Santee Historical Society to host presentation on `The Impossible Railroad,’ 100 years of San Diego railroad history, Saturday, August 17th

The Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association (PSRM), a San Diego-area historical and educational nonprofit, will host a free presentation on the history of railroading in San Diego County at 11 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 17, at the Santee Historical Society’s barn building, 9200 Magnolia Ave., Santee. The public is invited to attend. .” For more event information, visit

The speaker will be Reena Deutsch, PSRM volunteer and author of “The Impossible Railroad, the San Diego & Arizona Railway. The presentation will include old photos and stories about the 1919 completion of SD&A, which was financed by entrepreneur John D. Spreckels at a cost of $18 million, or roughly $123,000 per mile.

It will also include information about PSRM’s current, year-long 100-year centennial celebration of the November 1919 completion of the San Diego & Arizona Railway (SD&A). The centennial anniversary will conclude with a special reenactment ceremony and other family activities to be held Saturday Nov. 16, 2019, at PSRM’s Campo Railroad Park and Museum in Campo, Calif.

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 Carrizo Gorge, an area where cliffs dropped more than 1,000 feet to the bottom (17 of the 21 tunnels were located in Carrizo 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.” As the final link in the nation’s transcontinental railroad system, the SD&A established a direct rail link from San Diego 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.

The Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association (PSRM) is a non-profit, all-volunteer educational organization dedicated to preserving the heritage of railroading in the Southwest. PSRM operates the 140-acre Campo Railroad Park and Museum in Campo, Calif., where every weekend the public can enjoy vintage train rides aboard full-size, restored locomotives and train cars from the early 20th century, along with the Southwest Railway Library and more than 120 pieces of historical railroad equipment and artifacts on display. For more information on PSRM, visit