San Diego & Arizona Railway:

The Impossible Railroad


Reena Deutsch


The following slide (Powerpoint) shows are available for future presentation to groups and organizations. However, no presentations are available during 2020.


Presentation #1 (1 hour)  Impossible Railroad 100-year history

This lecture describes the lengthy history of the San Diego & Arizona (Eastern) Railway starting with the 1906 relocation of visionary entrepreneur John D. Spreckels to San Diego (Coronado).  Dramatic details about the challenging 1907-1919 construction and the disaster-ridden operations leading right up to the present time will support why the line was, and still is, called “The Impossible Railroad.”  The talk features the “impossible” terrain that was conquered when Spreckels’ line was constructed, particularly in the Carrizo Gorge region, and the “impossible” challenges and adversities that the line overcame and still continues to be plagued with.  This lecture includes a brief, unique “trivia” segment.


Presentation #2 (1 hour)  Why and how SD&A’s Goat Canyon Trestle was built

This slide show details the foreboding events and warnings, beginning in 1926, that led up to the 1932 abandonment of Carrizo Gorge’s Tunnel #15 and subsequent construction of a replacement tunnel and the famed and enormous Goat Canyon Trestle.  Audience members will gasp, and perhaps chuckle, at the SD&A’s lack of responsiveness to multiple cautions and recommendations preceding the impending catastrophe.  The presentation is based on unpublished details and photos contained in original SD&A documentation that came to light several years ago.  These astonishing images demonstrate the complex and arduous process of construction of the tunnel that replaced Tunnel #15 and the new trestle crossing Goat Canyon.


Presentation #3 (1 hour)  Impossible Railroad Odds ‘N Ends

While writing the book San Diego and Arizona Railway: The Impossible Railroad, over 3,000 photographs and images were accumulated, and 1000s of additional photos have been acquired since then.  Many of the photographs have been categorized into groupings such as "Steam locomotives," "Mexico," "Spreckels," "Maintenance-of-way and other equipment," "Floods, sub-categorized by year," "Tunnel fires, sub-categorized by tunnel and year," "Aerial views," "Maps," "Track diagrams," "Carrizo Gorge construction," etc.  For this interactive presentation, a list of the categories of images is available to the audience who will take turns selecting which image category to view.  ALL photos/images under each requested category are projected.  Information about some of the photographs is shared when known.  Some images are great, others fuzzy.


Presentation #4 (1 hour)  Hiking the tracks to the Goat Canyon Trestle – legally!

A series of photographs will take you on a virtual one-way hike of almost 13 miles along the tracks of the historic San Diego & Arizona Railway through steep and arid Carrizo Gorge with a stop at and tour of the legendary Goat Canyon Trestle.  This hiking route is normally illegal, but the images are compiled from four legally permitted group hikes organized and led by Reena Deutsch, two from the west (Jacumba) in fall 2014 and two from the east (Dos Cabezas area) in spring 2015.  View fascinating natural and historic sights along the way and be treated to a narrative of the route as if you were hiking along with the participants.  Crossing over some of the treacherous smaller trestles and through numerous tunnels may simultaneously terrify and amaze you.  As plans are underway for the SD&A to resume operations through the desert, prepare to get your adrenalin pumping for an experience whose days may be numbered.


Presentation #5 (˝ hour)  C100!a special presentation created for the 100th anniversary of the SD&A Railway by the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association C100! (Celebrate100!) committee.  It is no longer available after 2019.

This program provided a brief glimpse back to the early days when San Diego unsuccessfully attempted to acquire railroad service, followed by John D. Spreckels’ long and hard-fought success in finally building the San Diego & Arizona Railway between San Diego and El Centro to link the coastal community to the southern transcontinental rail network to the east.  The presentation included a condensed review of the line’s trouble-filled 12-year construction and seemingly jinxed years of operations plagued by one challenge, hardship, or disaster after another, and explained why the 100th year since the completion of the SD&A, still operating on some segments of the original route, was, indeed, a time to celebrate.  Plans to celebrate the Centennial year were announced.  Information was provided about the all-volunteer non-profit organization which operates vintage excursion trains along the old SD&A mainline and features educational displays, programs, and exhibits.



If you would like to invite author Reena Deutsch to appear at a booksigning, present a slide show and/or lecture, or participate in other book-related events, or have any questions about this, please email


            Info  [[at]]  ImpossibleRailroad  [[dot]] com


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Last updated April 27, 2020