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Goat Canyon Trestle

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Goat Canyon Trestle
Goat Canyon.jpg
Trestle as seen from the southeast in 2016
Coordinates32°43′45″N 116°11′00″W / 32.72917°N 116.18333°W / 32.72917; -116.18333Coordinates: 32°43′45″N 116°11′00″W / 32.72917°N 116.18333°W / 32.72917; -116.18333
CrossesGoat Canyon[1]
LocaleAnza-Borrego Desert State Park[1][2]
Other name(s)Goat Canyon Railroad Trestle[3]
OwnerSan Diego Metropolitan Transit System[2][4]
Heritage statusSan Diego Historic Civil Engineering Landmark[5]
Total length597[6]–750[1][7] ft (182–229 m)
Height186[2][6]–200[1][8][9] ft (57–61 m)
Construction start1932[8]
Construction end1933[6]
ReplacesTunnel number 15[6]

Goat Canyon Trestle is a wooden trestle in San Diego County, California.[1] At a length of 597–750 feet (182–229 m), it is the world's largest all-wood trestle.[8] Goat Canyon Trestle was built in 1933 as part of the San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway, after one of the many tunnels through the Carrizo Gorge collapsed.[6][7] The railway had been called the "impossible railroad" upon its 1919 completion.[10] It ran through Baja California and eastern San Diego County before ending in Imperial Valley.[10] The trestle was made of wood, rather than metal due to temperature fluctuations in the Carrizo Gorge.[6] By 2008, rail traffic stopped using the trestle.[11]


Under the direction of John D. Spreckels, construction of the San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railroad began in 1907.[4] It was backed by Edward Henry Harriman at the urging of President Theodore Roosevelt.[12][13] Engineers called the route "impossible" as it crossed the Colorado Desert and through the Jacumba Mountains.[10] In 1919, the railroad was completed, connecting San Diego with the Imperial Valley, by way of Mexico.[2] Before the construction of the railroad, the only rail connection to San Diego was from the north, via Los Angeles, which was only completed in the late 19th century.[14][15] The new railway provided a connection to the Southern Pacific Railway, instead of going north on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.[16] At the opening of the railway, and prior to the construction of the Goat Canyon Trestle, the most significant bridge on the route was the Campo Creek Viaduct, which is 600 feet (180 m) long and 200 feet (61 m) high above the ground.[13][17]

North end of collapsed Tunnel 15

The San Diego and Arizona Railway experienced a series of difficulties, including collapsed tunnels and rock slides, which led to the periodic closure of the railroad.[2] One such difficulty was the collapse of Tunnel 15 in March 1932;[6][7] it had been caused by an earthquake.[9][18] Its remnants can still be seen today.[19]


Designed by Chief Engineer of the San Diego and Arizona Railroad, Carl Eichenlaub, it was built to common standard drawing CS-33 standards.[20] The trestle was built in response to the collapse of Tunnel 15.[21] According to the original plans, the trestle would be 633-foot (193 m) long, and 186-foot (57 m) high.[22] Construction began in 1932.[8][23] Sections of the trestle were assembled at the bottom of the canyon, then lifted into position.[6] Redwood timber,[1] the same type used for railroad ties along the rest of the route,[24] was utilized because Carrizo Gorge's considerable temperature fluctuations could have led to metal fatigue in a steel bridge.[6] To resist Goat Canyon's high winds, it was built with a 14° curve.[8][25] Additionally, the bridge was built without nails.[8] Construction was completed by 1933, leading to a realignment of the railroad route.[6] For fire suppression a tank car was located near tunnel 16.[26]

Panoramic photograph of the area just north of, and of, the Goat Canyon Trestle

After World War II, the San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway was impacted by increased automobile travel.[27] In 1951, scheduled passenger service over the trestle ended.[10][13][15][28] Intermittent freight traffic continued when the railroad was not closed due to damage.[13] In 1976, Hurricane Kathleen damaged the trestle, as well as the rest of the line; repairs were not completed until 1981.[11][29] Use of the railroad ended again in 1983 due to collapsed tunnels.[30] In 1999, Huell Howser visited the trestle and filmed an episode about it for the public television series California's Gold.[31] Restoration of the railway did not resume until 2003.[30] During the 2003 Cedar Fire, crews working on the railway repairs assisted the California Department of Forestry by extinguishing fires set by arsonists along the railroad tracks.[32]

