San Diego & Arizona Railway:

The Impossible Railroad


Reena Deutsch


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Review #1

(From http://www.amazon.com/San-Diego-Arizona-Railway-Impossible/dp/0738581488)


5 out of 5 stars

A fresh story about mountain railroading under impossible conditions

January 15, 2011




This review is from: San Diego and Arizona Railway:: The Impossible Railroad (Images of Rail) (Paperback)


Reena Deutsch's San Diego and Arizona Railway: The Impossible Railroad, is the most accurately titled book in Arcadia Publishing's extensive Images of Rail series.


It's a compelling story told in photos and captions of an interesting railroad that hasn't received the attention it--and the landscape it travels through--deserves. The San Diego and Arizona Railway is the ideal book for railfans and model railroaders looking for a fresh reading experiences and hundreds of dramatic photos of trestle-building and tunnels in desolate mountains.


To give you an idea of the "impossible" terrain the The San Diego and Arizona Railway was built through, even though the line was only 148 miles long, fully half of the trackage was built on curves!


The line passed through some of the most difficult mountainous terrain in North America. "Most difficult" fails to adequately describe the line's route through the rugged territory like the Carrizo Gorge which required multiple tunnels and trestles; tunnels with trestles on both ends, and huge curved trestles that extended from the end of one tunnel to the beginning of the next.


The high costs of constructing the line following World War One were compounded by the temperature extremes of the arid landscape that contributed to a continuing series of tunnel collapses, tunnel fires, flooding and washouts, and trestle failures and fires. Sadly, the depression years were accompanied by an almost continual series of natural disasters in the desolate region.


The extreme temperature variations characteristic of high desert mountain railroading forced the line to use wood for trestles, since the temperature variations would create premature steel stress and failure.


Many of the trestles were not only curved, but were built on mountainsides that were so steep that the legs of the trestle were of significantly different length on each side!


Reviewing the photographs, I found it fascinating how so many tunnels had to be built more than once, as fires and collapses took place.


I both purchase and frequently am asked to review books like the San Diego and Arizona Railway: The Impossible Railroad, which the publisher sent to me. As a model railroader and railroad enthusiast/history buff, I enthusiastically recommend The San Diego and Arizona Railway to any railroad lover who is looking for fresh ideas for dramatic mountain scenery and a compelling story of a railroad that refused to let Mother Nature to prematurely put the line out of business. It's an inspiring story of perseverance under impossible circumstances.



Review #2

(From http://www.nctimes.com/entertainment/books-and-literature/article_11279745-a1c5-5a8a-a682-d1356cae8b8a.html)


4 out of 4 stars

Book on 'impossible railroad' well done

January 23, 2011





As a young man, I rode ---- illegally, I must confess, and with little regard for life and limb ---- on top of a San Diego and Arizona Railway car across the moonlit Carrizo Gorge. It was unlike any other experience.


In the excellent new book "San Diego and Arizona Railway ---- The Impossible Railroad"…, local author Reena Deutsch takes us on a ride that is less risky and far more complete that my journey.


While many of the photos can speak for themselves, Deutsch provides important historical facts, sidelights and insights. Because most of the SD&ARY route is not visible from our highways and roads, the author's ability to give us a ride along the rails is a major contribution.


Click here to see the entire review.   



Review #3

(From http://www.amazon.com/San-Diego-Arizona-Railway-Impossible/dp/0738581488/ref=sr_1_1)


5 out of 5 stars

Railroad history in pictures

December 23, 2011




This history of a railroad that survives in part today is a remarkable story. The tale is told as a compilation of historic photographs that detail the connection of San Diego with the East through terrain never meant for a train. Disaster follows disaster with graphic photos of landslides, cave-ins and fires.



Review #4

(From http://scottrights.hubpages.com/hub/San_Diego_Railroad_Museum)


San Diego's Model Railroad leads to Campo and the Pacific Southwest Railroad Museum's Full Size Trains





He pointed me to a book by Arcadia Publishing called "San Diego and Arizona Railway – The Impossible Railroad." The book is available on Amazon, but buying the book at the gift shop provided a little donation from the publisher to the museum. The book is a photographic history of the railroad in San Diego. The author, Reena Deutsch, was out hiking in the desert east of San Diego when she came across some railroad tracks in the middle of nowhere. Her curiosities lead her to the research that culminated in this fantastic book.


Review #5

(From http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10710251-san-diego-and-arizona-railway)


4 out of 5 stars

San Diego and Arizona Railway: The Impossible Railroad

May 7, 2012




This photographic history of the railway from San Diego to Yuma, with stretches in Mexico has plenty of factual data provided to the reader.


The real challenge of the construction was twofold. First, a man big enough to invest 13 million in a venture whose outcome was always in doubt. John Spreckels, who at one time paid ten percent of all taxes in SD County, filled the bill.


Second, the challenge of building a railroad through Carrizo Gorge and up the mountain scarp and down all the way to Dos Cabesas, on the desert floor. The area was isolated, rough and subject to extreme temperature swings. Tunnels were required to keep a low angle for the steam engine powered trains of that era and the rock varied from hard granite to unstable and dangerous. The terrain was subject to flash flooding and earthquakes.


The Goat Canyon trestle was built of wood, because of the temperature swings of 75 degrees during some months of the year. Must read for anyone who aspires to mountain bike or hike down to this monument to man's attempt to engineer a technological solution to withstand the forces of nature.


Author notes:

-“Aspiring” to mountain bike or hike on or along the tracks is fine; actually doing so is strictly illegal. Federally authorized railroad police patrol the tracks and cite trespassers.

-The railroad did not go all the way to Yuma.

-Tunnels were required to avoid unnavigable sharp twists and turns through steep terrain. I’m not quite sure what “a low angle for the steam engine powered trains” means.


Review #6 (actually, an article)

(From Backcountry Messenger, Vol. 6, Nol. 5, July 2012; pages 1, 8)


A view of the “Impossible Railroad”

July 2012





The Arcadia Publishing Company is a group that finds historical places and events to create wonderful books with period photographs. Many of the authors are regular folks who contract with Arcadia to write the manuscripts and collect the pictures that are used. One such book is about the construction of the “Impossible Railroad.” In this book Renna [sic] Deutsch, PhD has constructed an excellent read about the San Diego and Arizona (Eastern) Railway. The facts in this story were taken from this book.


Review #7

(From http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10710251-san-diego-and-arizona-railway)


5 out of 5 stars

December 22, 2012


By Poetry Train


Review #8

(From http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10710251-san-diego-and-arizona-railway)


4 out of 5 stars

July 15, 2013


By Stan Pedzick


Lots of fun little bits of history of San Diego railroad history and the SD&A rail road specifically.


Some great photos and enough info to go with them to make it interesting.




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Last updated November 18, 2013