Wednesday, September 14, 2011

From Ryan Weaver: Carrizo Gorge - A Ride On The Impossible Railroad

It was at the very turn of the century that a group of people hiked into the deepest part of San Diego's back country along the old railroad tracks. Weeds and shrubs had grown tall between rail ties. Rockslides buried the rails in mountain passes. Sand had shifted over the tracks in the desert. Many of the tunnels shorn up nearly a century ago with thick redwood timbers had caught fire and caved in. Despite these obstacles and more, the group decided to reopen what was once called "the Impossible Railroad." Four years later, the train rolled again, following the old meandering route between Campo (just above the border with Mexico) to El Centro and Imperial Valley (an agricultural area between San Diego and Yuma).
Sand is the reason the railroad runs again. With increasingly strict regulations imposed by the EPA and other agencies, it has become exceedingly difficult to mine sand in San Diego County. Because the city continues to grow and builders require sand for concrete, the commodity has become increasingly valuable.
The train runs nearly every day. A typical day consists of either bringing empty cars eastward into the desert to spend the night or bringing loaded cars back to Campo, where the sand is dumped at the old train station in massive mounds to be loaded into semi trucks and shipped off.
Four locomotives operate out of Campo, although on any given day there may only be one or two in simultaneous use. Each diesel electric engine generates 3800 horsepower, and each has a 4000-gallon fuel tank. Each V16 engine turns a 600-volt generator, which churns about 5000 amperes of electrical current to the electric traction motors.

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Across Carrizo Gorge

The Carizzo Gorge Railway (NOTE: Mission Impossible Theme for The Impossible Railroad)