San Diego, CA

Take An Adventure Through San Diego's Beautiful Secret Forgotten Railway Past

J. Maginot

@mash via Twenty20

With so many new attractions sprouting up like weeds along the coast, there is a lot of attention directed at San Diego's modern rail amenities.

Looking at you Sea World roller coasters.

It can be easy to forget that our fair city, like every other, has been built on the bones of its predecessors. There are numerous historic structures, businesses, and rail lines in San Diego that have been left behind for decades. Some of these structures are still around to this day and some have even been repurposed for commercial use.

You can live your entire life in the city and never run across some of these spots.

Take a trip with me through some of my favorite places where you can visit San Diego's past right here in town. Visit might be a strong word on some of these. As they lay on private property, you need to arrange your own access, but most are readily accessible.

Campo Ralway Museum

Photo Courtesy of Paul Rosas

The Pacific Southwest Railway Museum in Campo is worth spending the day at. San Diego was linked to the East by several railways over the years that traversed the harsh desert conditions along the southern border between the United States and Mexico.

The museum features several historic steam trains, railway cars, and memorabilia in various states of repair.

Museum staff and volunteers are working diligently to restore a few locomotives to action and repair some of the track to the east of Campo in hopes of extending their tours further into the desert.

Where to Park

750 Depot St, Campo, CA 91906

Jacumba Abandoned Railway

Photo Courtesy of Brock Warwick

Further east out Old Highway 80 you'll run into Jacumba. On the north side of town is the railway line. Several derelict wooden passenger cars are strewn on either side of the tracks.

You can park near the fire station and walk the .2 miles north on Railroad Street until you see what's left of the once proud rail line. Eventually this will be part of the track that is restored by the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum, but that stands a long way off.

For now, bask in the abandoned glory of what was San Diego's proud rail tradition.

Where to Park

1315 Railroad St, Jacumba Hot Springs, CA 91934

Goat Canyon Trestle

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Key

The wooden trestle spanning Goat Canyon is the largest curved wooden trestle bridge in the world. It was built in 1933 after the San Diego and Arizona Eastern railroad grew tired of dealing with collapsing tunnels.

The scale of the bridge is impressive. It was built out of wood because of the massive temperature swings in the San Diego deserts which can be as much as 40 degrees regularly.

The trestle fell out of use in 2008 when another tunnel suffered a cave in and the line was shut down. The land is currently owned by the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, so you need to check before venturing out. Though, looking at recent activity on Twitter, it would seem the trestle is still accessible.

The hike itself isn't easy and the elevation change is nothing to sneeze at. Bring lots of water and start early. As with any place abandoned, take the trip at your own risk and be on the lookout for anything or anyone who might cause harm.

The trestle is in a remote area of the county, so emergency services aren't readily available should anything go wrong. The Baja California Railroad is currently working to reopen the line, but until they can, be extremely careful.

Where to Park

Contact San Diego MTS for more information.


San Diego has entirely too many rich and exciting historical threads to ignore. From time to time, you have to pull on a few and see what unravels. In a city known for its tremendous weather and beaches, digging through the past is a worthwhile way to spend a day.

It's good to see restoration underway on San Diego's railway past, but let's not kid ourselves, this won't be done without significant outside help. It would be a shame to see the desert completely reclaim this part of the county's history. Help out if you can. If you can't, enjoy these abandoned railway adventures while they're still around to enjoy.

Comments / 1

Published by

I write articles focused on helping others break out of their 9-5 mindset. This involves side hustles, mindset, motivation, hands on practical tips, case studies, 30 day challeneges, and other related content. It's a blast.

San Diego, CA

More from J. Maginot

Comments / 0