Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway
The San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railway Company is a short-line American railroad (AAR reporting mark SDAE) originally founded in 1906 as the San Diego & Arizona Railway Company (SD&A) by "sugar heir," developer, and entrepreneur John D. Spreckels . Dubbed The Impossible Railroad by many engineers of its day due to the immense logistical challenges involved, the line was established in part to provide San Diego with a direct rail link to the east by connecting with the Southern Pacific Railroad lines in El Centro, California. The SD&A's 146.4-mile route originates in San Diego, California and terminates in the Imperial County town of Calexico.
The SD&AE utilizes approximately 108 miles of the original SD&A system, broken into four (4) unique segments as follows: 1) The Main Line, which runs from downtown San Diego south to the San Ysidro / International Border at Tijuana (15.5 miles in length). This line extends through Mexico 44 miles and connects with the Desert Line. The portion passing through Mexico, originally constructed as part of the Main Line, is now owned by the Mexico national railway Ferrocarril Sonora Baja California Line; 2) The Coronado Branch runs from National City south to Otay Mesa (7.2 miles total length); 3) The Desert Line extends north and east from the International Border junction (referred to as "Division") to Plaster City , where it joins the Union Pacific (UP) line from El Centro (69.9 miles total length); and 4) The La Mesa Branch which travels through downtown San Diego east to the City of El Cajon (16.1 miles total length).
The company took over the SD&A's operations in February 1933 after financial troubles led John Spreckels' descendents to sell off their interests in the railroad to the Southern Pacific. Throughout the years natural disasters and acts of vandalism have rendered sections of the line unserviceable, and portions of the line have been sold off to various interests. In 1979 the San Diego Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB) purchased the SD&AE, along with the bulk of its existing trackage, for the purpose of establishing the San Diego Trolley, an interurban light rail passenger line. The MTDB's popular "red cars" carry over 25 million riders annually and are considered an unqualified success. At the time of this writing plans for a major expansion of the lines are in the works. As of May 2004, freight operations are conducted by the independent Carrizo Gorge Railway, Inc. (CZRY) and San Diego & Imperial Valley Railroad (SD&IV).
- October 24, 1932: Financial problems force Spreckels' heirs to transfer their share of San Diego & Arizona (SD&A) ownership to the Southern Pacific Transportation Company for $2.8 million.
- February 1, 1933: The San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railway Company (SD&AE) is incorporated and assumes all operations of the SD&A.
- 1934: Operation of the three gasoline-electric units is discontinued.
- January 11, 1951: The SD&AE ends passenger service due to years of continued declining patronage.
- May 20,1970: The SP relinquishes its interest in 44-mile (72 km) Tijuana and Tecate Railway Company to Mexico's national railway, Ferrocarril Sonora Baja California , S.A. de C.V.
- September 10,1976: Hurricane Kathleen destroys major sections of track and bridges on the Desert Line.
- 1978: The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) denies SP’s request to abandon the railway.
- August 20, 1979: San Diego's Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB) purchases the SD&AE Railway Company in restored condition for $18.1 million (the SP retains ownership to the Plaster City to El Centro segment). The ICC approves operation of freight service by Kyle Railways under contract to MTDB. The MTDB reorganizes the SD&AE as a Nevada nonprofit corporation.
- January 1980: Washouts caused by desert storms displace parts of the SD&AE Desert Line and Ferrocarril Sonora Baja California Line.
- January 1983: With the Mexico damage repaired, Kyle Railways begins rail shipments between San Diego and Plaster City.
- June 18, 1983: Fire destroys two (2) bridges on the Desert Line.
- March 18, 1984: The MTDB signs agreement with the Texas firm RailTex to provide freight service. The new service operates as the San Diego & Imperial Valley Railroad (SD&IV) with the AAR reporting mark SDIV.
- April 25, 1984: The ICC denies Kyle Railways’ request to abandon the railway.
- August 9, 1984: The ICC approves RailTex’s application to operate freight service.
- April 25, 1984: ICC denies Kyle’s request to abandon the Railroad.
- October 15, 1984: The SD&IV begins freight service south of San Diego during nighttime hours when the MTDB's trolley line is not in operation.
- December 1, 1985: The San Diego Railroad Museum begins 16-mile roundtrip "passenger excursion" trips between Campo and Miller Creek.
- August 1, 1986: The SD&IV enters into a multi-year agreement with the the Mexican government to set tariffs and provide freight service into Baja California.
- July 14, 1989: The SD&IV begins repairs on the Desert Line as a prelude to the start of freight service to Imperial County.
- January 4, 2000: RailTex is acquired by RailAmerica and the railroad's AAR reporting mark is changed to SDIY.
- 2002: The Mexican portion of the line is sub-contracted to the Carrizo Gorge Railway, Inc. (CZRY).
- May 15, 2004: With repairs to Tunnels 8 and 16 complete and destroyed bridges rebuilt including the Goat Canyon Trestle, the CZRY officially reopens freight service to Plaster City and the Union Pacific Railroad interchange. Major shipments of sand from the Imperial Valley are used to supply concrete to the San Diego construction markets.
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