The Railroad & Trolley

With the establishment of the Little Landers Colony in San Ysidro, the Spreckels Company announced plans to expand the San Diego and Arizona Railway (SD&A) across the border at San Ysidro. The short line railroad, which was established in 1906, ran southeast from San Diego, and cut through the north end of the city’s rectangular park. It crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, traversed eastward through Tijuana, then headed northeast through Tecate and back over the border to the town of Campo. The line ended in Seeley, located east of San Ysidro in California. The first passenger train on the SD&A entered Mexico in July 1910. The line was not completed, however, until 1919.

In addition, the Spreckels Company promised to run the National City and Otay (NC&O) interurban line to San Ysidro for commuting passengers. It ran along the same tracks as the SD&A. The NC&O was formed in 1886 by the San Diego Land & Town Company, a subsidiary of the Santa Fe Railroad. It was the first commuter railroad in San Diego. In 1909, John D. Spreckels acquired the line and merged it with the Coronado Railroad to form the San Diego Southern Railroad, which was sold to Spreckel’s San Diego and Arizona Railroad in 1917. The NC&O was electrified in 1907, and is the predecessor of today’s San Diego Trolley.

Today, you can find the trolley (opened in 1981) and the railroad at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

San Diego and Arizona Railway

San Diego and Arizona Railway in 1910

San Diego and Arizona Railway San Diego and Arizona Railway


Historic Context Statement, Final, October 11, 2010, Prepared for: California Office of Historic Preservation, Prepared by: City of San Diego City Planning & Community Investment and Page & Turnbull


  1. REPLY
    Jack Gechter says

    Thank You… Barbara Zaragoza for adding this Railroad & Trolley section to the Friends of San Ysidro Website. Here’s a GR…8 book I would like to recommend to any one interested in the “Impossible Railroad” that was financed and built by John D. Spreckels (circa 1907 – 1917). Growing up in San Ysidro (1949 – 1962), I had no idea about the history and significance of this famous Railroad that cut through San Ysidro. When I recently visited the Campo Railroad Museum, I bought a copy of the 1930 San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railroad Map that clearly shows the “Impossible Railroad” route from San Diego – San Ysidro -Tijuana –Tecate – Campo… then east to Arizona. The Campo Railroad Museum has an old train ride from Campo to the USA-Mexico border and back.There is a scanned copy of this map in the maps section of this website.

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