Solar Powered Caboose

Captive Caboose with Solar Panel
Dave M.'s new captive caboose--you can just barely see the solar panel on top--it's tilted back into summer position.
Our friend Dave M. just bought this caboose near Otherpower HQ, and the beautiful acres surrounding it! He set up a quick and inexpensive solar power system to get electrified quickly, since he's living it full-time. Everything's working great--and we believe this is the first time there's been electricity in this caboose since it was built in 1913! It was one of the last wooden cabooses in service when it was retired in 1962 by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. It was moved up to the mountains as a vacation cabin sometime in the 60s. It appears that all previous owners have used kerosene or gas lamps--there was no wiring at all.

The new power system consists of:

  • 1 x 105 Watt PhotoWatt PW-1000 solar panels.
  • 4 x Golf Cart batteries, 6 volt, connected in series/parallel for a 12 volt system.
  • 1 x 350 watt Chinese inverter.
  • 10 foot diameter wind turbine from

That's it! But it works great, and serves his needs. Wiring for 120 volts AC from the inverter is in progress. Presently he runs lights, a stereo and a full-size computer from the system. There's no charge controller--the power input and use are very well balanced at this time, and 100 Watts of input all day into a fully-charged battery bank this size would cause no damage, as long as the batteries are watered regularly.

Cleaning dust off the panel
Dave cleaning dust from the dirt road off of the panel...

Battery Bank
The battery bank, with 4 golf cart batteries. Can anyone spot the safety hazard here? (sorry Dave, couldn't resist...) It has to do with the awl and the jumper cable clamps that connect to the inverter! He's fixed it by now I bet.

View of cupola
View looking up into the cupola from below. The batteries are located in the compartment underneath the cupola seats, just below the unpainted plywood panel. Note the original cabinetry, and metal step bracket!

Original D&RGW woodstove
It still has the original D+RGW coal stove! It looks like previous owners have tried to remove the stove, but it is bolted to a concrete base, bolted to the car floor. Dave is glad they left it--it's a gorgeous vintage stove. Also note how it would be hard to burn wood in this stove--the only openings for loading are the 2 discs on top. Fortunately, coal is cheap and available in Colorado, and it works great. The wood piled by the stove is NOT a safety hazard--it's been hot and dry for weeks up here, and nobody has fired up a woodstove since spring!

D&RGW mark on stove top
Denver and Rio Grande Western logo on the stove top!

We hope that Dave M.'s dirt simple and dirt cheap power system shows that you don't have to spend thousands of bucks or hire an electrical contractor to get into alternative energy! Good thing too, as the nearest power lines to this caboose are 6 miles away.