Skip to comments.Finding and Losing the World's Oldest Subway Tunnel (& a steam loco)
Posted on 03/27/2014 9:50:37 AM PDT by logi_cal869
History, Mystery, and Tunnels (& Trains).
Reading The Cosgrove Report sent this guy on a hunt for a missing tunnel possibly used by John Wilkes Booth. After finding the tunnel, and running tours in the tunnel for 30+ years the city all the sudden revoked his business license and a part of history goes back undercover.
Don't ask how I came across this. No idea who posted this originally. The link goes to the post, which also links to the 9 minute video on Youtube, referencing "the first subway tunnel ever built in America", interviewing Robert Diamond on The Joe Franklin Show, cira sometime in the '70s. 30+ years this story spans, ignoring the 100+ year-old tunnel & potential steam locomotive buried within.
32 years Bob Diamond operated tours of this mysterious tunnel. Even getting it on the Nat'l Register of Historic places.
Very interesting. You can find more on the web searching for:
He claims that the old steam locomotive is also buried in the tunnel (urban legend, per se)
Here's a bit on the link between the tunnel & John Wilkes Booth's 'missing diary'
Finally, lets look at the author of the Cosgrove Report, G.J.A. O'Tool. According to his publisher's website (W.W. Norton), O'Tool was " in charge of special problem solutions at the CIA". Further, on the CIA's own website, O'Tool is cited as "one of the CIA's in-house US Civil War espionage experts". Maybe the Cosgrove Report wasn't entirely a work of "docudrama" after all. Judge for yourself.
The latter just makes it more interesting. I'm gonna go track down The Cosgrove Report myself (nice diversion from current events)...
Sunken sunkin civ posting!
Ain’t a sunken civilization.
Jest a sunken shaft beneath a city sinken’ from years of squalor and democrat-sponsored debris.... 8<)
But that was in Manhattan, this is in Brooklyn.
Heh...and in hindsight now...
“A tunnel to nowhere” ???
In the late 1970s, Robert Diamond, an engineering student, became curious about the mystery and unearthed a map of the area in 1850; there, amazingly, was the lost tunnel. Pursuing this lead, he encountered massive resistance and disbelief from the city’s engineers, who were understandably reluctant to believe that, unknown to them, a major railroad tunnel underlay one of the borough’s main thoroughfares. But an item in the Brooklyn Eagle from 1911 mentioned a set of tunnel plans found in the borough president’s garbage, and a duplicate copy proved to be moldering away in the borough’s archives.
Diamond finally inveigled the local gas company into opening up a long-undisturbed manhole, right in the middle of a busy intersection. At first, he encountered only walls of dirt on all sides, but the ceiling of the chamber was arched and made of brick. Between the ceiling and the top of the dirt was enough space to crawl through, and eventually he dug through to a concrete wall, where a hole had been patched up with bricks and cobblestones. With help from the gas workers, he broke through, and suddenly he was greeted by a blast of cold air. Even after clambering down a portable ladder, they found themselves in a huge enclosed space. They had found what they were looking for.
What Diamond calls the world’s oldest subway tunnel was constructed in 1844 by the Long Island Rail Road to cover a vital section of track running through a rapidly urbanizing stretch of what was then the growing city of Brooklyn. Passengers disembarked from the South Amboy, N.J., ferry at the foot of Atlantic Avenue and boarded the train. It carried them out to the end of Long Island, where they caught another ferry to Connecticut, ultimately linking up with the Boston & Providence rail line and cutting days or weeks off travel times to Boston.
The railroad was itself largely responsible for the area’s growth. By the early 1840s, the dirt road at the edge of town where the tracks were laid had turned into a lively commercial street clogged with horse-drawn carriages and carts. Many of these vehicles found that the tracks made an ideal parking spot. Pedestrians, too, thronged the busy street, frequently falling on the tracks or being hit by trains. There were complaints about flames and soot. A tunnel under the street seemed best, but Brooklyn sits on a glacial moraine and has no bedrock to tunnel through. It was necessary to use the cut-and-cover method, basically digging a ditch and covering it over.
The tunnel itself took seven months to construct at a cost of $66,000- a considerable sum in those days. Stone for the walls came from excavations in Manhattan, and the trench was covered over with an enormous barrel arch of brick. Over this, the street was rebuilt. For tracks, cast-iron straps were attached to 6-by-6-inch timbers that in turn rested on stone cubes in place of ties.
The tunnel remained in use until 1861, at which time one Electus Litchfield contrived to obtain a contract to close the now-superseded tunnel and fill it in completely. It seems, though, that he confined himself to walling off the tunnel at both ends and filling in only the outer portions. This maneuver, of course, allowed him to pocket a tidy sum. Thanks to this ancient fraud, there is still a tunnel to explore.
Half a century later, with World War I raging in Europe and memories of the old tunnel still alive, the conviction arose that somehow the tunnel was crawling with German spies busily mixing up batches of mustard gas. To gain access, investigators started digging test pits on Atlantic Avenue and eventually broke through into the tunnel, but nary a saboteur was to be found. The manhole that was left as the sole means of access in 1861 was not noticed, and it remained unremarked in the middle of a busy intersection for more than a century.
Diamond, the tunnel’s rediscoverer, is now trying to restore trolley service to the section of Brooklyn known as Red Hook through his Brooklyn Historic Railway Association. He hopes to hook up this line to one running through the old tunnel; he has already had to fight off a proposal to use the tunnel to carry sewage. If all goes well, the rumbling sounds beneath Atlantic Avenue may someday be heard once again, even by those without overactive imaginations.
Mechanical Engineering Magazine
Month of December, 1998
My favorite kind of stories. Thanks.
In before “Sheila Jackson Lee claims it was part of the Underground Railroad...”
I found dozens & dozens of links. No time to filter them for good info. I just found the 30 y/o tv interview captivating, illustrating the 3-decade adventure & business enterprise by one man of particular interest. I would LOVE to be involved in restoring an old steam loco.
I hope he gets his access back and finds it.
DIABOLICAL! Are his descendants Conservative? Oh, gee, even remotely related to the Koch Bros? Oh, gawd... /s
Wow. That reads like the plot of Ghostbusters II.
"...took up the body, and had it conveyed to the Dead House, in a cart."
It certainly was a different world back then... ;-) Also. the page that was located on (the ghost stories link) also had an article from a column Walt Whitman wrote for the local paper. Haha! You can see why ol' Walt wasn't going to become famous for being a newspaper journalist.
Again, thanks for the links!
Makes you wonder what he was buried under: J. Lowrey or S. W. Lowrey...
Thanks to all for the contributions!
I can’t believe I forgot about that scene. LOL
That is very cool. Thanks for posting the link.
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