A Real Railroad To Model

The San Diego & Arizona Eastern

by J.W.Grosdidier

Article from Model Craftsman, the Magazine of Mechanical Hobbies, March 1938:

This reference is reproduced from an old photocopy of the article.

When found, high resolution images from alternate sources are now available on this web page.

Mountain scenery like this characterizes a large part of the
line. It is easy to reproduce effectively on a model layout.

Apologies for the scanned photocopy image quality.

As a prototype for the model railroader desiring authenticity, the San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railway is almost ideal, being both a short line and the terminus of a transcontinental route. The general characteristics of the line are such as to combine almost all of the operating conditions occurring in railroading. In its 148 miles (forty-four of which are in Old Mexico), it runs from sea level at San Diego on the Pacific Ocean, through a pass of the Jacumba Mountains at an elevation of 3660 feet and ends at its junction with the Southern Pacific Company in El Centro at an elevation of forty-eight below sea level. Through Mexico, it is the Tijuana and Tecate Railway, or Ferrocarril de Tijuana y Tecate to say it in Spanish.

The main line of the San Diego & Arizona Eastern starts at San Diego and as indicated in the map on page 6, crosses into Mexico at Mile 16. The International Boundary Line here is no imaginary line, but is a substantial barbed wire fence with large wooden gates at the track, which customs officers open to permit passage of trains. In Mexico, so far as the railroad is concerned, there is no evident difference except that all signs are in Spanish and distances are measured in the metric system. "Railroad Crossing--Look Out For The Trains" "Crucero del Ferrocarril--Cuidado con los Carros." Mile posts are replaced by kilometer posts, which are designated as K-1, K-2, etc. A kilometer equals approximately five-eights of a mile so eighty kilometers an hour is not as fast as it might sound.

At Agua Caliente, the line begins to climb. The grade from there at K-5 to Redondo at K-33 is 0.9 per cent and from there to the summit at Hipass, M.P. 83, it is 1.4 per cent. In climbing out of the valley at Redondo, the line makes two loops to develop grade, and from the upper loop one looks down on two track levels below. Tunnel No. 4 is international, the west portal being at K-70 in Mexico, and the east portal at M.P. 60 in the United States.

From Hipass, the line descends on a 2.2 per cent grade to Coyote Wells, M.P. 122. In the eleven miles through Carriso Gorge from M.P. 96 eastward occurs the most spectacular scenery on the line. This stretch of track involved some of the heaviest construction in this country, and includes 17 tunnels and a number of trestles. at M.P. 107, through Tunnels 20 and 21, the track turns out of the Gorge on to the uniform desert slope to the valley below. From Coyote Wells to El Centro the line is generally straight and level, as it is from San Diego to Agua Caliente, but in the intervening mountain section the alinement is one curve after another. In the Carriso Gorge section a few 286 foot radius curves occur.

Click on image for enlarged view from article
Click here for ultra high resolution view of switcher No. 2  (236 Kb)
Click here for ultra high resolution view of ten-wheeler No. 12  (156 Kb)
Click here for ultra high resolution view of Consolidation No. 104 (original square tender)  (236 Kb)
Click here for ultra high resolution view of Consolidation No. 104 (vanderbilt tender)  (190 Kb)

Motive power consists of small Consolidation locomotives for
freight, ten-wheelers for passenger trains, and 0-6-0 switchers.

Apologies for the scanned photocopy image quality.

There are also two branch lines approximately 25 miles long running out of San Diego. One runs northeast through the foothills to Lakeside, and the other runs around San Diego Bay to Coronado and North Island. The Naval Air Station on North Island across the bay from San Diego is one of the largest aerial bases in this country.

Bridges and tunnels are an interesting feature. the trestle (above).
runs along a hillside; the one below a tall, all-bridge.

Apologies for the scanned photocopy image quality.

The entire line is single track, with passing tracks at stations shown on the map. As is usual in the southwest, the water courses are usually dry, but when they are wet, they are vary wet. The shallower of these are crossed on timber trestles, and steel viaducts span the deeper ravines. On one of these the track is 180 feet above the canyon floor. In the Carriso Gorge section the roadway is cut into the canyon wall, but in come places it is necessary to carry the track on sidehill trestle where the posts on the hill side are only a few feet in length and on the canyon side they may be fifty feet or more. There are twenty-one tunnels--some with masonry portals, some concrete, and some timber. There are station buildings at San Ysidro, Tecate, Campo, Hipass, Jacumba, Plaster City, and Seeley on the main line and other stations shown on the map are blind sidings.

