Historical Desert San Diego and Arizona Railroad
The Impossible Railroad and Carrizo Gorge
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.
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 freight 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: Plans in the works to get the trains back in operation.
2014: No progess has been made and there are no operating trains.
2015: Pacific Imperial Railroad Announces Majority Ownership Transfer and the Appointment of CEO and President Arturo Alemany. MTS Board approves PIR’s Operational Plan by a 17-0 vote, to rehabilitate the Desert Line starting in Plaster City working eastward and constructing an intermodal terminal near Ocotillo to service the regional trucking need for an alternative connecting link to Union Pacific’s network to the east.
2016: No news as of 4/16.
Other Related DesertUSA Resources
Related DesertUSA Pages
- How to Turn Your Smartphone into a Survival Tool
- 26 Tips for Surviving in the Desert
- Death by GPS
- 7 Smartphone Apps to Improve Your Camping Experience
- Maps Parks and More
- Desert Survival Skills
- How to Keep Ice Cold in the Desert
- Desert Rocks, Minerals & Geology Index
- Preparing an Emergency Survival Kit
- Get the Best Hotel and Motel Rates
Share this page on Facebook:
DesertUSA Newsletter -- We send articles on hiking, camping and places to explore, as well as animals, wildflower reports, plant information and much more. Sign up below or read more about the DesertUSA newsletter here. (It's Free.)