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San Diego & Arizona Railway crossing the Carrizo Gorge. Labeled the “Impossible Railroad,” the arduous route over rugged desert and mountains took 13 years to complete. Finally, in 1919, San Diegans achieved their dream to establish a direct rail line to the east. With the completion of the railroad and the Panama Canal, a few years earlier, San Diego, as the closest American port of call to the canal, was in a strategic position to become a great commercial center as a result of the link between land and sea.