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Western Railroad Discussion > Carrizo Gorge Wrecks

Date: 03/04/07 21:53
Carrizo Gorge Wrecks
Author: Jaanfo

Hey folks, I was looking for information on derailments in the Carrizo Gorge, primarily information on the Coors wreck, we have an approximate date range (friend has a grandfather who was the Conductor during that derailment, but he's passed on and his wife didn't keep track of the exact date). If you know where I can look up the info on at least that one derailment, or if you have any information on it, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advanced!


Date: 03/05/07 01:29
Re: Carrizo Gorge Wrecks
Author: DRGW

Jaanfo Wrote:
> Hey folks, I was looking for information on
> derailments in the Carrizo Gorge, primarily
> information on the Coors wreck, we have an
> approximate date range (friend has a grandfather
> who was the Conductor during that derailment, but
> he's passed on and his wife didn't keep track of
> the exact date). If you know where I can look up
> the info on at least that one derailment, or if
> you have any information on it, it would be
> greatly appreciated. Thanks in advanced!
> -J

Google is always a wonderful resource. Looks like this derailment happened in 1953, according to the San Diego Society of "N" Scale... There is a photo essay on their website by Chris Guenzler, and included in that essay is a picture of the wrecked Coors boxcar.The essay is on their website here:
Scroll down about two-thirds of the way to fing the photo; The caption notes the derailment as having happened in 1953.

Also found via Google was this little tidbit: Apparently not all of the beer was recovered -- some of it was buried and recently found! Google found this post on the Model Railroader Magazine forum:
which led to this story about the find:

Here is the text of that story, in case the TV station deletes it from their archives after some period of time:

"Hikers find half-century-old beer buried in desert

When hikers in California saw an old can sticking out of the desert sand, they were initially unaware of the discovery they'd made.

"We were curious, dug down a little deeper and couldn't believe what we found," says Jeff Barnes, one of the hikers.

What they found was a collection of tin cans of Coors Beer, a half-century old and never opened.

They looked up, and there, a few hundred feet away were railroad tracks. It all began to make a little more sense.

Twisting through the mountains near Jacumba are the tracks of what's now called the Carrizo Gorge Railway. Fifty years ago, it was the San Diego and Arizona Eastern, when two cars derailed and went over the side. On one of them was a truck of Coors Beer. The wreckage remains even today, but all the beer was collected.

Or so everyone thought.

"Yeah. Some of these are full of beer," says Barnes. "This one still has beer in it, and we've always wondered what it would be like if we opened it."

It's a fair question. Heat tortured and winter frozen for almost fifty years before they found it, what could it be like? As the attached video reveals, the beer is the color of cough syrup and smells like a combination of fermented wine and dirt. The rest of the cans will remain unopened.

The tracks are strictly off limits now, guarded by railroad and Homeland Security. These cans are among the last remaining traces of what hikers and rail fans call the "Coors Wreck," a little-known bit of high desert history about San Diego.

Ken Kramer, KNSD-TV, San Diego"

Hope these were of help to you. Perhaps if you got in touch with that N-scale club, they coulg get you more information or put you in touch with Chris Guenzler. Or with a real stroke of luck, maybe he's a member here...
Take care,

Date: 03/05/07 02:08
Re: Carrizo Gorge Wrecks
Author: Jaanfo

To be honest (I didn't get into detail earlier since I'm sure many people will read this and figure I'm blowing smoke up your dairy-air, but since you mentioned all that I should give you more info on what we know)

Our family met one of the miscellaneous unnamed hikers ("friends") from the above article through church and we're good friends with him and his family, the group of hikers was on one of many excursions which took them hiking and backpacking down the CZRY (and former iterations) during its abandoned years (I went with them once, camped overnight at the Goat Canyon Trestle but we didn't collect cans that time... phooey). They had gotten to know the line through the likes of Jon's grandfather who had been a conductor, and later an engineer, for the railroad which used the line... He was Conducting two trains which derailed on the line. He passed on before the group ever became curoius about the wrecks, and his wife knew very little about them as she wasn't there, so very little information on this particular aspect of the line was passed on through the family.

The cans collected sat in cupboards for years before Jeff (a former NBC employee, which is how they found out about the cans) was interviewed for the segment (a weekly segment called "About San Diego"). The publicity attracted attention from several groups, including Coors and the Smithsonian, both organizations are now requesting information on the history of the cans for varying purposes. As has been provided above, we can only get ballpark figures... years, season (which changes depending on who you talk to) but never any solid DATES, as the Smithsonian and Coors both are requesting.

I am hoping someone here has resources or knows where I can find them, I will contact SDSONS and ask if they have anything, so thanks for the idea (and the link!)