The Carrizo Gorge Railway resumed service on the line after repairs were completed in 2004.[13] Pacific Southwest Railway Museum provided trips on the railroad from Campo.[13] In 2008, the Desert line, which includes track north of Mexico including Carrizo Gorge closed indefinitely for repairs, ending revenue rail usage of the trestle.[33] In early 2017, tunnel Number 6 near the trestle collapsed, and the route was obstructed.[34] As of January 2018, Baja California Railroad was assessing the line before beginning repairs to allow it to return to operation.[35] The trestle remains a popular destination for hikers.[2][6][9][36]

Surrounding environment[edit]

Goat Canyon is a valley in San Diego County, California.[37] One feature of the canyon is it has a dry waterfall.[38] The land, which forms the canyon, is crystalline basement.[39] Since at least the 1970s, there has been a population of bighorn sheep, an endangered species, living near the trestle.[2][40] Another endangered species in the area of the trestle is the Bell's vireo.[41] During a desert bloom, which occurred in 2017, monkey flowers were observed flowering in the canyon.[42]


The San Diego Model Railroad Museum hosts a HO scale replica of the trestle.[43] HO Scale is 1:87 scale.[44] It stands six feet (1.8 m) off the floor[45] is 10 feet (3.0 m) tall in total.[46] It is older than the museum itself, having been built in 1941.[47] The museum also contains a smaller N scale (1:160) replica of the trestle, based on an 1855 surveyed route.[44][48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Cowan, Ernie (May 2, 2004). "World's largest wooden trestle is in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park". North County Times. San Diego County. Archived from the original on May 1, 2004. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Japenga, Ann (March 30, 2004). "Rail renegades". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  3. ^ Robbins, Christine (Winter 2016). Engstrand, Iris W.; McClain, Molly; Strathman, Theodore; Miller, David (eds.). "The Bridges of San Diego County: The Art of Civil Engineering" (PDF). The Journal of San Diego History. 62 (1): 5–36. ISSN 0022-4383. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Stewart, Joshua (June 9, 2016). "Border rail line to connect U.S., Mexico". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  5. ^ Amezcua, Carlos (November 15, 2018). "SD&A Centennial celebration airs on San Diego's KUSI". KUSI News. San Diego. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
    Jennewein, Chris (May 9, 2014). "Reopening Cross-Border Rail Line Gets South County Support". Times of San Diego. Retrieved September 7, 2019. It includes the 186-foot-tall, 630-mile-long Goat Canyon Trestle, a historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
    McCarthy, Eric (August 2016). "Flying into Writing". In Flight USA. San Mateo, California. Retrieved September 7, 2019. About three quarters of the way through the gorge is the Goat Canyon Trestle, a massive trestle bridge that, at 186 feet tall and 630 feet long, was in its day, the tallest wooden structure in daily use. It became a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1986.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k The Canyoneers (July 19, 2017). "Get close but not too close to Carrizo Gorge trestle". San Diego Reader. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Rangel, Alexis (August 12, 2013). "San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railway, the 'Impossible Railroad,'". Imperial Valley Press. El Centro, California: El Centro Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Bell, Diane (April 19, 2017). "Science Channel spotlights marvel in San Diego's back yard". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c Baran, Robert (May 29, 2010). "Goat Canyon Trestle Trek". San Diego Reader. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d Jack Scheffler Innis (2004). San Diego Legends: The Events, People, and Places that Made History. Sunbelt Publications, Inc. pp. 233–236. ISBN 978-0-932653-64-2.
  11. ^ a b Jerry Schad; Scott Turner (February 20, 2017). Afoot and Afield: San Diego County: 282 Spectacular Outings Along the Coast, Foothills, Mountains, and Desert. Wilderness Press. p. 1020. ISBN 978-0-89997-802-4.
  12. ^ Dodge, Richard V. (June 29, 1956). "San Diego's 'Impossible Railroad'". Dispatcher. Railway Historical Society of San Diego. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Beck, Darrell (December 1, 2011). "On Memory's Back Trail: The Impossible Railroad". Ramona Home Journal. Ramona, California. Archived from the original on February 18, 2018. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  14. ^ Carrico, Richard L. (January 23, 2011). "Book Review: Book on 'impossible railroad' well done". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
