Couple buying train cabooses, turning them into Xenia Airbnbs

Serial entrepreneurs and husband and wife duo Ray and Karen DeVite plan to open the first of them later this year.

On the site of an old junkyard near the city’s Hub District, a couple of serial entrepreneurs is turning old train cabooses into unusual AirBnbs, in a bid to spark revitalization in the east part of Xenia.

Ray and Karen DeVite are turning a series of train cars — so far a bright yellow 1970 Chessie System caboose and a red Nickel Plate caboose — into a pair of unique Airbnbs, located at 72 Hill Street.

The pair have approval from the city to put up to five train cars on the site next to the bike path.

“A lot of people might think we’re crazy,” Ray DeVite said. “Somebody has to take this step, to be a spark.”

The DeVites originally planned to construct a series of unique AirBnBs using shipping containers, but the previous industrial use of the site precluded that idea. Then Karen stumbled across the first vintage train caboose — for sale on Facebook Marketplace.

“I just put in ‘train’ thinking that I’d get some lights or lanterns or photos,” Karen said.

The DeVites purchased the first caboose and hired a company to ship it from Cedarville. The second caboose, the Nickel Plate, was purchased from West Lafayette, Indiana, and was previously owned by the Indiana Transportation Museum in Noblesville.

Once completed, the Chessie System caboose will have three beds, a kitchen, and bathroom, as well as a small porch with outdoor seating, and similar renovations are planned for the Nickel Plate caboose. However, the DeVites chose to keep several elements of the original caboose, including the stamped serial numbers on the inside of the car, and handrails along the ceiling.

“If you go online, there are pictures of other people that have converted cabooses into Airbnbs ... you still felt like you were in a kind of apartment, and not a train. And the number of train enthusiasts that want to stay here is incredible,” Ray said.

The first caboose is planned to be available for bookings as early as this summer, and may draw customers from visitors to Central State University, Wilberforce University, Athletes in Action, or cyclists along the Ohio to Erie bike trail, which runs through Xenia.

Right now, Ohio to Erie cyclists have few lodging options when riding the trails, Ray said.

“They can go out to Progress (Drive), to Hampton, and there’s a few Airbnbs in town, but this way, you can stay right next to the trail,” he said.

The site was considered a brownfield, previously used to store oil tankers associated with the nearby railroad, and later became a junkyard. The train cars are a unique solution, as the cars are high enough off the ground to prevent any contaminants from previous industrial uses, per city planning documents.

The DeVites have established other business ventures in east Xenia, including opening a CrossFit gym there last year.

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