Once again, I am reminded of my own rule... "Nothing is ever as easy as it appears on Google Maps."
Blindly following the directions of my GPS, I found myself at a strange little intersection with a gas station. The GPS indicating that I should go straight onto a dirt road and so I complied. I could tell from the mounded earth on the sides of the road that it was periodically maintained by graders. I suspect some time had passed since the last grader, as my organs vibrated in time with the washboard ridges punching a staccato beat against the tires.
The road evened out after a short distance and after circling under the highway, I found that the road ended at a small parking lot, but continued as a private road with clear "No Trespassing" signs displayed. I parked the rented Equinox and jumped out, preparing myself for a longer walk than I had anticipated. The map indicated I would be able to drive within a few hundred yards of my goal, but clearly this was not to be the case.
I went down over the shallow embankment and began following the long disused railway. I was one of many who had come this way as evidenced by the well-worn path that had been etched into the ground. I watched as small lizards skittered across in front of me, and marveled in the dry warmth of the day.
The tracks themselves had been built by the San Diego & Arizona Railway Company formed in 1906. Leased to several organizations over time, it had been used by the Carrizo Gorge Railway Company to move sand for making concrete up until October, 2008, when the condition of the track, trestles and tunnels began to make it unsafe. In 2012, the owner signed a 50-year lease with the Pacific Imperial Railroad Company, but in 2016, it was then sub-leased to the Baja California Railroad who were to begin repairs immediately, and resume operations by this year. In 2017, Pacific Imperial went bankrupt, so it is uncertain where this leaves the future of the line.
Coming to a poorly maintained trestle, I began walking gingerly across. I was careful not to step on rotted ties, and to keep over the support beams running length-ways along the sketchy bridge. In little time, despite my disagreement with heights, I was back on solid ground and on my way.
It wasn't much longer before I spotted the object of my current desire. The end of a rail car which I knew would be connected to five more. Looking down the track toward them, you'll notice almost instantly that something isn't right. As you get closer, you'll realize what it is... The first of the commuter cars is derailed.
The line of six cars was stored on a spur off the main line. An article in the San Diego Reader from early 2015 suggests that an act of "sabotage" was responsible for the brakes being released, and the cars sliding downhill to derail on the switch. Other sources more calmly suggest vandals as the likely cause of the incident. In either case, there's been no traffic on the main line since 2008, so no one has bothered to move the cars.
I walked the outside length of the five commuter cars, examining the graffiti murals adorning the aluminum until I found the last car somewhat out of place. Once a flat-bed, it had been converted for use in tunnel maintenance. I hopped up onto the steps and began working my way through the interior which was in better shape than I would have dared imagine.
Stickers on the inside indicated that the cars had been owned by Metra, a commuter rail organization operating in Chicago, Illinois. At the moment, I was uncertain how these cars would have made their way all that distance to find themselves on a siding here. My best research suggests that they were destined to be used for commuter traffic near Tijuana, Mexico, but the venture fell through before the cars actually arrived.
After I had completed my look around, I began making my way back to my parked vehicle to resume the day's adventures.