The San Diego Electric Railway Association operates the historic National City Depot as a museum that is open Saturday and Sunday
from 10 am to 4 pm.
This lovely Santa Fe station
(California Southern Railway when it was first constructed) was the first terminus of transcontinental rail travel in the San
Diego area. It is the oldest railroad-related structure still standing in San Diego County, and it
is in its original location.
The city of National City restored the structure to the way it was when it was built in 1882
- restored in 1998. The woodwork and other details of the interior are especially impressive.
From the San Diego Trolley, take the Blue Line to National City / 24th St Station. The
Depot is about 4 blocks west of the station.
The Depot is open Saturdays and Sundays 10 am - 4 pm and by appointment.
"I see tracks. Are there trains?"
Yes! BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway) does a fair amount of freight operations in
this area. The San Diego Port District has a large terminal just down the road on Bay Marina Drive
(restricted access) where large container and car carrier ships make deliveries and the cargo is
carried by rail to points all over the country - avoiding the busy port of Long Beach. Remote
controlled switching engines are frequently seen passing the Depot property. Recent improvements will
increase the number of trains passing next to the Depot!
"Was the second story an addition to the Depot?"
No, the depot appears today much as it did back in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Over the
years, awnings were used and an elevated freight dock was available trackside. During renovation in
1998, many changes made while the structure was used as a restaurant were removed to restore it to
its original configuration.
"Is the second floor accessible to the public?"
Sorry, no. The second story is used as office space and there are no exhibits on that floor. In
the early days of the Depot, that floor was used as a general business office for the railroad.
"What is that wooden platform in the Freight Room?"
That is the original scale used to weigh the freight prior to shipment by rail. While it is not
functional at this time, there are components on display nearby.
"Who owns the Depot?"
The City of National City owns the property and building while the San Diego Electric Railway
Association, Inc. (d.b.a. San Diego Electric Railway) has a Maintenance and Operating Agreement with
the City. SDERA is responsible for maintaining the property and building. If you are interested in
helping us with keeping this historic depot in great shape, please contact us at the Depot -
619-474-4400. As will all classic structures, we need to actively work to keep the weather and time
from doing what it does best.
"Is the building available for events or meetings?"
Yes! Our main freight room can hold up to 60 people (about 30-35 normally). Please contact our Staff
at the Depot - 619-474-4400 - to make arrangements.
"What does it take to be a docent?"
It is easy to be a docent. If you are interested in history, rail, or any combination of the two,
and have a few hours to spare a month, contact Docent Coordinator John DeLalla
"The Depot looks unusual. What is the architectural design used for the depot?"
The National City Depot was designed with an Italianate style of architecture - a distinct style
in the nineteenth century. For more information on Italianate designs, see
"Can we do class or group tours of the Depot?"
Yes - with advance reservations. We do not normally staff the museum Monday through Friday but
will make arrangements to support class tours. We would also appreciate advance notice if you are
bringing large groups so we can have the right number of docents available.
"Is food available at the Depot?"
We have drinks available for sale in our Gift Shop. Picnic Tables are available outside
if you would like to bring a lunch and enjoy the typically nice San Diego-area weather. Fast food is
available on the other side of Interstate 5 (In-and-Out Burger and Chipotle are popular spots with Depot
volunteers!). The Waterfront Grille is also a short distance away on Marina Way just south of the Depot.
"Does the Depot have an corporate sponsors?"
The Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Nation and their Sycuan Casino have been generous to maintaining our
historic building. As a stakeholder in the new Marina Gateway Best Western Hotel across the street, Sycuan shares our desire to see the Marina Gateway redevelopment effort succeed.
The National City Host Lions Club recently contributed towards our major re-painting effort.
We continue to look for additional sponsors - especially now that we have completed the south yard and are ready to start planning for our north yard. Our long term goals include building a car barn and we will need more than just Memberships to fund a major undertaing of this size!