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Oldest Subway Tunnel in the World

- adam - Monday, January 5th, 2009 : goo

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The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel is officially the world's oldest subway tunnel, built in 1844 by the cut-and-cover method under a City of Brooklyn Street. It is a half-mile long and accommodated two standard gauge tracks. The tunnel was built in only seven months, using only hand tools and primitive (by today's standards) equipment. It was built to provide grade separation for early Long Island Rail Road trains that lacked brakes good enough to operate on city streets, and to eliminate vehicular and pedestrian traffic conflicts and delays. This route allowed through trains to travel quickly between Brooklyn and Boston (via ferry service to Connecticut).

The tunnel was supposedly filled in 1861 in a fraud scheme that apparently just seeled off the ends. Bob Diamond rediscovered the long forgotten Atlantic Avenue Tunnel in 1980. The Brooklyn Historic Railway Association (BHRA) was formed in 1982 to restore the historic tunnel. BHRA successfully filed and received designation for the tunnel on the National Register of Historic Places.

More info about the tunnel and the tours can be found at:

image 30009
Today I was lucky enough to catch one of his tours as they seem to happen rather sporadically.

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Peering down into the manhole I wasn't sure what it would be like.

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Bob sat down every 50 feet or so to tell us stories. I believe at this point he went into deal about a body that is supposedly buried in the wall of a man that was chopped up by the people working for him (at slave wage).

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Looking up at the layers between us and atlantic avenue (about 4 stories).

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The generator in the first picture helped light the tunnel.

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The group admiring the white wash ceiling.

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The wall at the other end that they are hoping to excavate through funding in a potential discovery channel series/special. Supposedly there are lost trains on the otherside of the wall.

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The tunnel was once searched for terrorists before the start of WWI as the writing on the wall notes the name and dates of those searching.

image 30018
When Bob found the tunnel he broke through the wall to find there was a 14 foot drop.

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This area was filled with dirt when discovered. Now its just a claustrophobic passageway.

This article has been viewed 47458 times in the last 7 years

chiamattt: 5th Jan 2009 - 04:49 GMT

awesome post. now i want to see lost ghost trains.

Peter: 5th Jan 2009 - 13:56 GMT

im glad to see this place made so accessible to people... the lights and stairs/walkways are good additions. did you see the 110+ year old "remember the maine!" graffiti in there?

adam: 5th Jan 2009 - 14:01 GMT

The city has screwed this guy more than once. Fortunately theres a new batch of politicians that gave him the green light to do tours again and a 10 year lease.

I missed that graffiti but there were definitely some jokes made about cave paintings. :)

Peter: 5th Jan 2009 - 14:12 GMT

good for him! yeah, what a dedicated guy. i can only imagine trying to petition nyc to get permission to take the general public into a cavernous subterranean abandoned tunnel, heh...

here are some links for anyone not familiar:

jack: really a great post, i love this stuff.

zagg: Funtastic post; would enjoy more like this :)

Rich: 7th Jan 2009 - 04:33 GMT

Great job Adam, thanks for the most informative tour and thanks Peter for the other links, I saw this on TV and was amazed at the thought: "ya never know what ya might be walking on, over, under, or past".

JOEY TPA Crew: 12th Jan 2009 - 01:02 GMT

Oh Yeah! A place we would have loved to find...

EON.1 TFV: 13th Jan 2009 - 04:01 GMT

Wheres the hatch ? ... A layup from the 1800s!??

Peter: 13th Jan 2009 - 04:30 GMT

yo the hatch is the manhole in the first photo, hahaha. bring a crowbar!

adam: 13th Jan 2009 - 13:56 GMT

Yo that'd be scary as hell going in there without a generator for the lights.

tunnelelf: 14th Feb 2009 - 20:37 GMT

Good thing you didn`t discover our hidden tunnels. We tunnelpeople have been living underneath your filthy human cities for Centuries. We will eat any human creatures who try to enter our tunnels. Whoaahhaahhaahh...

Be afraid...Be very Afraid.

Peace and love; Mister and Misses tunnelelf.

