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Reviewing Lancaster Pennsylvania's Best

Lancaster County's classic
Red Caboose Motel to be reborn

  Barry Zecher, 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 dare.

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 unattended.

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 since then.

"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 (Flagler) Railway.

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 viewing tower.

DeMarco said a center for activity, such as weekend movies, will be the "shindig barn."

"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 director.

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 in June.

(This story was distributed by the Associated Press.)

Red Caboose Motel Review


Kitchen Kettle Village

Red Caboose Motel

Strasburg Railroad

Railroad Museum of PA

Linvilla Orchards

West Chester Railroad

Bird In Hand Village

Peaceful Valley Amish Furniture

Knoebels Amusement Park




Local Attractions:

Strasburg Railroad
Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
National Toy Train Museum
AAA Buggy Rides
Amazing Maize Maze
Sight and Sound Theater
Kitchen Kettle Village
Dutch Wonderland
The Amish Village
Choo Choo Barn
Ghost Tour of Lancaster
American Music Theater

Also if you like shopping, check out the two local outlet locations. Tanger Outlet Centers and Rockvale Square Outlets where you'll find over a hundred stores such as Nautica, Tommy Hilfiger, Lenox, Eddie Bauer, Nike, Sony, Gap, Reebok, Liz Claiborne, Harry & David, Polo Ralph Lauren and many more all at outlet prices.  Spend some time driving around the beautiful countryside and visit the local Pennsylvania Dutch shops, many off the beaten path.


From the West:
Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) East to Exit #247 (Harrisburg East). Follow Route 283 East to Lancaster to Route 30 East. Follow Route 30 East and make a right onto South Ronks Road. The Red Caboose Motel & Restaurant is 2.4 miles down on the left.

From the East:
Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-276) West to Valley Forge Exit 326. Get on Route 202 South to Route 30 West Downingtown / Chester. Follow Route 30 West for approximately 24 miles then make a left onto Route 41 then a right onto 741. Follow 741 for 7 miles and look for signs for The Red Caboose Motel & Restaurant is on the right.

From the South:
I-95 North to Baltimore to I-695 West to I-83 North. Follow I-83 North to York to Route 30 East. Continue on Route 30 East for approximately 33 miles and make a right onto 896 South. Make a left onto 741 and look for The Red Caboose Motel & Restaurant on the left in about a mile.

The Red Caboose Motel & Restaurant
312 Paradise Lane
Strasburg, PA 17579
Phone: 717-687-5000
Toll Free: 888-687-5005







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