Date: 03/05/07 09:39
Re: Carrizo Gorge Wrecks
Author: bobs

Chris is a TO member, going by the "Mudrock" handle, and posts frequently.

Date: 03/05/07 18:50
Re: Carrizo Gorge Wrecks
Author: 2720

Hello Jared,
I read your thread on TO about the 'Coors wreck' in the Carriso Gorge, on the old San Diego & Arizona Eastern railway. I am both a member of the SDSONS club in the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, and an Engineer with the Carrizo Gorge Railway now operating the line. I was part of the crew that reopened the 2 burned out tunnels(16 and 8)in the Carriso Gorge. While digging out tunnel 16 from the east end I found a flattened Coors can, figuring it was one of the cans 'liberated' from the wreck. The SP actually posted armed guards out at the derailment site(MP99), to keep the 'liberators' at bay. I acquired a set of photos of this derailment about 3 years ago from the widow of SD&AE engineer Gaylen Dyreng, who originally showed me these photos about 10-12 years earlier. The processing date on the prints is early 1965, but I have heard this derailment might actually have occurred as early as 1963. None of the cars went over the side during the derailment, but one was tossed over during the cleanup. The boxcar shown in some of the posted pictures was an 'empty' headed to San Diego for loading, and was leaning precariously toward the canyon side of the tracks, and if you look around the car you'll see no evidence of its trucks, saved and sent out with the wreck train. The Coors was loaded in 2 refrigerated trailers, one painted for Coors, and the other plain. During the rigging of the Pig flat, and during the lift the rigging cut into the trailers, damaging the load, and automatically activating the insurance on it. The wreckmaster was supposedly quoted as saying, "F--k it, over the side", and so the two trailers were tossed into the gorge where they reside today. The only load that went over the side were
precast concrete beams, on their way to San Diego for the construction of the Pearson Ford dealership at Fairmount and El Cajon Blvds in east San Diego. These beams were loaded on flatbed truck semi trailers, and loaded onto piggyback flatcars, and were dumped off during the derailment, with 2 or 3 trailers going into the gorge with their loads. The beams were left behind, and the trailers were recovered. Ironically one of the guys working to reopen the gorge in the late 90s, and early 2000s, had a connection to this wreck, his 1st wife's uncle was on the crew waiting for those concrete beams back in the 1960s, and about 2000/2001 we took that gentleman into the gorge with us one day, and he proceeded to expose about 4 or 5 rolls of film, recording the whereabouts of those long lost beams he and his crew were waiting for, most of them now retired, but they keep in touch with each other. "Wait till I tell the guys I finally found our beams", he laughingly yelled out to us. I will try to post the photos I have as soon as I can get a friend to scan them for me. If you or anyone else has any questions you can get in touch with me at mike_czry@yahoo.com.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/29/11 19:41 by 2720.

Date: 03/05/07 19:14
Re: Carrizo Gorge Wrecks
Author: 2720

Back again with more info on other derailments in the Carriso Gorge.
The only 2 other derailments that left equipment in the gorge occurred in 1925, and 1983.
The 1925 derailment was actually done on purpose!! A silent film called 'Beggars of Life' was filmed using equipment from the SD&A, most notably the SD&A 104, ex SP 2720, a 2-8-0 purchased by the SD&A used from SP, which still exists at the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum at Campo, California. The climactic moment at the end of the film has 2 cars, a wooden flatcar loaded with lumber, and a wooden caboose on fire going over the side into the gorge. The remnants of these cars are still in the gorge out the east end of tunnel 6. A temporary track was laid on the construction trail around tunnel 6, and the cars were lit up, and sent flying. The frames of the cars came to rest a short distance down the hillside, but 3 of the wheelsets ended up all the way at the bottom, near the creekbed. I acquired a video copy of 'Beggars of Life' a few years ago, and its pretty interesting to say the least.
The 1983 derailment occurred while Kyle Railways was operating the SD&AE, a west bound train coming through the gorge one night, had a derailment at or near MP104, a rail either broke, or turned over sending a few cars off the track. One car, a 50' SP boxcar went over the side, and ended up on its side with some of its wheelsets descending farther into the gorge, a second 50' SP boxcar stayed upright along side the track, but was damaged during the derailment. Both boxcars were loaded with 100 pound sacks of cement, and the decision was made to unload as much of it as possible. The upright car gave up its full load, and the car on its side gave up most of its load, but proved to be too unstable to continue. The SP was contacted, and the cars were found to be fully amortized, and the decision was made to abandon the cars, the upright car was then shoved over the side to join its kin in perpetuity out in the Carriso Gorge.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/04/12 00:44 by 2720.

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