ChickenUnderwear: I took that tour, It was fun

Nancy: 27th Mar 2009 - 19:30 GMT

This is a great find! Only in New York people, only in New York!

Joe in New Rochelle: 5th Apr 2009 - 20:54 GMT

Great finding where does this tunnel starts from and where does it end? is there any possibility of findind centuries long steam engines abandoned in there. What is the cities stake in this venture? who wouldapparently owns the tunnel now legally? The state or the feds?

Shaolin Fox: Awesome!

JoeyD: I "dig" this post!!!

Urban Neighbourhood: 12th May 2009 - 00:02 GMT

Absolutely great!

steve saines: 19th May 2009 - 06:10 GMT

Absolutely fascinating stuff. Be aware that the chances of finding rolling stock or locos is next to zero. Worth too much. Even if defective, any contractor would have sold it for scrap. In the event, it would have seen out service on the rest of the railways' system.

From the photos I've viewed, this tunnel appears to be in far, far better shape than many from that age. Whether it was deprived of oxygen is a good question, as that alone would have stopped a lot of deterioration over the years. Also the lack of running water would appear to have left it in close to pristine shape. I suspect it must also have remained above freezing point in the winte, and allowed the cut stone and bricks to not crumble.

Just amazing....

Sanzay: 19th May 2009 - 16:05 GMT

Amazing! Outstanding labor and legislative efforts to legalize urban exploration trips! Still can't pick my jaw from the table ;-) This place can be turned into the museum or theme park or several thematic bars/night clubs.

BTW there is a system of tunnels called under the city of . But unlike the NYC transport tunnels they were built to harvest the limestone for buildings. Old Odessa buildings are made from this porous sedimentary stone that is relatively easy to jigsaw or break. Most buildings those days used to be connected to the tunnels and even use the part of the tunnels for storage.

During the WWII this labyrinth of tunnels hosted Soviet Union guerrilla teams that were fighting against Nazi forces. Right now isolated sub graph of this labyrinth hosts thematic museum about WWII history of catacombs.

Back in nineties my dad and I visited one untreated opening somewhere in the suburbs of Odessa city.

Are there City Noisers from cities of Rome and Paris that also have catacombs?

Neil: 4th Aug 2009 - 23:25 GMT

This isnt a 'Subway' tunnel its just a railway tunnel.

mike : i would like to see what is behind the wall.

Klaus T.R. Phobia: 19th Jan 2010 - 10:47 GMT

The Thames Tunnel in London is two years older than the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel. It was part of the London Underground network but is currently closed while it is being upgraded to carry overground trains to serve the London Olympics in 2012. It was designed by Marc Brunel and much of the construction was overseen by his famous son, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

PEZER.XMEN: 8th Nov 2010 - 09:04 GMT

You can tell no writers found that tunnel lol ..

Franny Wentzel: 18th Jan 2011 - 01:01 GMT

Looks like there might be a locomotive stuck down there...

locodave: 2nd Mar 2011 - 01:36 GMT

What's the latest word on this subject? Way too interesting to not dig further into this one!!

Carl: 8th Jul 2011 - 07:50 GMT

This is one of those fantastic things to do in your life! I would hope NYC will foster and other historic attractions for visitors. It is on the level as the Mark Twain Caverns in Hannibal Missouri. I call for NYC assist these folks with the resources to make the most of this treasure.

carloscolton: holy cow i never see an under grond city

Karl: 22nd Oct 2011 - 05:12 GMT

This isnt a Subway/underground tunnel - its just a railway tunnel!!

Karl: 22nd Oct 2011 - 05:31 GMT

London underground system is the oldest in the world and was and used by approx 26,000 passengers per day within a few months of opening - which was back in January, 1863.

arrymak: 27th Jun 2012 - 15:31 GMT

slave labour-what was the name of the bloke who was sealed in the tunnel--in queensway 1934 tunnel birkenhead-there are piano scenes on both openings--i thought--imagine there's no tunnel i wonder if you can-the ghost of menlove ave john lennon--

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