Motorcars, Speeders and

Inspection Cars

Fire Speeder Duty into Mexico

on the Carrizo Gorge Railway, Campo, California

December 29, 2001


By Wayne Parsons


    In May 2000 eight members of Motorcar Operators West went to the San Diego Railroad Museum at Campo, CA for training in fire fighting. The plan was to use our personal speeders to follow the trains to Miller Creek and Tecate, Mexico to spot any fires caused by the train. For our weekend of training we got to ride to the international border at Division and to Miller Creek.  Nothing ever came of the effort because the museum decided to go with "A" cars towing a tank of water.

    I had already been across the border in a Speeder once on a motorcar run survey.  Circumstances prevented that event from happening but, I called around and was accepted as a volunteer for fire speeder duty on the Saturday December 29, 2001 passenger train to Tecate, Mexico.  Allen Andrews rode with me for my check ride on the cross-border operation.

The train is out ahead of the speeder as Alan locks the derail at the west end of Campo.  In 2001 the line was not in service because of the blocked tunnels in the Carrizo Gorge.  Operating procedure was to set this derail (I guess to prevent runaways).  In 2006 with the CG Railway in operation, the main line is always clear for traffic and I believe this derail has been removed.  The center photo shows the view as we leave the west yard limit for Mexico and pick up speed to catch up with the train.

Division is just east of the trestle used to enter Tunnel 4 and cross the Mexican border.  This view is east toward Campo.  Note the concrete telephone booth used to call the dispatcher back in the Southern Pacific days. 

The border is just inside the west portal of Tunnel 4.  The folks riding the train get just a glimpse of this but, riding in a speeder it's a photo opportunity not to be missed!

This is the original west portal of Tunnel 3 which collapsed in the middle and was day-lighted in the center.  Then the entire west end of the tunnel fell in.  Carrizo Gorge Railway established their legitimacy by clearing the collapse and beginning a revenue generating re-loading operation that moved sand from just west of here to Campo.  Carrizo Gorge Railway has gone on to open the tunnels in the gorge and start general freight operations.  To open Tunnel 8, the longest on the line, they cleared water that was blocking the east end.  Tunnel 16 that was burned, and had both ends completely closed, was the last to re-open.  Approaching Tecate on the right, children, alerted by the passing train, come out to see the speeder go by.


   The routine for the Tecate train is a slow run mostly downhill to Tecate while the first class passengers eat their champagne brunch. Arriving in Tecate at 11:30 the engine usually uses a siding for a run around and return to Campo. Alan sets the switches to put the speeder on the Tecate beer brewery siding.
   With the speeder out of the way, the crew is picking up two power units left in Tecate yesterday after some sand car switching. During that switching a Mexican semi truck did a hit and run on one of the engines. They run because in Mexico if there is any collision with a train, the rubber wheel crowd is by law at fault! Anyway, the extra power units took the head for the departure east bound to Campo.

   After walking north just six blocks through Tecate, the conductor and his trainee arrive at the US Border and deliver papers to US Immigration.  The train crew then heads to their favorite bakery near the church and have pastries for lunch.

   What can you say about the left photo except "This isn't Kansas, Toto."  What a thrill it was to operate into Mexico! 

   The train departs at 2:30PM.  We're back in Campo by 4:30PM where a US Customs Agent meets the train.  Even the speeder operators stay in the car until the Customs Agent has spoken to them.


On this Saturday the border is well patrolled between the US and Mexico.  This Mexican Army Squad agreed to pose with us at the east portal of Tunnel 3 just before we crossed back into the US.  The trains still operate into Tecate.  Check out for ticket information.

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