The renovated boxcar at County Woods Inn in Glen Rose features bunk beds and a bathtub. Photo: Eric W. Pohl

While the glamour of overnight train travel hasn’t quite been the same since its heyday in the early 20th century, you can still get a taste of the experience. A handful of hosts across the state offer vintage rail-car lodgings outfitted with modern amenities that range from quiet countryside retreats to quirky city digs—but all offer a window into the history of the state’s railways.

Photo: Eric W. Pohl
Photo: Eric W. Pohl

Santa Fe Rail Car, Glen Rose

One of a dozen lodging options at the Country Woods Inn in Glen Rose, the Santa Fe Rail Car features bunk beds, a full kitchen, sitting area, back patio, and bathroom complete with a claw-foot tub. Its décor recalls American railroad history—model trains line the walls, memorabilia sit atop every shelf, and an impressive collection of train books caters to readers of all ages.

Situated near the main lodge and the inn’s collection of cabins and vintage RVs, the rail car is a favorite among visiting families, owner Helen Kerwin says. When she saw a classified ad for a free boxcar in 2001, she jumped at the chance. There was only one condition: The seller would not help her move it. “When I called to say I would move it ASAP, he laughed and said it would take a man to handle this project,” she recalls. She gave him her number and told him to call if he changed his mind. Two weeks later, her phone rang.

Kerwin hired a crane operator to move it from the man’s property, where it had been used to store feed for cattle. She spent a year renovating the car, removing rotten wood, cleaning off the many years of oats and hay stuck to the walls, and then adding the foundation, plumbing, and electricity. Kerwin says her initial inspiration for the cabin came from her grandchildren, who loved the children’s book series The Boxcar Children. In 2008, she started renting it out to others.

Today, the renovated rail car is a great base for enjoying all that Glen Rose has to offer. Country Woods’ on-site farm is home to horses, pigs, donkeys, goats, and sheep. Kids love brushing and feeding the animals and trying to catch the bunnies in the petting area. In the summer, families can cool off in the Paluxy River, which flows alongside the property. Nearby attractions like the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center and Dinosaur Valley State Park make great daytime excursions.

Starting rate: $200/night.
817-279-3002
countrywoodsinn.com

Relax on the rails at the All Aboard Suite in San Antonio. Photo: Eric W. Pohl

All Aboard Suite, San Antonio

This converted boxcar, located in the Olmos Park area of San Antonio, provides an opportunity to experience train lodging in an urban setting. The suite sleeps up to four guests, and families are welcome.

“Trains are expensive, and I wanted to give people who liked trains the opportunity to stay somewhere different.”

“I love trains,” owner Sylvia Toscano says. “I’ve always lived close to a train station.” Toscano previously operated a deli out of the same rail car, but by 2017 she was ready for a new adventure. A lifelong train aficionado, Toscano drew inspiration from a train journey she once took from California back home to Texas. “Trains are expensive,” she explains, “and I wanted to give people who liked trains the opportunity to stay somewhere different.”

Toscano opened All Aboard Suite in 2018 after several months of renovating and decorating with memorabilia inspired by old train movies. The final touch? The boxcar is located along a rail line, so guests can listen to the trains pass by in the night. “It’s not your typical Airbnb,” Toscano says with a laugh.

Starting rate: $80/night.
vrbo.com

All Aboard Suite, San Antonio

This converted boxcar, located in the Olmos Park area of San Antonio, provides an opportunity to experience train lodging in an urban setting. The suite sleeps up to four guests, and families are welcome.

“Trains are expensive, and I wanted to give people who liked trains the opportunity to stay somewhere different.”

“I love trains,” owner Sylvia Toscano says. “I’ve always lived close to a train station.” Toscano previously operated a deli out of the same rail car, but by 2017 she was ready for a new adventure. A lifelong train aficionado, Toscano drew inspiration from a train journey she once took from California back home to Texas. “Trains are expensive,” she explains, “and I wanted to give people who liked trains the opportunity to stay somewhere different.”

Toscano opened All Aboard Suite in 2018 after several months of renovating and decorating with memorabilia inspired by old train movies. The final touch? The boxcar is located along a rail line, so guests can listen to the trains pass by in the night. “It’s not your typical Airbnb,” Toscano says with a laugh.

Starting rate: $80/night.
vrbo.com

the vintage Pullman Palace Car in Fredericksburg is modern and stylish on the inside. Photo: Eric W. Pohl

1894 Private Pullman Palace Car, Fredericksburg

The Pullman Palace Car offers a slice of railroad history in central Fredericksburg perfect for couples or solo travelers. While it includes modern amenities, the car maintains the feel of old-time luxury and romance. It also brings a touch of history and is rumored to have been used on President Theodore Roosevelt’s famed wolf-hunting trip in Oklahoma. Today, the train’s décor features many Roosevelt-themed items and antiques.

Fischer & Wieser Specialty Foods, a local retailer of gourmet jellies and sauces, has operated the Pullman car as an alternative bed and breakfast for about 15 years. In lieu of breakfast, the shop gives its guests vouchers for its nearby store.

“Most guests really enjoy experiencing what it might have been like to ride on a private car,” company founder Mark Wieser says.

Starting rate: $225/night.
800-369-9257
redericksburg-lodging.com

Photo: Kevin Stillman

The Antlers Inn, Kingsland

The Antlers Hotel opened in 1901 to serve visitors arriving by rail, and it has retained its railroad feel with a café decorated with train photos and a depot that has been converted into a cabin. While the suites in the historical hotel building are for ages 16 and up only, children and families are welcome to stay in the train cars and cabin.

These three cabooses and a single wooden rail car were all working railroad cars but have been renovated and outfitted with families in mind. Each caboose has its original cupola, giving visitors a taste of the real conductor experience. The cabooses sleep two adults and two children, and the coach can accommodate four adults and two kids, making these spacious, memorable, and fun options for the whole family.

Starting rate: $130/night.
325-388-4411
theantlers.com

The Antlers Inn, Kingsland

The Antlers Hotel opened in 1901 to serve visitors arriving by rail, and it has retained its railroad feel with a café decorated with train photos and a depot that has been converted into a cabin. While the suites in the historical hotel building are for ages 16 and up only, children and families are welcome to stay in the train cars and cabin.

These three cabooses and a single wooden rail car were all working railroad cars but have been renovated and outfitted with families in mind. Each caboose has its original cupola, giving visitors a taste of the real conductor experience. The cabooses sleep two adults and two children, and the coach can accommodate four adults and two kids, making these spacious, memorable, and fun options for the whole family.

Starting rate: $130/night.
325-388-4411
theantlers.com

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From the August 2019 issue

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