SD&A Groundbreaking Festival


The San Diego & Arizona Railway GROUNDBREAKING FESTIVAL will be celebrated on Saturday, September 7, 2019, at Campo Railroad Park and Museum.


The following is tentatively planned, rain or shine or cold or wind or snow. Any changes due to inclement weather will be posted here.  Please check back later for updated details and ticket sales information. (Last updated 7/14/2019).

You are invited to wear period clothing (circa 1907) for your visit today.

Parking and entrance to the Campo Railroad Museum and Park is FREE. Payment is needed only for optional train rides, food, drinks, souvenirs, and the SD&A 100th anniversary Commemorative Program which is likely to become a collector’s item over time. Advance reservations are recommended for train rides and meals once tickets go on sale  (Date TBD).

To help visitors transition to a previous turn-of-the-century era, old-fashioned tractor-pulled hay wagons will be available to shuttle folks between the parking lot and other areas of the Festival grounds.

8:30-11:30 am.  Visit the hobo jungle to hear stories told by workers who ride the rails traveling between jobs. Heads up – they may break out in song about their journeys at anytime.

9-11 am.  Book- and Video-signings.  Local authors of rail-related books will be available to informally discuss their works and sign books.  Also,  the producer/writer and the director of photography for the acclaimed “Impossible Railroad” documentary will be signing DVDs and be available to informally discuss the challenges of getting the right shots for the piece.  Books and DVDs will be available for sale ($).

9 am – 12 noon.  Roxy the face painting Clown will paint fun designs on faces to the glee of youngsters and enjoyment of all.  We hear she will have some interesting train designs available.

9 am – 5 pm.  Rusty the balloon-twisting Clown will twist balloons into the shape of critters and other delightful creations.

Intermittently throughout the day (AM and PM).  The popular Trails and Rails trio will perform western and train songs. They are an award-winning musical act that entertains with toe-tapping enthusiasm and audience-pleasing commentary to supplement their songs.

10:45 – 11:45 am.  Lecture and slide show: The 100-year history of the San Diego & Arizona (Eastern) Railway, “The Impossible Railroad.”

11 am.  Groundbreaking Train I ($) departs the Campo Depot, with boarding by 10:45 am. Limited space on first class cars (1509, Robert Peary)  may be available. All passengers will be given a special keepsake item associated with the original September 7, 1907,  groundbreaking.   Train ticket sales information will be posted closer to the date.

12 noon.  Lunch catered by Descanso Junction Catering ($). There is no other way to buy lunch at the Campo facility, other than snacks in the Gift Shop ($). Please feel free to bring your own lunch instead and eat at the picnic tables (limited number) adjacent to the Depot or anywhere else throughout the Campo grounds. A small playground with swings and a sandbox are in the same area as the picnic tables.  Lunch ticket sales information will be posted closer to the date.

12 noon.  Live music will be near both the catered lunch site and the picnic tables.

1 pm.  GROUNDBREAKING CEREMONY AND REENACTMENT.  Whether or not you are dressed in the clothing that was typical in 1907 when the original SD&A groundbreaking occurred, gather around to hear a few words from museum leadership, officials representing areas along the SD&A route, and perhaps some others.

Then, get set for a reenactment of the original 1907 groundbreaking ceremony, including excerpts from speeches given. These speeches lauded John D. Spreckels for his accomplishments and expressed  expected contributions of the SD&A, once complete,  to the economy and other factors which would improve the status of  San Diego and Imperial Counties and northern Baja, Mexico. The grand finale will be to witness the “first” shovelful of dirt, signifying the beginning of the construction of the San Diego & Arizona Railway. The shovel itself will make quite a statement as it will be coated with silver on which a large bow of scarlet ribbon will be placed, just as it was exactly 112 years earlier on September 7, 1907.

1:15 pm.  Golden State train ($). This train ride is the museum’s regularly scheduled mid-afternoon train and is intended to be available for visitors who desire to ride a train but who either did not know that the Groundbreaking Festival is taking place today or want just a regular train ride without a Groundbreaking handout or other festival benefits.  Advance reservation/tickets are not available for this train ride.

2 pm.  Car shop tour.  This will be a special behind-the-scenes guided tour inside the building where various railcars and equipment are worked on – restored and repaired – so that the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association can continue to offer to the public train rides and a living history demonstration of the heritage of railroading through its large collection of both active and static rolling stock.

2:15-2:40 pm.  Informal discussion: What’s in a name? – Unraveling SD&A curiousities.

3 pm.  Groundbreaking Train II ($) departs the Campo Depot, with boarding by 2:45 pm. Limited space on first class cars (1509, Robert Peary)  may be available. All passengers will be given a special keepsake item associated with the original September 7, 1907,  groundbreaking.  Train ticket sales information will be posted closer to the date.

4-4:45 pm.   Lecture and slide show: Why and how the SD&A’s Goat Canyon Trestle was built.

5 pm  The Campo Railroad Park and Museum closes.

Also at the Campo facility all day:

Vintage railroad equipment on display: steam and diesel locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars, boxcars, cabooses, maintenance-of-way, and more.

Exhibits on the history of the SD&A and other railroads.

Displays showing a wide sampling of the long and colorful heritage of railroading and associated culture.

Gift shop – Centennial Commemorative Program, souvenirs, and snacks.


SD&A Centennial home page

SD&A Centennial Celebration Day  (Nov. 16, 2019)

SD&A Centennial Calendar of Events