SD&A Groundbreaking Festival


Come to the San Diego & Arizona Railway


Saturday, September 7, 2019

At the Campo Railroad Park and Museum

8:30 AM – 5 PM

This Festival marks the 112th anniversary, to the day, of the BEGINNING of the 12-year construction of the SD&A Railway.  The 100th anniversary of the 1919 COMPLETION of the SD&A will be celebrated in Campo on November 16.  The Centennial Gala Dinner will be held in Coronado on November 1, 2019, modeled after John Spreckels’ celebratory banquet he hosted the night of the first round-trip over the route’s 148 miles.


Groundbreaking Train ride and lunch tickets are now available!


WEATHER ALERT (as of 7 pm on Sept. 6): The following is tentatively planned, rain or shine or cold or wind or snow or smoke.  Any changes will be posted here.  The latest forecast is that the temperature in Campo will rise to 93 degrees, so please bring, and drink, sufficient water, and wear a hat or use a parasol and use sunscreen.  Cold bottled water will be sold at the Festival grounds.  Please check back later for updated details.  (Last updated 9/6/2019).

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

Parking and entrance to the Campo Railroad Park and Museum are FREE.  So are all activities and ceremonies.  Payment is needed only for optional train rides, food, drinks, souvenirs, books/videos, 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 lunch.

To help visitors transition to a previous turn-of-the-century era, old-fashioned tractor-pulled hay wagons and the 1912 10-passenger Julian Mac Stage will be available without charge 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 one or more 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 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 ($).  Stop by and meet the authors/producers – no purchase required.

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.

9:45 am – 10:30 am.  Music by Trails and Rails.  The popular trio will perform western and train songs on an outdoor platform.  They are an award-winning musical act that entertains with toe-tapping enthusiasm and audience-pleasing commentary to supplement their songs.

10:45 – 11:30 am.  Lecture and slide show: The 100-year history of the San Diego & Arizona (Eastern) Railway, “The Impossible Railroad.”   The dramatic highlights and lowlights of the construction and operations of John D. Spreckels’ rail line will be told through vintage photographs and gripping narration.

11 am – 12 noon.  Groundbreaking Train I ($5-28) departs the Campo Depot, with boarding by 10:45 am.  Limited space on first class car “ATSF 1509.”  All passengers will be given a special keepsake item associated with the original September 7, 1907  groundbreaking.   Buy train ride tickets.

11 am – 1 pm.  Lunch catered by Descanso Junction Catering ($16.50, advance reservations).  Pulled pork sandwich, gourmet hot dog, hamburger, or veggie burger, plus coleslaw and French fries, plus soda or water.   It is strongly recommended to buy lunch tickets in advance, as only a limited number of meals will be sold onsite.  Buy lunch tickets

NOTE:  The Gift Shop sells light snacks and drinks ($).   Please feel free to bring your own lunch and eat at the shaded picnic tables (limited number) adjacent to the Depot or anywhere else throughout the Festival grounds.  A small playground with swings and a sandbox are in the same area as the picnic tables.

12 noon – 12:45 pm.    Music by Trails and Rails.  The popular trio will perform western and train songs indoors in the Display Building where tables and benches will be set up to eat lunch.  They are an award-winning musical act that entertains with toe-tapping enthusiasm and audience-pleasing commentary to supplement their songs.

12:40 pm – 12:50 pm.  Prior to the 1 pm formal ceremonies, the iconic image of key Groundbreaking participants, shown below, will be replicated with modern day portrayals of (l. to r.) railroad pioneer Frank A. Kimball, Mrs. Lydia Horton (seated), San Diego Mayor John F. Forward, and San Diego developer Alonzo E. Horton.

1 – 2 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 by leaders from museums along the route of the SD&A.

Then, get set for a reenactment of the original 1907 groundbreaking ceremony, including excerpts from speeches and music performances.  These speeches lauded businessman and financier 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 California, Mexico.  The highlight of the reenactment will be to witness the “first” shovelful of dirt being dug, signifying the beginning of the construction of the San Diego & Arizona Railway.  The silver-plated shovel adorned with scarlet ribbon will appear just as it was exactly 112 years earlier on September 7, 1907.

1:15 – 2:15 pm.  Golden State train ($0-25). 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 want just a regular train ride without a Groundbreaking passenger keepsake or other festival benefits.   Buy train ride tickets.

2 pm – 2:30 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 by museum volunteers.  It is due to the contributions of these volunteers  that the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association can continue to offer 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.

2:20 – 2:45 pm.  Informal discussion: What’s in a name? – Unraveling SD&A curiosities.  Come learn and enjoy some interesting tidbits about the railroad on its 100th year birthday.

3 – 4 pm.  Groundbreaking Train II ($5-28) departs the Campo Depot, with boarding by 2:45 pm.  Limited space on first class car “ATSF 1509.”  All passengers will be given a special keepsake item associated with the original September 7, 1907,  groundbreaking.   Buy train ride tickets

4 – 4:45 pm.   Lecture and slide showWhy and how the SD&A’s Goat Canyon Trestle was built.  The railroad was warned for five years that Tunnel #15 in Carriso Gorge needed to be protected from the unstable mountain above it.   Work was delayed, and the devastating results led to the need to build the colossal wooden trestle that has become a breathtaking landmark in the Anza-Borrego desert’s remote Carriso Gorge.   Rare photographs taken while building the trestle in 1932 will illustrate how creative and complicated the construction was.

5 pm.  The Campo Railroad Park and Museum closes.

ALL DAY  at the Festival:

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.

Interpretive signs along the walking path between the Depot and the Display Building.

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

A display of Classic Chevy vintage cars.

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

Command Caboose – Festival communication center, first aid, information, security, volunteer check-in

Thank you to our sponsor

     Cool-Roof Systems

Sponsorships at many levels are available for the SD&A Centennial.  To be a sponsor, please call (619) 606-6231 or email

SD&A Centennial home page

Centennial Gala Dinner (November 1, 2019) ⇐soon!

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

SD&A Centennial Calendar of Events