Junked Cars, Trains, and Tractors Among the California Redwoods

A fun discovery while we spent a night in an old train caboose.

Elana Scherrwriter, photographer

Just above Silicon Valley is an area you could call the iron mountains; it's a place you expect would be full of techies on carbon-fiber mountain bikes with solar-powered cellphone boosters. But as you wind through the hills, you come to places with no cellular data connection at all, and here, west of San Jose, in the redwood-covered hills near Saratoga, California, we came across a bonanza of moss-covered machinery.

We'd booked a room at the Redwood Caboose, an AirBnB made out of, well, an antique train caboose. The caboose is part of a collection of train and tractor parts hauled up the mountain by a retired dentist named Pat. Back in the 1970s, Pat called the train company to inquire about purchasing an old way car, also known as a caboose. "Sure," said the lady on the phone. "How many do you want?" Pat bought two, and they've served as playthings for his kids and housing for his friends. Along with the train cars, Pat has a few hit-and-miss engines, a Case tractor, and various small construction vehicles, some running and some in decay. "Sometimes I just get a need for something," he told us, gesturing to a 20-hp Fairbanks-Morse stationary engine.

Pat obviously wasn't the only person on the mountain with a collector's eye. We went for a wander on the surrounding trails and found an overgrown hilltop littered with VW vans, Dodge trucks, a big Lincoln, dirt bikes, and home appliances. It looked like a parking lot in 1978 had tumbled down a cliff and everything had been left where it fell. So, basically, junk-car heaven.

Later we asked Pat about his car-collecting neighbor. "Oh, him," he said. "He can't turn down anything free and interesting, so it all ends up on his property." Then he whistled to his dog Gus, and the two of them walked up the hill toward the cabin, passing under a disco ball and walking past a suit of armor and steel dinosaur. Seems someone else is into interesting stuff, too.

Wanna stay at Pat's place? Check out the Caboose in the Redwoods. Wanna see all the stuff in the woods? Click through the gallery below.

A version of this story originally appeared on HOT ROD.