I write a lot about bridges here, so today it’s time to write about a tunnel. Hidden beneath Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn is the oldest subway tunnel in the world. It was built in 1844 for the Long Island Railroad and was closed up in 1861.
Passengers traveling up the eastern seaboard would take a ferry across New York Harbor to Brooklyn, where they would board the train. The train would take them to Greenport, almost the very end of Long Island’s north fork. From there, passengers would take a ferry across Long Island Sound to Connecticut, where they would catch another train for Boston. At first the train through Brooklyn ran at street level, but as the area was developed there were a lot of unpleasant and grisly incidents involving trains and people, so a tunnel was dug to provide “grade separation.”
Bob Diamond discovered the old tunnel in 1980, and in 1982 he founded the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association “to preserve, publicize and provide public access to the historic tunnel.” To do this, they run public tours under Atlantic Avenue. Karen, the kids, and I took the tour this afternoon.
To enter the tunnel, we lined up in the middle of Atlantic Avenue, waiting our turn to climb the ladder down the manhole.
Y was first down the ladder:
Followed by P:
Once down the hole we walked about fifteen feet to the tunnel entrance. After squeezing through a small opening, we emerged into the vast space of the tunnel, about half a mile long. Here’s a look back at the entrance and the stairs leading down into the tunnel:
And another view of the entrance:
Here are three of the intrepid explorers:
After everyone entered the tunnel, Bob Diamond gave a very interesting and lively talk on a range of topics, from the history of the tunnel to conspiracy theories involving John Wilkes Booth to political corruption.
The tunnel, which Walt Whitman described as “all closed and filled up, and soon to be utterly forgotten” is well worth a visit. Information about upcoming tours is on the BHRA website. After the tour you will agree with Walt:
The tunnel: dark as the grave, cold, damp, and silent. How beautiful look earth and heaven again, as we emerge from the gloom!
(And to find out why Y is wearing a Lakers T-shirt, read his blog: A Lakers Fan in NYC.)
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