All aboard! Two Scenic Loop homes boast peculiar treasures

One is built around old train cars, the other hides a century-old trolley

BEXAR COUNTY – Nestled among the pecan trees, two Scenic Loop homes boast treasures that are off the rails. One conceals an old San Antonio streetcar, and the other stops passersby in their tracks.

“We’re going to restore them inside, back to their period, grace and glory,” said Mike Robare, the enthusiastic owner of an old train dining car and two cabooses.

They’re a curious sight because trains don’t even run through the neighborhood. Two entrepreneurs brought them to the property back in the late 1980s, according to Robare.

“They were going to build a restaurant and just really never got to it,” he said.

Robare bought the acreage and the trains a few years ago, but his fascination with the railcars goes way back.

“I first saw them in 1993 when I moved here to San Antonio and fell in love with the whole concept and thought, ‘Wow, what crazy person owns these?’” Robare said. “Well, fast forward almost 30 years, I’m that crazy guy, I guess.”

Imaginative is more like it.

“I knew the day I bought these,” he said. “I literally went home that night and drew this house.”

The house is a showstopper, designed so it appears that the train is pulling into the station.

Mike Robare's home is designed so it appears that the train is pulling into the station. (Copyright 2024 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Robare is a custom homebuilder. While the “train house” was his residence for a while, it is now becoming his showroom and office.

The interior design is what he calls industrial light.

“We really tried to keep that train station, that depot vibe,” he said.

The property is an attention-grabber.

“If a hundred people have stopped by to look and take pictures, I’d be lying,” Robare said. “It’s more than that.”

He’s already begun work restoring the blue and red cabooses.

“I’ve taken them right down to the studs,” he said. He plans to turn the cabooses into bedrooms and the dining car into a kitchen and long, narrow living room.

Mike Robare's home is designed so it appears that the train is pulling into the station. (Copyright 2024 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Robare does not describe himself as a train buff. So why do this?

“I see a lot of things being torn down that probably shouldn’t go away,” he said. “I think part of America, we’re losing touch with who we were, where we came from a little bit.”

Around the bend, Cat Olin’s 1,600-square-foot house harbors a hidden treasure — an old trolley car.

“As I was told by the previous owner, this was brought out here for $100 in 1933,” she said.

The house was built two decades later and is actually attached to the streetcar, now a room with a nostalgic groove.

“The wood in here is made of mahogany,” Olin said.

Rich wood, antique glass with visible waves, and even the push buttons to request a stop remain. It’s like stepping back in time, back to the early 1900s.

That’s when Olin’s St. Louis-built streetcar traversed the streets of downtown San Antonio, until the 1930s when electric streetcars got kicked to the curb in favor of buses.

Once the streetcar was relocated to the remote woods, Olin says it was used by hunters as a hangout.

Later, it was built into a residence. The streetcar’s doors were removed and installed as windows at the front of the house. Olin bought it a few years ago.

“I have a history of living in interesting homes,” she said.

“If I had all the money in the world, I would expose the outside of it. I’m dying to know what the exterior of it really looks like,” she said.

The old trolley car in Cat Olin’s house likely looked like this in its heyday. (Courtesy, John Kight Transportation Collection Papers, UTSA Libraries Special Collections)

The interior is definitely unique. It’s not every home that has a refrigerator at the head of an antique streetcar.

“Wow, cool, amazing” are just some of the reactions Olin said she receives from visitors.

Both Olin’s streetcar and Robare’s train cars have reached their final and unexpected destinations.

And, both owners said they intend to one day turn their properties into short-term rentals to share their treasures with others.

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About the Authors

Marilyn Moritz is an award-winning journalist dedicated to digging up information that can make people’s lives a little bit better. As KSAT’S 12 On Your Side Consumer reporter, she focuses on exposing scams and dangerous products and helping people save money.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.

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