The Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association’s mission statement is to preserve history through physical legacy, historical context, cultural landscape and experience of rail transportation. The Campo rail station dates back to 1916, a stop along the San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railway line. In order to connect Arizona to San Diego, the tracks had to dip down into Tecate and Tijuana before emerging back again into the United States. It was financed and promoted by John Spreckles, the wealthiest man in San Diego, at a price tag of $18,000,000. The project, which was known as the “impossible railroad” came with a series of issues, like tricky topography and Mexican Revolutionary sabotage. Spreckles laid the golden spike in 1919, but with the tunnels and bridges constantly being damaged (through natural and unnatural causes), it stopped service through Mexico in 1951. The train that runs today from Campo is a 45 minute ride that departs from the historic Campo train station, goes to the border and then reverses to the museum, dropping visitors off at the train exhibit hall.
Although the museum’s collection primarily focuses on equipment ran on San Diego County rails, it also highlights the rail systems to which San Diego has been connected. The 140 acre property has plenty of space to display whatever trains it can collect, the most recent acquired being a Coaster. Inside the exhibit hall there is a train car which Spreckels converted into a luxury business car, and used to entertain investors, shippers and family members. There is also a wooden railroad car which has been used in several movies including Elvis Presley’s “Love me Tender”.
Although the Pacific Southwest Railway museum opened in the 1980s, this is our first visit. We love it here and plan to return for another train ride (maybe with Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny). And we will be their first customers when the railroad is cleared and passengers can once again take a day trip over the longest and tallest wooden trestle in the world to Tecate, Mexico.