Train carriages have been transformed into hotels, restaurants, bookstores, houseboats, museums and more, with the trend involving trains which have origins dating back to World War II. The quirky transformations below highlight the endless possibilities when it comes to putting new life into train carriages. 

1) Most recently, The Llanelli and Mynydd Mawr Railway (LMMR) set the intention of converting a Class 153 single-car diesel multiple unit into a café and meeting room which will be located in Cynheidre in Wales. Transport for Wales Rail, which acquired the East Midlands trains, and Chrysalis Rail have made the bodyshell available for this project and it arrived at Cynheidre on 6 January this year.

East Midlands Trains Class 153 no. 153374 Credit: Damon Powell, 2007 via Wikimedia Commons.

These plans will focus on the interior of the bodyshell to ensure it is suitable for a railway themed community café. The nearby Llanelli to Cross Hands National Cycle Network path will bring members of the public and cyclists to the café.

2) Village Underground is a venue in Shoreditch in East London which inspires a community of artists and start-ups. Four Jubilee line tube carriages and shipping containers which were converted into workspaces sit on top of an old railway viaduct. The old Victorian warehouse next to the viaduct was refurbished and converted into the main venue.

Village Underground music venue in Shoreditch. Credit: Claudio Divizia /

In addition, energy company Ecotricity provides Village Underground with 100% green energy. The ecological project also reached Lisbon, with the VU Lisboa music venue also built from recycled shipping containers using a range of eco-design features.

3) French bookstore, La Caverne aux Livres (The Cave of Books), is located in Auvers-sur-Oise inside a decommissioned SNCF wagon. Renovations began in 2017, ensuring that the wagon was ready to be home to a number of second-hand books.

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La Caverne aux Livres. Alexandre Duret-Lutz from Paris, France, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Auvers-sur-Oise is known as the village of painters due to the presence of Van Gogh, Daubigny, Corot, Morisot, Pearce, Renoir, the Douanier Rousseau, Pissarro and Cézanne at times where they were struck by inspiration for paintings. Isabelle Mézières, the mayor, hopes that the wagon and others will be classified as historical monuments.

4) Converted third class smoking carriage once functioned on the South East and Chatham Railway but is now a cottage in Kent. Located within a 468-acre nature reserve, the cottage is now available to be booked for a stay by the owners and Holiday Cottages.

Stonihoe in Dungeness

In the 1930s, the Southern Railway kept old carriages and later offered them for use as holiday homes. The bodies of the vehicles were lifted from the wheels. The holiday homes, including Stonihoe, are situated on what used to be the railway loop.

5) Point Lookout in the US received an artificial reef as a result of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to repurpose rail cars which were taking up space on railroad tracks. The rail cars were provided by Wells Fargo and distributed into the Atlantic a few miles offshore from Point Lookout.

NYC subway cars used as artificial reef. Credit: Scdnr, CC BY-SA 3.0.

It is expected that the debris will attract fish and other marine life. Local economies will benefit from the increase in tourism and commercial fishing.