In the late 1800s, passage for both freight and people was sought between Richmond and San Francisco, each across the San Francisco Bay from each other. To ferry across the bay, the Santa Fe Railway constructed a pier in Richmond in 1899 for direct transfer of railroad cars to barges, thus becoming the first western U.S. port to do so. The pier, later called Point Richmond, was soon responsible for developing Richmond into an industrialized area. This development was also spurred by the Santa Fe's major railroad yard adjacent to Point Richmond, which was established in the early 1900s. To access Point Richmond, the Santa Fe built a tunnel through the Potrero San Pablo ridge, which gained them access to the ferry landing from which cars could be loaded onto ferries. Commercial use of the pier ended in 1975; a 1984 fire damaged it severely.
An interesting note about the railroad line between Richmond and Richmond Point: the only two remaining upper-quadrant wig-wag signals in the United States still stand at the line's grade crossing with West Richmond Avenue. While the crossing today is guarded by modern equipment, the wig-wags were preserved, and are still used for special occasions.
Thanks to Andrew Laverdiere for contributing information about this route.