As a member of the Campo community, the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association strives to provide the best possible experience to its visitors. Since 1980, the Museum at Campo has grown from just four acres surrounding the old gymnasium building on the former military base at Camp Lockett to over 37 acres housing over 90 pieces of equipment in our Display Building and display yards. With our passion for preserving the railroad history of the southwest region of the United States comes a stronger passion to better serve our community. The Museum is constantly pursuing nearby land so that our visions for the future may go unhindered by lack of space. Our two most recent purchases totaling 19.15 acres are adjacent to the Campo Depot and Museum parking lot. We need YOUR help to retire the mortgage so we can comfortably continue with our plans for the future.
Arrival at Campo
The Pacific Southwest Railway Museum has a rich history of expansion since its first property was purchased in Campo in 1980. At the time, most of the Museum’s collection was housed on the Naval Air Station at Miramar, CA and was quickly outgrowing the space the Museum controlled. Museum members searched high and low all across San Diego county for a suitable new home. This was not an easy task. The space required for a large-scale operating railway museum is immense. Maintenance facilities, display areas, parking lots, and room for expansion are all needed in addition to the room needed to house a collection. After several months of searching and debate among Museum directors and members, it was decided that Campo was the ideal home for the Museum with property abutting the former San Diego and Arizona Railway in the eastern part of San Diego County.
The only structure standing on the Museum’s new land purchase was a former high school gymnasium. Construction began immediately on a yard to display the Museum’s collection. Over the span of several years, the gym was converted into the Museum’s mechanical shop and maintenance facility. Today, all of the Museum’s locomotives, railcars, and support equipment are repaired and maintained in the shop building.
The Great Freights and Excursion Trains
In 1982, the Museum’s facility at Campo was ready to receive its first batch of cars from San Diego. The Museum obtained permission from the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) to move its entire collection by rail from various facilities all over southern California (including Miramar, Orange Empire Railway Museum, and others) to the Museum’s new home in Campo over the former SD&A tracks which pass through Mexico. These trains – operated from time to time in the mid- and late-1980s became knows as the “Great Freights.” The first Great Freight was pulled by the Museum’s Shay steam locomotive #3 which left San Diego with more than 20 of the museum’s railcars and locomotives in tow. After the Shay suffered a severe mechanical failure enroute, the Museum’s only other operable locomotive – US Army 7485 (commonly called “The Ant” due to its small size) – pulled the remaining equipment from Garcia, Baja California, Mexico to Campo two and three pieces at a time over several days. Over the years, several more Great Freights were operated by Museum train crews to bring the rest of the collection to Campo. By 1986, the Museum had secured a lease with MTS to operate trains on over 14 miles of the former San Diego and Arizona Railway which runs through Campo. In short order, equipment was purchased and refurbished to operate excursion trains for Museum visitors between Miller Creek and Tunnel #4 at Division.
Recent Expansion Efforts
Over the last 30 years, a great deal of work has been done at Campo. The rail yard was completed with enough space to house over 90 pieces of museum equipment. Our 100 foot by 160 foot Display building was constructed to provide exhibit space and cover over our most prized pieces of equipment. The Campo Depot has been fully restored and repainted to better serve our visitors as an operating train station and gift shop. It was not until 2012, however, that more land was acquired by the Museum. Looking to the future, the Museum realized that it would need significantly more space to build newer, larger, and more sophisticated exhibit halls and display areas for its visitors. In 2012 and 2013, two pieces of land were purchased that make up the 19.15 acres of land recently added to the Museum grounds. It is our hope that over the next few years, changes will be made to the Museum’s Master Plan to add two 100 foot by 320 foot exhibit halls, a 380-foot-wide roundhouse complete with turntable and space to keep and work on several more pieces of equipment, and a “Main Street” style railroad town with small shops and interactive exhibits. Over the next several years, we hope to begin construction on these new facilities. However, we must first complete paying off the mortgage on these two parcels to permanently secure the land for the Museum’s future use.
We Need YOUR Help
The Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association needs your help to pay back the mortgages on our most recent 19.15 acre purchase. Your tax-deductible donation towards the retirement of the mortgage helps ensure the people of San Diego county and the state of California will have another premium railway museum to enjoy for years to come. With your help, we can further expedite the construction of our new expansion plans to create a new safe-haven for railroad preservation. Donations may be made by sending a check to the PSRMA Business Office Attn: Retire the Mortgage, 4695 Nebo Drive, La Mesa, CA 91941. Soon, we will be able to process your donations online. Please stay tuned for more details.
Donations in any amount are appreciated. Again, we stress that we cannot make this expansion effort happen without you.