    Eddy, Lucinda (Summer 1995). "Visions of Paradise". San Diego Historical Society Quarterly. 41 (3). Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  15. ^ a b Price, James N. (April 1988). Scharf, Thomas L. (ed.). "The Railroad Stations of San Diego County". The Journal of San Diego History. 34 (2): 123–135. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  16. ^ Joseph P. Schwieterman (2004). When the Railroad Leaves Town: American Communities in the Age of Rail Line Abandonment. Truman State Univ Press. pp. 36–38. ISBN 978-1-931112-14-7.
    Richard J. Orsi (February 6, 2007). Sunset Limited: The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Development of the American West, 1850-1930. Univ of California Press. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-520-25164-9.
  17. ^ The Station Agent: Official Publication of the Order of Railroad Station Agents. Order of Railroad Station Agents. 1920. p. 9.
    McGrew, Clarence Alan (1922). City of San Diego and San Diego County: The Birthplace of California. American Historical Society. p. 172.
    Earth Mover and Road Builder ... Traffic Service Corporation. 1920. p. 6.
    Randall, Laura (June 30, 2016). "In Campo, California's Old West roots remain". Stars And Stripes. Washington Post. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
  18. ^ "Goat Canyon Trestle Viewpoint Via Mortero Palms". Anza Borrego Foundation. Archived from the original on February 17, 2018. Goat Canyon trestle was built in 1932 after an earthquake collapsed one of the tunnels of the Carrizo Gorge section of the San Diego and Arizona Railway.
    Key, Kevin. "The Massive Goat Canyon Trestle – Brilliantly Illuminated by a Nearly Full Moon". Getty Images. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  19. ^ Farquharson, Phillip T.; Bloom, David M.; Ziegler, Carole L. (2006). Geology and History of Southeastern San Diego County, California: San Diego Association of Geologists for 2005 and 2006. San Diego Association of Geologists. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-916251-78-9.
  20. ^ Carl, Eichenlaub. "SD&A# V-2/13" [map]. San Diego & Arizona. Campo, California: Southwest Railway Library, Pacific Southwest Railway Museum.
  21. ^ Angel, Milton (July 30, 2001). "240 Years of Ranching: Historical Research, Field Surveys, Oral Interviews, Significance Criteria, and Management Recommendations for Ranching Districts and Sites in the San Diego Region" (PDF) (Interview). Interviewed by Heather Thomson. San Diego: Save our Heritage Organization. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
    O'Herin, Charles M. (2006). Prototypes for Modelers: Vol. 1, San Diego & Arizona Railway. Link Pen Publishing. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-9776279-0-5.
    "SDAG Meeting Announcement" (PDF). San Diego Association of Geologists. January 2015. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  22. ^ San Diego and Arizona Railway. "WO-1111" [work order]. San Diego & Arizona. Campo, California: Southwest Railway Library, Pacific Southwest Railway Museum.
  23. ^ Robbins, Christine (January 2016). "The Bridges of San Diego County: The Art of Civil Engineering" (PDF). The Journal of San Diego History. 62 (1): 5–36. ISSN 0022-4383. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  24. ^ Deutsch, Reena (2011). San Diego and Arizona Railway: The Impossible Railroad. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 22 178. ISBN 978-1-4396-4047-0.
  25. ^ Meet the Most Dangerous Wooden Railroad. Mysteries of the Abandoned. 2017. Science Channel.
  26. ^ Pacific Southwest Railway Museum volunteers (March 2016). "Attachment A: Desert Line - Rolling Stock Inventory" (PDF). San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railway Company. San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
    "Carrizo Gorge Wilderness and Goat Canyon Trestle". February 16, 2012. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
    Brennen, Christopher Earls (February 10, 2001). "Hike K16. Carrizo Gorge". Adventure Hikes and Canyoneering in the Southwest. CalTech. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
    "SD&A H-285" [map]. San Diego & Arizona. Campo, California: Southwest Railway Library, Pacific Southwest Railway Museum.
  27. ^ Pamela Daly (November 2015). Draft Historic Resource Technical Report For the Chollas Creek Multi-Use Path To Bayshore Bikeway Project, San Diego, California (PDF) (Report). City of San Diego. p. 17. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
    "Southern Pacific Bulletin 1957". Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association. December 5, 2000. Retrieved April 10, 2018. Let's imagine we are boarding a train for a ride over this amazing route in spring when the country is at its best. It will be a freight train, because all through passenger service was abandoned in January, 1951. Fast highways drained away the passenger traffic.
  28. ^ Journal of the Senate, Legislature of the State of California. California State Print. Office. 1953. p. 209.
