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Author’s rail trailer tiny house stars in children’s book

Hannah Doss poses for a photo at her tiny home in Boulder City, Nev., Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. Doss bought the old railroad trailer that she and her parents converted into a tiny house. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

LAS VEGAS — When Hannah Doss bought an old railroad trailer about three years ago, she figured she could convert it into an affordable, cozy place to live — a tiny house, one of the downsized, mobile domiciles that are so popular these days.

A few months later, while transporting it to Las Vegas, Doss realized the trailer — now christened “Journey” — could be the star of a children’s book. So, the story of a railroad discard and its owner became “How Journey Came to Be a Tiny House for Me.”

Doss, who wrote the rhyming narrative and created the water-color illustrations, based the book on her experience finding and renovating a railroad camp car after finishing a master’s of business administration degree at the University of Alabama-Birmingham in April 2017. She was seeking an affordable place to live that would spare her having to share walls with noisy neighbors and find roommates off Craigslist.

Having worked for two years as an airline attendant, Doss also wanted a home that would satisfy her desire for mobility and economy. “I was just looking into a tiny house, something small and on wheels l could take wherever I moved to when I graduated.”

At a public railroad auction, she discovered a camp car once used to house and sleep railroad workers when other accommodations weren’t available.

“I said, if I could get something for $300 or less, I’ll buy it,” Doss told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She bought it for $250. “I was like, ‘OK, this is happening. No going back now.’ “

She and her family spent three months and $9,000 refurbishing the camp car.

When Doss got a job as outdoor adventure program coordinator at UNLV, they brought the car from Tennessee to Las Vegas.

Today, Journey resides, along with Doss and her dog, Banjo, in a Boulder City recreational vehicle park. Living in such a tiny home — Journey is 29 feet long, 8 feet wide and 8 feet tall — requires puzzling out even such basics as how to store visiting friends’ luggage. Doss avoids household items that don’t multitask, has put her former passion for collecting antiques on hold and has become creative in using the little space she has.

“I would love to have a little bit more (kitchen) counter space,” she admits. “I’ve gotten into meal prepping since I moved here, and I end up cooking in my bathroom, which seems so wrong.”

It occasionally can be claustrophobic, she says. “Sometimes, especially working remotely, when I’m here all day long every day and working on a laptop, it can get a little crazy.” But, on the upside, “I would say my stuff doesn’t own me anymore.”

Doss, who is also an artist, got the idea to write and illustrate a book about Journey during that cross-country drive to Las Vegas more than three years ago. She wrote the story in about three hours but put the project aside. Then came the pandemic lockdown when, Doss says, “I ran out of every possible thing on my to-do list.”

She revisited the story, created illustrations for it and published the book independently. It went on sale three weeks ago.

Doss now is working on a second book in what she envisions as a series that will follow Journey as she visits other states, national parks and scenic places. As with the first book, each will include activities for children and will teach kids about nature.

Her goal is to “inspire kids to travel and not be afraid to do something they’re not sure they can accomplish,” Doss says, and teach them that “through the power of teamwork and hard work, you can get stuff done you’d never really think possible.”

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