Reviewing Lancaster Pennsylvania's Best
Lancaster County's classic
Red Caboose Motel to be reborn
Intelligencer Journal via AP
Larry DeMarco, new owner of
the Red Caboose Motel, stands outside some of the dozens
of railroad cabooses that will be available for overnight
lodging when the motel reopens in June.
Monday, April 11, 2005
By Patrick Burns, Lancaster Intelligencer Journal
PARADISE, Lancaster County -- Following
a series of derailments, the 35-year-old Red Caboose Motel is on
track for a spring comeback.
Larry DeMarco of Philadelphia has agreed to
purchase the troubled Paradise Township motel and has already
begun renovating the tourist attraction, in which dozens of
authentic 25-ton cabooses have been converted into motel rooms.
DeMarco says he was attracted by Lancaster
County's deep spiritual heritage and a lifelong dream of owning
a home-away-from-home for visitors.
"I enjoy the kids, and I'm looking forward to
seeing families out here enjoying the trains and enjoying
something as unique as this," DeMarco said.
Don Denlinger opened the motel in 1970, on a
He said that in 1969 an old school chum dared
him to bid on 19 old cabooses being auctioned off by the
Pennsylvania Rail Road. Denlinger submitted a bid that was lower
than the estimated scrap value of the cars.
He had no idea he was the high bidder for six
months. That was when a railroad representative called and told
him he was being fined for every day his cabooses sat
Denlinger now jokes that he was "railroaded"
into the business, which he operated for many years.
DeMarco said he found the property while
searching the Internet and made a call to Lancaster real estate
agent Don Henry, who captured his imagination with a brief
history of the motel.
DeMarco, 44, has consulted with Denlinger
"I'd like to bring Don back; he's a good
Christian man," DeMarco said. "I think it's important to have
people who know the history and care about the place."
DeMarco plans to remodel about 40 of the
25-ton N-5 cabooses and revamp the kitchen, which will be
operated by Philadelphia restaurant owner Joe Tate.
He also plans to add caboose rooms to the
Denlinger collection, which includes cars from old companies
such as Illinois Central, Great Northern and Florida East Coast
The motel previously offered a variety of
rooms: a family caboose, with a double bed and four bunks;
efficiency caboose, with a double bed, four bunks and a
kitchenette; and a caboose suite, with a queen bed and love seat
or two double beds, plus a microwave and refrigerator.
Plans include the installation of a 50-seat
deck and playground in the front of the property, plus a snack
bar, a petting zoo and updated game room, picnic areas and
said a center for activity, such as weekend movies, will be the
"Being a city man, I don't know what a shindig
is, but I want to make this more family oriented and fun for the
kids," DeMarco said.
He said he also wants to invite church youth
groups for winter retreats.
"My goals also have ministry purposes, too. I
want to use it for God's glory, so kids can come out here and
see the beauty of God's country."
DeMarco arrived at the motel last week with a
crew of vendors, builders, a restaurant manager and other
associates. DeMarco said the total cost of purchasing and
remodeling the attraction will be about $2 million.
It's the first venture into the hospitality
business for DeMarco, who grew up in the Philadelphia projects.
He launched an exterminating business when he graduated from
high school then began investing in rental properties in
Northeast Philadelphia. His real estate success allowed him to
take time off and devote six years to the Cavalry Christian
Academy Church in Philadelphia, where he served as athletic
DeMarco sold off about a quarter of his 40
rental properties to purchase the nearly 7-acre property. He
intends to manage the business with his wife, Katherine, and
live in Lancaster County part time.
The motel is presently owned by Susquehanna
Bank, which took the property in a foreclosure from former
owners L. Wayne Jackson and Scott Fix. Ownership will be
transferred to DeMarco on Friday.
The bank hired a management company to keep
the Red Caboose gift shop open. DeMarco said the restaurant
should reopen by May 1, and the motel should be accepting guests
(This story was distributed by the Associated
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