  29. ^ Pacific Rail News. Interurbans Publications. 1995. p. 44.
  30. ^ a b Ristine, Jeff (December 7, 2003). "Lakeside company hopes to move first freight by end of January". San Diego Union-Tribune. Archived from the original on February 17, 2018. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
    Lowell Lindsay; Diana Lindsay (October 10, 2017). Anza Borrego Desert Region: Your Complete Guide to the State Park and Adjacent Areas of the Western Colorado Desert. Wilderness Press. p. 388. ISBN 978-0-89997-780-5.
  31. ^ "Trestle- California's Gold (1006)". Huell Howser Archives. Chapman University. January 8, 1999. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  32. ^ "The 'Impossible' Goat Canyon Trestle". Roadtrip America. Flattop Productions, Inc. November 2003. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  33. ^ Dibble, Sandra (February 11, 2013). "Rebuilding historic U.S.-Mexico rail link". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved March 16, 2018. The last operator, Lakeside-based Carrizo Gorge Railway, was able to re-establish limited service in 2004. Those operations stopped in 2008 after the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, which owns the Desert Line, raised concerns about its safety and demanded repairs that Carrizo Gorge could not afford.
  34. ^ Hangrove, Dorian (February 3, 2017). "MTS responds to Baja Rail charges". San Diego Reader. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  35. ^ Smith, Joshua Emerson (January 15, 2018). "Will century-old Impossible Railroad finally thrive, delivering billions in economic activity?". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  36. ^ Huegel, Tony (2006). California Desert Byways: 68 of California's Best Backcountry Drives. Wilderness Press. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-89997-413-2.
    Lindsay, Lowell; Lindsay, Diana (2017). Anza Borrego Desert Region: Your Complete Guide to the State Park and Adjacent Areas of the Western Colorado Desert. Wilderness Press. p. 437. ISBN 978-0-89997-780-5.
    "Goat Canyon Trestle Bridge via Carrizo Gorge Road". September 2010. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  37. ^ "Goat Canyon". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. January 19, 1981. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  38. ^ Baran, Robert (May 29, 2010). "Goat Canyon Trestle Trek". San Diego Reader. Retrieved March 28, 2010.
  39. ^ James R. Evans (1988). Landslides in Crystalline Basement Terrain: Annual Field Trip 1988. San Diego Association of Geologists.
  40. ^ Raftery, Miriam (March 17, 2014). "Experts Voice Alarm Over Survival of Local Bighorn Sheep". East County Magazine. La Mesa, California: Heartland Coalition. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  41. ^ "Eastern San Diego County Resource Management Plan and Record of Decision" (PDF). El Centro Field Office. Bureau of Land Management. October 2008. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  42. ^ Brandis, Jack (April 6, 2017). "Weekend Driver: Flowergeddon". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  43. ^ Griswold, P. R. (1992). Railroads of California: Seeing the State by Rail. American Traveler Press. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-55838-121-6.
  44. ^ a b Kent J. Johnson (1998). Basic Model Railroading: Getting Started in the Hobby. Kalmbach Publishing, Co. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-89024-334-3.
  45. ^ "Americana". Americana Magazine. 1990. p. 57.
  46. ^ "All Aboard San Diego's Railroad Museum". Coronado Lifestyles. Coronado Lifestyle Magazine. September 7, 2013. Retrieved February 17, 2018. There’s even a 10-foot-high model of the Goat Canyon Trestle that crosses over the Carrizo Gorge.
    Radcliff, Chris (May 28, 2007). "Geeky Places To Take Your Kids: San Diego". Wired. Condé Nast Publications. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  47. ^ Voss, Paul; Schaumberg, William C. (March 2001). "20 years of the San Diego Model R.R. Museum". Railroad Model Craftsman. White River Productions. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  48. ^ "Pacific Desert Line". San Diego Society of N Scale. January 8, 2018. Retrieved January 17, 2018. Parts of our layouts coincide, and as a result, the museum now has two versions of the Goat Canyon Trestle.
    Crevoshay, Fay (2003). A Parent's Guide to San Diego and Baja California. Mars Publishing, Incorporated. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-931199-28-5.

Further reading[edit]

  • Dodge, Roger V (1960). Rails of the Silver Gate: The Spreckels San Diego Empire. Golden West Books. ISBN 0870950193.
  • Hanft, Robert M (1984). San Diego & Arizona: The Impossible Railroad. Glendale, California: Trans-Anglo Books. ISBN 0870460714. OCLC 10924851.
  • Wilson, John A (Fall 1994). "Formidable Places: Building a Railroad in the Carriso Gorge". Journal of San Diego History. 40: 179–197.

External links[edit]