If you’ve been a lifelong train enthusiast, you’re almost certain to fall in love with in New Braunfels, Texas, which comes complete with the most magnificent collection of vintage cabooses.
“We were never particularly interested in trains and were not looking for a depot for a home,” the owners recall. Back in 1993, they had chosen 10 properties to see around New Braunfels with a realtor, who tossed the depot into the mix despite it being over their desired budget and property size.
“We fell in love with it at first sight," the owners said. "We loved how rustic and wild the property had been left. We loved the ‘antiqueness’ of the depot. We even loved the plain oval swimming pool that had been built in a hole — the bottom of a dry stock tank (cattle watering pond). We stayed two hours taking pictures and never left.”
Built in the late 1800s, the depot sits on a beautiful 30-acre plot in New Braunfels — a small city located halfway between Austin and San Antonio. The pre-fab Missouri Pacific station was originally located in Buda, Texas, but was moved by the prior owners to New Braunfels in 1982. (Because it’s 100-feet long, they had to cut it in half to move it.)
Much survives from the depot’s early days, including the wraparound porch (the original loading dock), and the original freight floor, which is now a wall in the kitchen. If you look hard enough, you’ll even find the old ticket window inside.
Although the prior owners had converted the depot to a home, the surrounding land was wild and undeveloped when the current owners purchased the property. The “Little House” — an old hunting shack that the prior owners had moved to the property — was the only other building on the site at the time. They remodeled it and added the “Shack” sign — a score from the Round Top Antiques Fair.
“I was so taken with the property that I said to the owners, if I were selling this I’d make the buyers sign adoption papers, not real estate papers!” says one of the current owners. Still, improvements had to be made. The two-bedroom depot was charming but tight, and with one teenager at home and two in college, it become clear early on the family would need to add at least one guest room.
“We saw a caboose sitting neglected in a field and a lightbulb went off for both of us,” they recall. “We started keeping an eye out for a caboose that was for sale. We hoped this would be fairly easy since the railroads had all recently stopped using them. Finding them did turn out to be a little easier than moving them.” (For that, the couple had the brilliant idea to enlist the help of a company that picks up and moves trains after derailments.)
The first car they acquired was a metal Santa Fe Railroad caboose, which they found for sale in Omaha. They wanted it to sit on authentic tracks, so they called an official track-laying company, which installed 40 feet of track in the yard.
“When the crew was finishing up, they were neatening and sweeping up any wayward gravel. We told them they didn’t really need to do that and the foreman replied, ‘We’ve never put track in anyone’s yard before and want it to look nice!’”
The second car — a Texas Mexican Railroad caboose — was spotted by a friend in a scrapyard. The couple paid $1,200 for it.
The caboose collection grew and grew, until they had acquired enough to have individual bedrooms for their children in addition to a guest room. Another is now used as their office — it features an antique stand-up desk from a railroad station and an old swivel chair (spotted on eBay) marked “Santa Fe.”
The owners wax poetic about the property, which they say has been full-time hobby, adding buildings and making it a fun place for the extended family to gather. Still, all good things must come to an end, and they’ve decided to sell their magnificent home. The 6-bed, 7-bath property
Ready to sign the adoption papers?