A Night on the Train: Sleeping at Canyon Motel & RV Park – Williams, Arizona

arizona trainNothing says nostalgia like spending the night on an authentic 1929 Santa Fe caboose. I love train travel, so when given the opportunity to spend the night in an old-school train car, I jumped at it. I could have chosen any random hotel in which to rest my head, but I love quirky stuff, so why not hop on board for something a bit non-traditional?

Williams, Arizona, sits on Historic Route 66. I’ve visited portions of this famous byway in Winslow, Arizona, as well as other towns, but Williams is steeped in the nostalgia that defines Route 66. The entire accommodation park at Canyon Motel & RV Park exudes this vintage vibe, and while the interior of our caboose was more heavily focused on train culture, there were certainly traces of Route 66 around the entire property.

So what is it like to stay in a caboose? In one word: Interesting. In a few more words: Unique, but a bit awkward. A train car, by its very nature, has a very defined shape, and that pre-defined shape leaves few options for arranging furniture and creating an environment that works well as an overnight accommodation. Caboose #1, which was our train car, can technically fit six people. There is a full-sized bed immediately upon entering the car. A tight hallway leads toward the back of the car, where a queen-sized bunk bed could fit an additional four people (two on the bottom, two on the top). A small bathroom with a shower fits between the two rooms of the car.

A few things I loved about staying at Canyon Motel & RV Park and in Caboose #1:

>    It’s unique. There’s no doubt about it: The very idea of staying overnight in a train car is very cool.
>    It has a community atmosphere. Guests staying in the RV park, motel and cabooses are invited to use the swimming pool and gather around a campfire in the evenings.
>    It was cold when we arrived in our caboose—about 60 degrees according to the thermostat—but it warmed up fast when we turned the heat on.
>   Everything in Williams is a little worn around the edges, but in a way, it is endearing. Paint is peeling, but not to the point of disrepair. Quirks appear in unexpected places but in a way that doesn’t inhibit an experience.
>    This is a family-run and -owned business that has established relationships with other local businesses and therefore offers discounts at some restaurants. Also, Williams only has about 7,000 residents, and the owners of Canyon Motel & RV Park know where everything is and anything you might want to know about the town and surrounding area.

A few things that could use improvement:

>    It was very hard to find the network for internet access. Once we found the one corner in our caboose that picked it up, the password we were given didn’t work. By the time we discovered this, it was after hours, and we didn’t want to disturb the folks working on call in the office, so we went without internet access. I have no hard feelings about having the wrong wifi code—we could have asked for the code after hours—but advertising free internet access and then having sketchy service to back up the claim isn’t good. I had planned to log in to do a bit of work while staying there, but wasn’t able to.
>    It would have been nice to have a place to hang out in our caboose. Perhaps instead of a queen-sized bunk bed, they could put a twin bunk bed in and then place a small table in the back of the car. There is ample space on the outside deck and around the grounds to hang out, but it was 40 degrees when we visited, and we wanted to hunker down somewhere warm to play cards and hang out, but the interior of our caboose didn’t provide enough space to do this.
>    You pay for the privilege to stay in the caboose. The price to stay in Caboose #1 changes seasonally. I received a media rate discount so I did not pay the full price, but I always ask myself if the average retail price is worth it, and I’m not sure that’s the case with this. Yes, this is a unique experience and you’re paying for that experience, but the amenities and accommodations themselves don’t necessarily fit the price tag.

So would I stay at Canyon Motel & RV Park again? Maybe, under the right circumstances. We were traveling with our foreign exchange student at the time of our stay, and it was a novel experience that can’t be found elsewhere. If we were traveling with other people who would appreciate such an unusual lodging experience, we might consider rebooking a caboose while passing through Williams. And if it were summertime when we could appreciate some of the amenities on the ground, maybe. But if my husband and I were traveling on our own and just needed a place to stay, we’d likely pass it up for something cheaper, even if it lacked the nostalgic charm.

I paid a media rate at Canyon Motel & RV Park, but all opinions are my own.

6 Responses to “A Night on the Train: Sleeping at Canyon Motel & RV Park – Williams, Arizona”

  1. Jill

    This sounds like fun if you’ve got the $$$. If I was traveling with kids and expected space for 6 and ended up with no place to “hang out”, I would not be happy.

    • JoAnna

      It’s a trade off, I guess. Space or experience. Like I said, we’d think twice before staying here again.

  2. Sophie

    How fun – I love quirky sleeps, and have a shipping container coming up.

    • JoAnna

      I’ve had some great quirky sleeps, though this one wasn’t my favorite.

  3. Gray

    My first thought when I read the opening paragraph was “COOL!” But sometimes the idea of sleeping in a caboose is different from the reality, and it sounds like that was the case here. I suspect you’re probably right about it being a different experience in warmer weather, when you can be outside more. That is the RV experience as I know it. You don’t spend a lot of time inside the RV, it’s about enjoying the great outdoors. But the weather has to cooperate!

    • JoAnna

      Great comparison with the RV, Gray. I think you’re right – it’s not about where you sleep but the experience.


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