National City to Coronado

The Coronado Branch

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Paved-over rails in Coronado at Pomona Avenue, where the line extended to NASNI. Photo by Mike Palmer, July 2004.

This branch was part of the San Diego & Arizona Eastern, which was a subsidiary of the Southern Pacific.

The city of Coronado was for many decades separated from San Diego by the San Diego Bay, though Coronado is connected to the mainland by a several-mile-long narrow strip of land called The Strand that extends south to Imperial Beach. The SD&AE connected National City to Coronado with a U-shaped branch. The right leg started at National City, the base was Imperial Beach, and the left leg extended along The Strand and ended in Coronado. At some point, the Coronado end of the SD&AE line was extended, via street running, to an adjacent Naval Base that is now referred to as NASNI (Naval Air Station — North Island).

In the late 1800s, the Del Coronado resort hotel was opened in Coronado; most of its guests in its first decades of operation arrived by train on the SD&AE.

In the early 1970s, the towering San Diego-Coronado Bridge was built over the bay between Coronado and San Diego. This bridge likely contributed to the demise of the Imperial Beach-to-Coronado segment of the line, along with the general lack of carload shipments by the US Navy. There was a salt works business in Imperial Beach that remained a freight shipper until the 1980s or 1990s, but that too is also closed.

The northern connection of this branch with the rail network in National City was severed at some point and replaced with another connection further south in Chula Vista. This Chula Vista connection is unique because it includes a diamond and wye with a light rail line (freights used the line between midnight and 5am), and a wye tail track that extends down the middle of a street.

Thanks to Mike Palmer for contributing information about this route.

This is really good photos along with excellent information regarding these areas south of San Diego, Ca. Altough many of Southern Pacific's abandoned rails in other locations have been removed, these for some reason are all still in place as of 06/09. As usual, a special thanks and a well done job by Mike Palmer.

Keith Johns
San Diego, CA
6/25/2009

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I worked for the BNSF down in San Diego from '99-'03 and have since transfered to Houston. The last time I remember this line having any use was when there was a surge of potash shipments at the port around '01. So many loaded cars arrived and were stored on this line for about 5 months down near J. St. Marina. They used the wye north of H St. in Chula Vista to take them down and bring them back.

Thanks for the photos

Dave P
Houston, TX
8/10/2010

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Interesting photos!

I tried to see how the track goto the base.

In GooglEarth, I thoughthathe track traveled on Pomona Avenue. http://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=Glenwood+Springs,+CO&daddr=Bear's+Archery+%26+Gun+Shop,+Glenwood+Springs,+CO&hl=en&ll=32.689358,-117.173159&spn=0.012714,0.027874&sll=39.592725,-106.84921&sspn=0.770401,1.783905&geocode=FUp-WwIdmFqa-Sn5eh80lwlBhzElEWFME1l-jA%3BFQxZWgIdGymb-SFVy4vXYKMtuikpxuncFahBhzEkigieCw4qaQ&vpsrc=6&mra=ls&t=h&z=16

From Pomona, did it curve left onto 3rd street into NASNI?

Rails can still be seen in the cement parking areas of the base.

Thank you.

Robert Gift
Denver, CO
9/27/2011

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The line ran out to the northeast side of Coronado, then swung left to run along 1st Street into the base. Having lived in Coronado from 1965 to 1977, I remember the freight trains that ran into North Island along 1st Street once or twice a week, depending on how many carriers were in port; some of us kids would go out and put pennies on the track before the train came through to get them flattened by the train.

Sean Malloy
San Diego, CA
6/16/2013

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The Coronado Line has never been officially abandoned and is dormant! Portions have been used to create a bike path along parts of San Diego Harbor. Track was lifted from Coronado south to Imperial Beach in 1970, after the Navy discontinued rail service to North Island! The line and existing right of way were part of the SD&AE sale by the Southern Pacific RR. to the Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB), now Metropolitan Transit System (MTS).

Mike Reading
San Diego, CA
4/21/2014

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I actually visited the old depot in National City today. I walked along the Coronado Branch ROW just south of the hotel across from the National City depot. The ROW is certainly intact, but you can tell it has seen no action for quite some time. There are small trees growing inside the rails/ties near the marine National City up to the depot. South of the Sweetwater River crossing to the salt works looks fairly clear of any major tree growth that would prohibit rail travel, but here is weed coverage in spots(I drove along Bay Dr. and observed most of the remaining track).

I spoke to "Steve" at the San Diego Electric RR/ National City Depot museum. He said there has been some talk or slight possibility of acquiring approval for that segment of old track (from the Depot to the salt works) for running a vintage trolley associated with the museum. The challenges to this would be costs to electrify the track, inspect the track, inspect trestles/bridges, clear brush and restore the ROW to an operational standard. A vintage or historical train of any kind along that isolated branch would be awesome. As long as nobody has the desire to rip up what tracks are still there, I guess it would still make this a possibility in the future. All of the grading, track, rails and bridges/trestles are left intact. I hope they can restore for limited historical use.

I wish I had a motorized rail/track cart to "put-put" up and down the short rail line. The line is 100% detached from any of the present lines still in operation. No Trespassing signs are posted. All you would need to do is yield at grade crossings and continue when traffic is clear. That would be fun.

Dan W.
San Diego, CA
4/24/2014

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I apologize for my poor proof reading of my last post. Correction: I did not see any signs restricting or prohibiting access to the (dormant) ROW along this line.

Dan W.
San Diego
4/24/2014

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I WORKED FOR SDTI FROM 85-07 AS A MAINTAINER THEY DID RUN SOME SALT SOMETIMES IN THE 80S AND 90S

mike watson
someset, KY
5/8/2015

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This branch was abandoned in 2014.The diamond has been removed. The track is currently blocked by brush/plants south of E Street. Hopefully the museum in National City can put together a business plan and gain full control of the line. SD&AE Board requires a business plan before they give the green light.

Grant
Palm City, CA
4/4/2016

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I've been doing a lot of research and I noticed after looking at Google Maps that the line actually continued north about 700 more feat over a parking lot entrances. There are still railroad crossing signs there. About 40 feet away from the crossing is a switch that leads to a short 300 foot spur that is not paved over. So I thought it was the end but the other side of the switch is paved over. So I followed the nearby UP(EX-SP) tracks and I pass Bay Marina DR on maps came by a warehouse and there was a little spur that went through the parking lot and was unpaved. I lined it up to the switch across the street and it was exactly lined up. I think that this branch went here and connected back to the main line by the warehouse. This was all done on Google Maps.

zach soren
auburn, CA
8/1/2016

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WHEN THE LINE WAS ACTIVE THEIR WERE TO WAYS TWO ENTER IT FROM THE TROLLEY SOUTHLINE(OLD SOUTHREN PACIFIC MAINLINE)

JUST SOUTH OF 8TH AVE AND NORTH OF CIVIC CENTER DRIVE AT SW 43(NOT SURE ON THE SW NUMBER)THE TURNOUT THEN WENT THROUGH THE OLD NAVY BOAT YARD AND CROSSED PACIFIC HWY AND WENT DOWN NATIONAL AVE PAST THE SCRAPYARDS TO THE TRAIN YARD BY THE OLD SANTA FE DEPOT IN NATIONAL CITY, THE OTHER WAY WAS AT FST CHULA VISTA AT THE DIAMOND OR INTERLOCK 40 IT THEN CUT ACROSS THE FREEWAY ON THE BRIDGE AND BAY BLVD

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michael watson
retired SDTI
8/8/2016

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