Carrizo Gorge Railway

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Carrizo Gorge Railway
Reporting mark CZRY
Locale Southern California, Northern Baja California
Dates of operation 1997–2012
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Headquarters El Cajon, California

Carrizo Gorge Railway, Inc. (reporting mark CZRY) was a railroad operator on the San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway from Tijuana, Mexico to Plaster City, California (Tijuana Tecate Short Line and Desert Line).


In 1976, Hurricane Kathleen damaged the Southern Pacific Railroad line between Carrizo Gorge and Plaster City. Resulting from intense destruction of the infrastructure, the railroad filed abandonment on the line to San Diego from Imperial Valley, which was eventually denied by the Interstate Commerce Commission. The Metropolitan Transit Development Board of San Diego offered a purchase of the line for $18.1 million soon after the abandonment attempt. The acquisition was accepted, and the MTDB requested the Southern Pacific to restore the line before restoring service. The MTDB picked the Kyle Railways shortline group as the new operator of the line. Revenue service provided by Kyle Railways ended in June 1983 when two trestles of the "Desert Line" were destroyed by fire. The next year, the railroad tried to abandon the railroad, but was denied by the ICC.

In 1984, the MTDB was approached by the shortline holding company Railtex to resume freight service on the line from San Diego. The new railroad, the San Diego and Imperial Valley Railroad (SDIY), did not want to invest the $5.5 million necessary to repair the collapsed tunnels and bridges in the Carrizo Gorge. CZRY Shareholders Gary Sweetwood and Benny L. Wright of local construction company East County Dirt Works, however, believed that the investment would be worthwhile and negotiated trackage rights on the line. The agreement required a fee of 6.9% imposed by SDIY, for the gross revenues from any freight on the SD&AE's Desert Line and a fee of 2% by the SD&AE Railway Company.

Photo of San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway trestle in Carrizo Gorge.

In 2000, FNM, owner of the Tijuana-Tecate segment, was privatized, transferring the administration to the State of Baja California.

On July 1, 2000, CZRY won the bid by the Administrator of the Tijuana-Tecate short line to operate as a technical-operational entity for rail service of the federally owned 44 miles from border to border, after SDIY exited operations of the segment. The CZRY later reopened the "Desert Line" in April 2004.

Carrizo Gorge Trestles

Sand hauling was the primary business for the CZRY from 1999 to 2005. The sand was used in making ready-mixed concrete for the construction markets in San Diego County, as it was loaded from Lindero to Campo and later from the Imperial Valley desert near Silica to Campo. Environmental concerns from Baja California lead to the end of the railroad's sand hauling business in 2007. There was also minor traffic of other goods between the U.S. and Mexico, mainly lumber for import. Rail car storage is another source of revenue on the east end of the Desert Line.

The CZRY went under pressure by the line's owners to upgrade the line. In October 2008, facing deteriorating conditions in the "Desert Line", the railroad embargoed the desert line for all revenue freight.

CZRY discontinued operations of the Tijuana-Tecate segment by the end of 2011. The contract was renewed in favor of Baja California Railroad, Inc. by the government of Baja California.

In December 2012, SD&AE, owner of the line, entered into a 50 year operating lease with the Pacific Imperial Railroad company for freight trains. The lease requires that certain operating goals and repairs be completed in a specific time frame. The lease also calls for a $1,000,000 yearly payment for the rights to operate freight trains, or 15% gross revenues, or any qualified value. [1] With this lease, the operating rights of CZRY ended.

Motive power[edit]

Carrizo Gorge Railway never owned any locomotives, but leased from various places. The railroad leased several locomotives from its employees and stockholder's interests from East County Dirt Works (ECDW).

  • Two EMD F7As 100 & 102, ex-WCRC, née B&LE.
  • One EMD F7B 101, ex-WCRC, née B&LE.
  • One EMD GP9 3878, ex-DLSX, née SP.
  • One EMD GP9 4324, ex-C&NW.
  • One GP40M-2 669, ex-UP.
  • One Alco S-4 1465, ex-RELCO, née SP.

After the Desert line was reopened, CZRY leased Union Pacific power, such as GP38-2s and two GP60s. Union Pacific went to court to collect for non-payment of the lease and a return of the locomotives. They were later returned to Union Pacific trackage in the West Colton yard in Rialto through San Ysidro after they embargoed the Desert Line.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "San Diego MTS Report"

External links[edit]