed out in the 1915 – 1920 period, replaced with steel. This caboose was built in 1912, and used at least 5 different types of wood, depending on what it was used for. Framing and support braces were oak, non-structural wood was hickory or maple. Siding could be birch or pine. This one is fully restored to original specs and back in use on the Greenfield Village track. Cabooses were used for the conductors office, sleeping quarters for the crew, observation of the train ahead and beside you, looking for “hot boxes” (roller bearings overheating, and also to monitor air brake pressure at the end of the train (done electronically today). The Village still runs live steam, with locomotives dating from 1870 – 1897. The locomotive shown in this photo is an 1897 Baldwin owed by Henry Ford.

  31. rojo

    My family were railroad folks. I lost interest when my uncle use to take me to work with him in a tower that controlled trains in and out of a Western Maryland hub. He took more than a nip and would pass out. I would wake him in the nick of time to avoid collisions.

    • Dave Wright

      I think that was common………I had a great uncle that was a rail roader. The only real drinker in the family and the only rail roader. Killed him eventually.

      • Ed P

        Today they would be fired, but then it was not unusual and tolerated until somebody got hurt.

      • rojo

        Through the grace of GOD and this was a extremely busy hub nothing ever happened. My family and moonshine seem to mix real well. Just a pain in the arce dealin with them. Either cutting pulp wood, timber, coal mines, or railroad didn’t have much of a choice. Thank GOD I stuck my thumb out and never looked back.

  32. Doug Towsley

    I dont really understand the problem if you want a rail car or caboose on your property then go buy one. Whats the issue? Its simply logistics to move and transport them. Lots of people here in Oregon have them. We have a guy down the road from me has a cute red caboose in his yard. Wife wants one really bad.
    (Gotta finish the chevelle first) Its located on Bakers Ferry Road, Close to the Clackamas river. No tracks nearby. Put in a short section of track and a crane lowered it into place.
    Why not?? A local guy put a B17 Bomber over his gas station as a gimmick so I guess its all a matter of attitude.
    We have several small local railroads that connect saw mills, Ice plants and Agriculture in our area. One runs from Molalla to Canby, Theres more if you look. One of our friends works with that railroad all the time for Xmas tree harvest. They load containers of trees, roll to the Ice plant, fill the containers with Ice, Seal them and ship them to China and all over the Pacific. We are the XMas Tree capital of the world.
    Heres some local Railroad attractions:
    Antique Powerland has over 12 museums including a active trolley museum (Including a double decker trolley from Hong Kong) 2 rail road museums. and more.. We have track on the museum complex and they function and run. Come down for a ride!
    In Portland, the Oregon Rail Heritage museum, I know a few of the volunteers.
    Oregon Coast rail road has a really nice Steam train you can ride, Then go check out the Tillamook Cheese factory. Win-Win
    This one is great, Still moving freight but lots of tourist opportunities. In the Winter they do a Polar Express ride that is popular. Spring time has a fruit blossom special. Lots of wineries and breweries so Win-win!
    Well this expedites a search, covers the above and more. 6 epic scenic train rides and excursions.
    Sumpter Valley, I hear good things about this one. Wife wants to hit some of the Winerys as well,. Southern Oregon can be very scenic.
    Eagle cap railroad, NE Oregon. Very scenic.
    Ask and you shall receive, First I saw this site but seems to be a great way to locate or sell rail cars.. No price but that Wooden Colorado my wife might consider selling her Chevelle to own it. Best we dont discuss this again.
    RailCar pretty much sums it up. Pretty cool Zephyr on there I could learn to love in my front yard.
    How too: Mother earth news, buy and own a railcar dwelling.
    Some really COOL homes and converted rail cars, (Best my wife does not see this) I have several shipping containers and Ideas abound for them,, but this is a whole different level of cool.

    One of my favorite restaurants (I have had BETTER Italian food elsewhere including visiting Italy,, But I just love this place) Now they have them all over the US I Understand but they started here in Portland Oregon. My parents would take us to the original place in Downtown. They ALWAYS had funky decorations. Old beds converted to dining, But the real cool thing was they used Railroad cars and Old Portland street cars and trolleys inside many of their resturaunts still today. In fact tomorrow after my appt at the VA I will have lunch at the waterfront Spaghetti factory and yes.. Theres a rail car and trolley inside that one as well.
    Search google images and apparently they use rail and trolley cars in most of their resturants. (I am including one here)
    I suppose if you need a mover or engineers to move railroad cars, the GO-TO guys would be right here in my home town. I know a LOT of ex-employees and my hats off to their skills and knowledge. On the other hand I know the owner a little and he is,,, in most peoples opinion, a jerk, but hey, I am no prince charming either. So, if you want to move a skyscraper, the Spruce goose, A navy Submarine or just a caboose onto your back 40 these are the guys.

  33. Alexander

    Have another one (different railroad) for sale, in better condition:

    Like 1
  34. Alexander


    Unbelievably, this pile of kindling HAS INDEED found a savior.

    “The car has been accepted for donation by a 501(c)3 with an operating railroad. They accepted it with the understanding that we will continue to restore the caboose. It will be up to us to fund raise for transport and new materials. I will let them announce their new acquisition when they are ready, probably after it arrives.”

    And just how bad was it?

    “We’ve saved wood for reference and patterns. Unfortunately very little wood is salvageable for reuse. You look at what looks like a good piece of wood, and then notice that the other end is rotted away, and/or split. Some of the wood looks good on the outside, but it’s been hollowed out. Most of the wood could be torn out just using leather gloves. The bugs must have been holding hands. Birds had a field day in the dumpster, eating the bugs.”

    Another of the volunteers remarked:

    “What I found interesting with this cabin car was that it was what I like to call a time capsule. It was essentially untouched since the day it was moved in there, perhaps 30+ years ago. It was last serviced by the PRR Hawthorne shops in 1965 and looks to have been untouched since then. By the looks of it, it was never painted, the interior really never touched, the closets and such never cleaned out. Its possible the owner started a residing effort on the side closest to the house, but this was never completed. It is about as complete as any item of its kind can be, except of course for any solid wood. We did save all the iron brackets that hold the N6b together, all the detail parts from the interior, all the details from the exterior to include windows, doors, hinges, locks, you name it. It truly is a kit. Plus [the team leader] just happens to have a full bill of materials for the lumber that is needed to rebuild the body. It’s that time capsule element that attracted me to the effort.”

    • Jesse Staff

      Thanks for the update Alexander! Hope they can get it back on the road… er, track!

  35. Alexander

    Restoration project has a Facebook page:

    Like 1

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