Staycation Showcases: Converted caboose

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 6:26 PM EDT
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CARRABASSET VALLEY, Maine (WABI) - Lodging in Maine comes in many forms, including the increasing popularity of Airbnbs.

And it turns out there are some unique ones up for grabs.

All this month, Joy Hollowell is showcasing Staycations in our state.

We head to Sugarloaf Mountain to check out a converted caboose.

It’s been about a century since any trains came into Carrabasset Valley.

So, it may surprise visitors to Sugarloaf when they see this bright red caboose perched on the side of the mountain.

Johanna Fowler purchased the property from a former ski patroller.

“The owner, Rex Harper, wanted to hear a description of each person so he could decide,” explains Fowler. “And I told him I was a waitress, and it was my first house, and he picked me. I wasn’t the highest bidder, so I thought that was pretty magical.”

The caboose is part of the Maine Central Railway. It operated back in the late 1800s into the early 1900s.

“All the air brakes are original,” says Fowler. “They’re all hooked up so if I want to take it out on the road,” she adds jokingly.

The caboose arrived at this spot in 1970. By the time Fowler acquired it, the boxcar was badly in need of repair.

“It took me seven years to restore it,” she says. “The roofs are all replaced because this is a wooden caboose which is very rare.”

It took 80 pads just to sand down the floor.

Along the way, Fowler discovered this out of commission caboose still has a huge following.

“This really nice man who’s a neighbor, Mike was always walking by,” recalls Fowler. “He came to me one day and said, ‘I’m pretty sure I worked in your caboose.’”

The next day, Mike returned with two of the train’s original lanterns.

“One time I came back to the caboose, and I found this key on my bar with this note and it said, ‘this is a key that fits the caboose door,’” says Fowler, reading from the letter she now has framed in the caboose. “It’s a key I found amongst my father’s things when he died years ago. One of the magical things that has happened to me here.”

In 2006, Fowler started renting out the caboose.

“This is where all the dishes are,” she says, pointing to a side hatch in the unit.

Fowler has worked hard to give guests a taste of the train life.

“This is the cupola where the engineer would sit and look down the track to see if another train was coming,” says Fowler, pointing out the window. “If you’re sitting up here, is you must wear a hat.”

Last march, Fowler was laid off from her waitress job in Southern Maine during the height of the pandemic.

“This caboose kept me in business,” she says. “I was getting requests every week actually when it’s usually my down season in the spring and summer.”

Prices to stay range from $150 to $250 a night. Fowler says many of her repeat customers are from Maine.

“I’ve had amazing people come and stay,” she says.

For more information on staying at the Red Caboose on Sugarloaf, log onto

Other stories in this series:

Maine treehouse

Comfy Dome

Historic canoe shop

Goose Rocks Lighthouse

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