The Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association (PSRM), a San Diego-area historical and educational nonprofit, will host its monthly free “meet-and-greet” from 9 to 10 a.m., Tuesday, July 23, at the La Mesa Depot Museum, 4695 Nebo Dr., La Mesa. The public is invited to attend.
The free one-hour event will feature tea, coffee and dessert treats, plus information about PSRM activities from Donna Spevack, PSRM Administrator of Fund Development. PSRM is dedicated to the preservation of railroads as they existed in the Pacific Southwest and is committed to continue the history of railroading in San Diego County.
PSRM maintains the stationary, full-size train and restored depot station at the corner of Spring Street and La Mesa Boulevard in Downtown La Mesa. The La Mesa Depot Museum is La Mesa’s oldest building in its original form and is the sole surviving San Diego and Cuyamaca Railway Station in existence.
PSRM, a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization, also offers vintage train rides every weekend aboard full-size, restored steam locomotives and train cars from the early 20th century at its Campo Railroad Park and Museum in Campo, Calif. With more than 120 pieces of equipment and artifacts on display, PSRM provides a unique learning experience for all ages.
PSRM is currently marking a year-long, 100-year centennial celebration of the November 1919 completion of the San Diego & Arizona Railway (SD&A). A reenactment ceremony at PSRM’s Campo Railroad Park and Museum will be held Saturday Nov. 16, 2019. For more event information, visit www.psrm.org/centennial/.
Construction of the SD&A, which began in 1907, was financed by San Diego entrepreneur John D. Spreckels at a cost of $18 million, or roughly $123,000 per mile. The SD&A rail line was called the “Impossible Railroad” by engineers of its day due to the immense logistical challenges, which included extreme terrain requiring 2.5 miles of bridges and trestles and 21 tunnels, including 11 miles through the treacherous Carriso Gorge, an area where cliffs dropped more than 1,000 feet to the bottom (17 of the 21 tunnels were located in Carriso Gorge). Additional construction challenges included floods, landslides, fires, hot weather, deaths from the flu, sabotage by Mexican revolutionaries and various delays caused by World War I.
Stretching 148 miles from San Diego to El Centro, the SD&A included 44 miles in Mexico and took 12 years to complete. On Nov. 15, 1919, Spreckels himself drove the final “golden spike,” which he accidentally bent. As the country’s final transcontinental railroad, the SD&A established a direct transcontinental rail link to the east by connecting with the Southern Pacific Railroad in El Centro. Previously, San Diegans had to travel north to Los Angeles to connect with an east-bound train.
For more information about the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association (PSRM), visit www.psrm.org.