Click on image for enlarged view from article
Click here for ultra high resolution view of Tunnel No. 1  (252 Kb)

Two types of tunnel mouths are seen in the photographs above.
The wodden one will add a lot to any model railroader's line.

Apologies for the scanned photocopy image quality.

Headquarters are in San Diego. There are the usual terminal facilities--car and machine shops and an eight-track engine house. There is no turntable, engines being turned on a "Y".

The gas-electric pulled open-end cars as trailers. Below it are
seen a coach, and two views of a salmon-belly gondola car.

Apologies for the scanned photocopy image quality.

Number Wheel
Size of
Weight on
Tender Service
1 0-6-0 51" 107,000 Sloping Switching
2 0-6-0 51" 92,000 Sloping Switching
3 0-6-0 57" 130,000 Sloping Switching
12 4-6-0 57" 87,000 Square Br. freight
20 4-6-0 63" 135,000 Vanderbilt Passenger
24-27 4-6-0 63" 140,000 Square Passenger
50 2-8-0 50" 122,000 Square Br. freight
105, 106
2-8-0 57" 200,000 Vanderbilt Freight
104 2-8-0 57" 200,000 Square Freight
Box cars 6001-6039 80,000 capacity
Box cars 7000-7002 100,000 capacity
Stock cars 9000-9003 80,000 capacity
Flat cars 4501-4518 100,000 capacity (salmon-belly underframe)
Gondolas 3501-3528 100,000 capacity (salmon-belly underframe
tight bottom)
Gondolas 950-969 100,000 capacity (national dumps
drop bottoms)
Tank cars 2601-2604 12,500 gallons (salmon-belly underframe)
Cabooses 401-404 (similar to S.P. Co.)

Operation on the main line consists of one passenger and one freight (mixed) train each way daily and scheduled. They consist of the passenger car mentioned in the description of passenger equipment. The mixed train uses a combination coach-baggage car on the rear end. Service on the branch lines is by extras only. At San Diego, a yard is maintained, and usually one switch engine is on duty at one time.

Variations in the types of passenger cars are seen in these
photographs. Differences in their age are readily apparent.

Apologies for the scanned photocopy image quality.

Motive power consists of thirteen oil-burning locomotives of various types. There are six-wheel switchers, four ten-wheelers for passenger service, and the rest are freight engines of the Consolidation type. All are similar to types in use on the Southern Pacific, and none of them are very large, the biggest Consolidations having 100 tons on the driving wheels. The different types with their numbers are listed in the table.

Passenger equipment is similar to that of the Southern Pacific Company but is used generally only in extra service as the one scheduled passenger train is the San Diego connection of Southern Pacific transcontinental trains. Its consist regularly includes one straight baggage car, one streamlined S.P. coach, two Pullmans, one cafe-lounge car, and on occasions almost any other standard equipment. Until recently three gas-electric cars, numbered 41 to 43, were used in branch line passenger service. Some old wooden coaches with clerestory roof and open vestibules were occasionally used as trailers.

Freight equipment consists principally of forty box cars and forty-six gondolas, with a smaller number of stock, flat, and tank cars. As a considerable portion of the business handled is transcontinental, foreign-line freight equipment predominates in the make-up of trains.

Taken as a whole, then, the line provides an ideal prototype for the model railroader. Probably only a few readers would want to construct a real replica of the line as it stands, or even a part of it. Everyone can, though, get some good ideas for his own pike from this little line. Many enthusiasts are familiar only with big trunk-line railroads, and when they come to operate a model, they find themselves handicapped by a lack of knowledge of what goes on in the smaller line that their layout represents. If other readers of Model Craftsman show a real interest in the S.D.&A.E., I will be glad to give more information in articles to follow.

A map of the San Diego and Arizona Eastern, showing how it
climbs iver mountains and goes through Mexico on its route.

All photographs in this article were scanned from the magazine. Digital resampling reduced the size of the images (with obvious loss of resolution) for use on this web site. Clicking on any photograph will display a larger image. Sadly, I know of no source to obtain a printed copy of this article.

Text was regenerated by Brian Satterlee (from the magazine article). Page layout was altered for better display by a variety of browsers.

© Model Craftsman, the Magazine of Mechanical Hobbies, 1938.