Heart of Louisiana: La Caboose
(WVUE) - A lot of folks have been fascinated with trains since they were kids. But not everyone has had the chance to spend the night in one. If you can get to the tiny Southwest Louisiana village of Sunset, you can get a bed in a caboose or a mail car at La Caboose.
Margaret Brinkhaus never had too much interest in trains. In fact, the only time she rode one was when she went off to college in St. Louis. Since then, her time has been filled with raising seven kids and painting and turning gourds into works of art in her backyard studio.
"I call it my 'gourdian angel,'" she said.
Then came the trains. This whole train thing started about 25 years ago, when Margaret's husband, Armand Brinkhaus, was a member of the Louisiana State Legislature. The railroads wanted to phase out the caboose. But then-state Sen. Armand Brinkhaus tried to pass a law to keep that from happening. The railroads won.
"And he heard some of the men saying they wanted to buy one," Margaret said. "And he said, 'well I'd like one too for an outdoor kitchen.' We waited 10 years before we got it. He never did get his outdoor kitchen. It was my studio when I was doing oil painting."
That caboose was a little banged up and needed a lot of TLC.
"There were no windows, no doors. We had to have all that made," Maragaret said. "There was no potbellied stove."
Then Margaret got a second rail car – one that was used for hauling mail and passengers.
"The area up to this sliding door was where they would distribute the mail from," she said. "They would throw the sack of mail out onto the ground, and there was a big hook that they used to grab a sack of mail if there was outgoing mail."
That's when the train bed and breakfast began taking shape. It includes this building that Margaret bought decades ago for storage and later learned it was the train depot in her hometown of Sunset, built by the same person who built the Brinkhaus family home in 1904.
And rounding out the train collection is a ticket office.
"We think that it was set right beside the depot in Lafayette at one time because the architecture of the ticket office and the depot in Lafayette are identical," Margaret said.
The train B&B compound is surrounded by another one of Margaret's hobbies - gardening.
"This is what you call deadheading, taking the buds off," she said.
This area is a certified wildlife backyard habitat loaded with native Louisiana plants and flowers that provide a colorful framework for this life-size train set.
"People don't want to stay in hotels anymore," Margaret said. "They just want more privacy and just a place to come and relax and just be themselves."
And there is the novelty of sleeping in an old railroad car or train depot, without modern distractions, where you can get away from it all without ever leaving the station.
But you will have to unplug. At La Caboose, the train accommodations come without TV or wifi.
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