Used Train Classified Ads Derailed My Workday, and I Don’t Mind

Did you know you can just buy a locomotive? And nobody can stop you?

byJames Gilboy|
EMD F7A in the Minnesota Zephyr livery
Used EMD F7A locomotive for sale via Ozark Mountain Railcar.


I had to stop looking at used car ads because it was too discouraging to see deals of a lifetime pass me by. For some reason though, I haven't developed the same problem reading ads for used railroad equipment—even though they're giving me ideas that would make my HOA even madder.

I blame Ozark Mountain Railcar, a broker for used railroad equipment whose newsletter I subscribe to. I originally signed up with the notion that I'd buy an old caboose, renovate its interior, and live out of it on the coast of Oregon like some bourgie hobo-dandy (if that's a thing). Cabooses are really small though, so I started looking at used passenger cars and watched my ambitions grow. I thought an interior fancier than drywall was beyond my means, but now that I know I can get a Pullman-built sleeper with a dark wood-paneled lounge for less than some prefab homes cost. Well, let's just say I'll stand out in the mobile home park.

That's only scratching the surface, too, as I sometimes see vintage dome cars come up for sale, and they'd make killer dining rooms. I've thought about hitching one to an old stationary locomotive (like this EMD F7) to use its cab as an office and gutting its engine room to use as a weight room. All this is beyond perilous to my finances, of course, and I can imagine the conversation I'd have trying to secure a mortgage to pay for any of this.

That said, it isn't nearly the most trouble that used railroad equipment could get me into. I'd find it much more quickly in the sections where they list used hi-rail trucks and speeders—you know, those wacky machines they use for track maintenance. I'd cop one of the speeders to ride down abandoned rail lines, and find places to camp. With my luck, though, I'd find out the hard way that the line I chose wasn't abandoned, and the best-case outcome of that discovery is a misdemeanor. The worst, well, I wouldn't be the first person that's been scraped off the front of an EMD SD70.

Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here:

CultureFor Sale