John D. Spreckels, driving in the San Diego & Arizona’s Railway’s Golden Spike: November 15, 1919
John D. Spreckels, aka the patron saint of Coronado, didn’t know the meaning of the word impossible. Determined to create a direct railway from San Diego to the east coast, John D. Spreckels kept his plan going through a world war, stone that could be cut by mere inches per day, mudslides, flooding, and a Mexican revolution. Mr. Spreckels’ tenacity even convinced President Wilson to allow work to continue during WWI’s moratorium on railway construction.
In the Carriso Gorge San Diego & Arizona railway section, “there were 17 tunnels to be bore in the 11 miles in the Gorge proper, ranging from about 200 feet to 2,600 in lengths. The bench had to be carved out of the steep slopes of the canyon, sometimes as high as 900 feet above the bottom of the ravine.” Richard V. Dodge, San Diego’s Impossible Railroad, Dispatcher #6, June 29, 1956, A publication of the Railway Historical Society of San Diego.
Mr. Spreckels made his successful plea to President Wilson based on the paramount importance of transporting passengers and freight from the east coast to San Diego to support military operations. Track was laid directly to Coronado’s North Island Naval Air Base.
During the Roaring Twenties, passengers could travel to Chicago with luxury Pullman service and John D. Spreckels enjoyed his own private rail car.