San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway

Not to be confused with Arizona Eastern Railway.
San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railway Company
Reporting mark SDAE
Locale California and Mexico
Dates of operation 1932Present
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Headquarters San Diego, California

The San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railway Company (reporting mark SDAE) is a short-line American railroad founded in 1906 as the San Diego & Arizona Railway (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 (235.61 km) route originates in San Diego, California and terminates in El Centro, California.

The SD&AE uses about 108 miles (174 km) of the original SD&A system, broken into four segments:[1]

  1. The Blue Line runs south from San Diego, California to San Ysidro, California (15.5 miles or 24.94 kilometres in length).
  2. The Desert Line runs northeast from the United States-Mexico Border at "Division" to Plaster City, California (69.9 miles or 112.49 kilometres total length).
  3. The Orange Line runs east from San Diego, California to El Cajon, California (19.2 miles or 30.90 kilometres total length).
  4. The Coronado Branch runs south from 12th Street Junction, south of San Diego, to Imperial Beach, California (7.2 miles or 11.59 kilometres in length; out of service since 2002)

The company took over the SD&A's operations in February 1933 after financial troubles led John Spreckels' descendants to sell their interests in the railroad to the Southern Pacific. Through the years natural disasters and vandalism rendered sections of the line unserviceable, and portions of the line have been sold to various interests.

Fallen Southern Pacific Railroad Cars in Carrizo Gorge, 2010.

In 1967 the railroad reported 46 million ton miles of revenue freight on its 136 mi (219 km) of line operated.

In 1979 the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System bought the SD&AE railway from Southern Pacific to establish the San Diego Trolley, an inter county light rail passenger line. The San Diego Trolley carries over 35 million riders annually. The remaining track into Imperial County is used for freight and was part of the sale condition to MTS by SP.

In December 1985, the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum began operating passenger excursion trains out of their property in Campo, California over the SD&AE. The museum maintains equipment and corporate records of both the SD&A/SD&AE Railways.

As of January 2013, freight operations are conducted by the Pacific Imperial Railroad (PIRR) for the Desert Line and the San Diego and Imperial Valley Railroad (SDIY) for the Blue and Orange lines, including the San Ysidro and San Diego yards.

The San Diego Model Railroad Museum maintains representations of the SD&AE's operations in both HO scale (1:87) and N scale (1:160).


See also


  1. MTS San Diego & Arizona Eastern Fact Sheet
  2. Associated Press (July 23, 2012). "Genesee & Wyoming to pay $1.39B for RailAmerica". STL Retrieved July 23, 2012.
  3. "UPDATE 4-Genesee & Wyoming to buy RailAmerica for $1.4 billion". Reuters. July 23, 2012. Retrieved July 23, 2012.
  4. Surface Transportation Board, Decison, Case No. 42772, December 19, 2012
  5. Department of Transportation Report
  6. Metropolitan Transit System Report
  7. MTS SD&AE Board Document
  8. MTS SD&AE Board Document
  9. Stewart, Joshua (June 9, 2016). "Border rail line to connect U.S., Mexico". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
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