Easy living in a railroad caboose

Jason and Amy Luckey spent the first two years of their 10-year marriage in the unlikeliest of abodes, a railroad caboose. Luckey was still single, working on the farm and living with his parents when he spotted a caboose for sale while traveling through Missouri one afternoon. Determined to achieve more independence from his parents, Luckey wondered if it was possible to remodel the caboose into living quarters.

After researching the possibility, Luckey ended up purchasing an Illinois Central caboose which was little larger than the one he found in Missouri. His father, convinced that his son's quest perhaps wasn't on the right track, suggested that it be placed on the farm's headquarters. “He figured when I got the idea out of my system, it could be used for feed storage or something.”

Luckey began to remodel the caboose, which is 50 feet long from buckle to buckle and contains about 400 square feet of living space, about the size of a small shotgun shack. “There's a lot more room in there than you would think.”

The caboose has a kitchen, a wood stove and a twin bed which fits perfectly in the caboose's cupola. The couch in the den has a foldout bed.

As the caboose morphed from the drawing board to final product, Luckey's father soon was on board. When Luckey started looking for a window unit air-conditioner, Rege insisted that he needed central heat and cooling.

When Luckey first starting dating Amy, “The first night we went on a blind date, all she knew about was that I lived in a caboose and raised some pigs,” Luckey said, laughing. But soon they found that they both had a passion for music — Luckey plays the piano while Amy is a music teacher.

Luckey lived in the caboose for eight years, six as single person and two while married to Amy. After the Luckeys moved into a larger home as their family expanded, several nephews took turns living there while working on the farm.

Luckey's caboose has been featured in numerous newspaper and magazine articles. Luckey says he receives calls all the time from people wanting advice on remodeling cabooses.

Luckey said quite a few retired railroad engineers have also stopped by the farm to check out his remodeling job. The engineers tell him that two factors spelled the end of the caboose and its conductor. One, GPS tracking allows the train engineer to determine the exact position of the end of the train relative to landmarks. Two, a big part of the job for the train crew in the caboose was to check for fires caused by overheated wheel bearings. Today's wheel bearings are much more dependable and less likely to overheat.

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