The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1995, Volume 41, Number 3
Richard W. Crawford, Editor



Population in 1870: 2300
Population in 1880: 2637

Talk of a railroad began as early as the 1850s, long before a transcontinental line even existed. The short-lived San Diego and Gila, Southern Pacific and Atlantic Railroad Company was the first serious effort to bring the railroad to San Diego.

Passage of a bill by Congress in 1871 for construction of the Texas & Pacific Railroad caused much excitement and speculation in San Diego. A financial panic, however, shattered the hopes of this railroad to make San Diego its main western terminus.

National City entrepreneur, Frank Kimball, went east in 1879 to negotiate with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe on behalf of San Diego and National City. When this bid for a direct rail line failed, a Kimball again went east to try and convince the Santa Fe to come south. This time Kimball’s efforts paid off. In 1880, incorporation of the California Southern Railroad breathed new life into the project with plans for a National City/San Diego-Colton line. Construction began in earnest, and on November 15, 1885, the first train of the California Southern finally left from the foot of D Street (Broadway today). A few days later, on November 21, the first train from the east arrived.