What Is Unique About The Goat Canyon Trestle?

Goat Canyon Trestle was build between 1932 and 1933.
Goat Canyon Trestle was build between 1932 and 1933.

Anza-Borrego Desert is endowed with amazing things like bighorn sheep that wander on the peak of giant metal sculpture and the unusual museum. But nothing in the desert rivals the fascinating engineering feat known as the Goat Canyon Trestle. The Goat Canyon Trestle is a fascinating and large curved wooden trestle. It is a railway made of redwood timber that stretches over 182 meters long and 54 meters high. However, there seems to be a dispute on its exact height. The railway is often referred to as “Impossible Railroad” because of its extremely difficult terrain. The Goat Canyon Trestle passed through California and San Diego County and finally ended in Imperial Valley.

Why Was Goat Canyon Trestle Constructed?

The Goat Canyon Trestle is a fascinating piece of work on the railroad which was marked “Impossible” that runs from San Diego to Yuma and passed through the mountains and desert. The trestle was constructed in 1932 following the destruction of 17 tunnels by an earthquake. The tunnels were built along the track from 1907 to 1919. One of the tunnels was Tunnel 15 which collapsed in March 1932 with its remnants remaining to date. Rather than follow through the remnants of the mountain that had the destroyed tunnels, the engineers chose to bridge the Goat Canyon, resulting in the Goat Canyon Trestle.

The Construction

The Goat Canyon Trestle was constructed to replace Tunnel 15 that had collapsed in 1932. The construction work began the same year and was carried out in sections with some sections built at the base of the canyon. The trestle was completed the following year, realigning the railroad. Goat Canyon Trestle was constructed with redwood timber, same as the timber used on the other section of the track. Wood was preferred since the high-temperature fluctuation would have caused metal fatigue in the bridge. The trestle was used up until 1951 when the passenger service was stopped. The Goat Canyon Trestle was constantly closed for repair and maintenance work and in 2013, all use was halted.

Threats to the Trestle

Although the wooden railroad is hailed by many as man’s triumph over nature, nature has had her revenge time and again. In 1976, California tropical hurricane known as Kathleen destroyed the trestle and the rest of the line leading to its temporary closure. It took four years for it to be repaired. In 1983, the tunnels collapsed and in 2003 the crew carrying out repairs operations had to conduct firefighting operation following arsonist attack on the nearby railroad track.

Current Status

Following the effects of Hurricane Kathleen and the frequent rain, the trestle slowly became unusable. The Southern Pacific Railroad decided to reduce on their losses and abandon the trestle. The Goat Canyon Trestle is currently not in use because of the damages. However, train lovers and mountain bikers have made it a prominent spot. Although it is abandoned, the trestle is still a private property and access to it is by permission. The surrounding area has a significant number of bighorn sheep and the Bell’s Vireo.


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