Ottumwa Life Holiday 2018 - Page 20

giving a gift that's S ome gift guide ideas sound like the stuff of fantasy; the world’s most expen- sive thingamajig or the biggest this or that. A Fairfield business hobbyist assures us, however, that your own railroad car is a real possibility. Dave Thebodo of Fairfield buys trains, restores trains and sells trains. Most importantly, Thebodo loves trains. Hang out for a few hours with the man, and you may catch the fever. “First, if you are going to buy someone a train car as a gift, it’s probably not going to be a sur- prise,” he said. It may seem ironic, but the most difficult part of getting someone a train car is transporting it. “These older cars can no longer [travel by] rail,” he said, pointing out a few of the older cabooses. “They would need regular [inspection paperwork], and it just doesn’t make financial sense.” Especially because those old cabooses aren’t going to be used as “private travel rail cars.” They’ve become small buildings. There are a bunch of them at Thebodo’s work place: Rail Merchants International is at the rail station he owns near a warehouse and old train depot off Broadway in Fairfield. 20 HOLIDAY! Take me home! Train gifts may require a lot of planning STORY AND PHOTOS BY MARK NEWMAN The last caboose Thebodo and his welder worked on was meant to become a business. Who wouldn’t want to go get an ice cream cone from a genuine, bright red train caboose? When part of a business plan, Thebodo said a small car like a caboose is a very realistic pur- chase; it can be the retail shop, or part of it, as well as a great marketing tool. Cabooses start under $10,000. Depending on condition, they can be well under that — or way higher. Just keep in mind you can’t mail the thing; if you decide to keep the wheels on it (and that’s what most people want, Thebodo said), you’re looking at roughly 25 tons of steel. That also means you can’t just have a crane put it on your wet lawn. So shipping, moving into place and having a place to put it can cost thousands. One hobbyist warns to check with your local zon- ing commission before making a final decision. But it can be done — especially if you have a friend like David Thebodo. He’s thinking of a tiny house — in a caboose. There are bigger cars, too. The rarest work Dave does, however, is also the priciest. “Private varnish” is the term for those who purchase a piece of rolling stock that is authorized to go on the rails. Amtrak will pull one of these yachts on a rail for about $2 and charge per mile. “They can also be chartered,” Dave said. Like a boat, this alternative to an RV can get expensive — $350,000 for a more basic but comfortable private car up to a high (so far) of about $1.5 million. One trick for someone who has always wanted to spend a day on a private rail car is something called a positioning move. That’s where the owner takes the car to their home in Chicago. Rather than let it sit, it may be heading off to Denver for a corporate event with top sales