The early 1800s was a time of massive expansion and growth in America as the young country acquired more territory. However, while America now stretched from sea to shining sea, traversing across the country was a long and complicated journey. Before the opening of the Transcontinental Railroad, the trip was a six-month-long odyssey as part of a wagon train led by a guide who had made the journey, which was dangerous and uncomfortable.
Construction on the Transcontinental Railroad began when California Governor Leland Stanford hammered in the Golden Spike at Promontory Point, Utah, in May 1869, to much celebration. However, the final link of the railway – bringing together the Union Pacific line from the east and the Central Pacific line from the west– did not occur until September 8, 1869. On this date, the last link, which had been built simultaneously from the Bay Area and Sacramento, met right here in Lathrop at Mossdale Crossing Bridge over the San Joaquin River.
The first train that crossed over this bridge at Mossdale Crossing made the dream of creating a railroad line that could traverse the country from the West Coast to the East a reality! The train route reduced the discomfort of a 6-month trip by wagon train to as little as eight days by train. Mossdale Crossing was named for William S. Moss, the founder of the San Francisco Examiner. He was also one of the owners of the ferry service across the San Joaquin. At the time of the bridge’s opening, the ferry charged $1 per person, $8 for a wagon, or $3 to take a passenger with a horse across the river.
The Mossdale Bridge also marks the landing point of The Comet. This ship sailed from Yerba Buena (San Francisco) in 1846 with a 20-man contingent of Mormons who wanted to create a West Coast Colony on the San Joaquin River. William Stout led the group that landed at Mossdale, then headed up the river to establish a colony near Caswell State Park. They cultivated 80 acres in a matter of months but abandoned the settlement after intense winter rains ruined the outpost.
The Bridge was built in 1869 and replaced in 1895. It was rebuilt in 1942 as a truss bridge with the iconic towers that you can see today from River Islands’ trail system today. Want to learn more about the extensive trail system in River Islands? EXPLORE OUR WEBSITE!