Who would have imagined that old railway carriages could be transformed into a stunning, elegant off-grid home?
This vision is far-fetched but was realized by a couple 8 years after discovering the old railways in the Central Otago region in the South Island of New Zealand. The South Island couple Mandy and Daman Groshinki wanted a new home close to Haast and apparently near the sea. This was when they discovered the old railway carriages rotting on the same property they were planning to purchase.
In the spur of the moment, Mandy thought about the possibility of renovating the carriages and turning them into an off grid home. “The trains found us, not the other way around,” Mandy says. As they drove through Maniototo that foggy day, they found something that would break any person’s heart. The carriages were lonely; the roofs were tattered and the windows were broken. The carriages have been a home to mice and birds but this did not stop them from looking at the entire area.
The fog was thick and they could hardly see the ends of the carriages. After everything they saw, they still decided to buy the old railway carriages and take a chance on them. Two weeks later, they asked a builder friend to assess the property’s damage and he suggested they buy the property for the stunning views. “From over the fence, we overheard the neighbour says ‘those carriages aren’t even worth a stick of dynamite,’” Mandy says. “I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Most of our friends thought we were mad and I admit I did question it myself at times.”
Despite all the scepticisms they got and the doubts they had about the conversion, they still pursued it and after 8 years of hard work and patience, they could finally tell themselves they found a “paradise.”
Though Mandy was an occupational therapist and did not have training in design, she had a knack for excellent interior decorating, which helped them achieve their goals for their new home. According to Mandy, “We wanted to do justice to the trains but we had to do it on a shoestring so it meant thinking outside the square.”
Mandy also recalled their first few visits and the hurdles they had to face. “We concentrated on the main carriage and on somewhere to sleep. Mainly it was the rear of the carriage, originally the old kitchen with the most disgusting purple and yellow sink, screeds of bird shit, dead birds everywhere and mold,” Mandy says.
The couple went through a lot of difficulties but they worked hard together for this wonderful and extraordinary project. “We were the masters of lists. Daman would do the major reconstruction work and I would arrive to sand, clean and paint. I hate to think how many tubes of sealant I went through,” says Mandy.
Daman, on the one hand, was amazed by how they had the luxury to relax and have fun after a hard day’s work. “Building the deck changed everything. We had somewhere to sit with mates, to drink home-brewed cider and watched the sunset,” Daman says.
Today, the couple is enjoying the fruit of their hard work: a beautifully-restored off grid home complete with kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, dining room and lounges. They are now able to enjoy the stunning views of the mountains every day and wake up to a comfy and lovely home. Because the property is located in a remote area, they do not have access to city power and water supply, and only rely on a small solar system and rainwater, making the converted railways a completely off grid home.
Watch this video for a full tour of this tiny yet magnificent house: