Historical Desert San Diego
and Arizona Railroad

The Impossible Railroad and Carrizo Gorge

Map of rail route

The San Diego and Arizona Railroad opened the first modern line between San Diego and the East. The railroad was one of the most expensive ever built in the U.S., costing almost $19 million in 1919. In the Carrizo Gorge, the railroad crosses 14 trestles and goes through 21 tunnels in only 11 miles. From San Diego to El Centro, the railroad rises and falls over 3,700 feet. If ever there was a monument to a builder, the San Diego and Arizona Railroad speaks of the energy, skill and determination of John D. Spreckles and his men, the last of the great railroad builders.

Train Tracks
From the Sacatone Overlook in MaCain Valley you can view Carrizo Gorge RR tracks

Railroad Timeline

1873: Population of San Diego 5,000.

1887: Sugar millionaire John D. Spreckles sails to San Diego.

1907: Population of San Diego tops 35,000. Spreckles begins construction of railroad.

1911: Imperial County is created. Mexican Revolution.

1916: Heavy flooding.

1919: First passenger train from El Centro to San Diego.

1920: Avalanche in gorge.

1930: Population of San Diego reaches 148,000.

1932: A four-day fire collapses one tunnel, landslide closes another, a third destroyed by fire.

1940: Population of San Diego reaches 203,000.

1942: U.S. Army patrols railroad for saboteurs.

1951: Last passenger train.

1976: Hurricane Kathleen does heavy damage in Carrizo Gorge. Railroad almost abandons route.

1982: Line closed by storm damage.

1984: Line Closed.

2004: Line reopened, tunnel repaired. Started frieght service to Plaster City.

2008: Line in operation see Ride the Impossible Railway

2009: Tunnel 3 (Lindero) is damaged by a fire.

2011: Carrizo Gorge Railway, Inc (CZRY) discontinued operations of the Tijuana-Tecate segment by the end of 2011.

2012: The SD&AE entered into a 50 year operating lease with the Pacific Imperial Railroad company for freight trains. With this lease, the operating rights of CZRY ended.

2013: They are trying to get the trains back in operation.

Box Cars in Canyon

The two box cars over the side of the Gorge, north of Goat Canyon are SP box cars.
They are empty.
Happened in the late 70s.

Water tower
Old water tower on the way to Ocotillo, Ca.

Other Related DesertUSA Resources

A Ride on the Impossible Railway
McCain Valley Resource Conservation Area
McCain Valley Recreation Area
The Buffalo Soldiers

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