Gadling’s Undiscovered New York series first told you about Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue Tunnel earlier this year. This past weekend, we headed down inside for a first-hand look. This subterranean tunnel, first constructed in the 1840’s, is perhaps the world’s first subway, pre-dating the system in London by more than 20 years. Each month, the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association runs tours of this forgotten wonder, taking visitors into the depths of a pitch-black tunnel that runs over 2,000 feet beneath busy Atlantic Avenue.
After paying $15 dollars, visitors are escorted to the middle of a busy Brooklyn intersection, where they descend through an open manhole. You creep under a support beam and through a concrete wall and suddenly you’re standing inside a huge underground cave, with ceilings 14 feet high and running the length of eight football fields. Bob Diamond, the explorer who re-discovered the tunnel back in the 80’s, regales you with the amazing story of its construction and use. Along the way you’ll learn about WWI German spies, Cornelius Vanderbilt and the notorious Murder, Inc. gangsters. Bob is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about his subject, and you’ll find yourself taken in by his vivid descriptions of the tunnel’s construction and the strange history of Brooklyn that created it.
Like so many the world’s great stories, the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel spent many years hidden in plain view, neglected and forgotten until a dedicated individual brought it to light. If you have a chance, make sure to stop by for one of Bob’s monthly tours: it’s a one-of-a-kind New York experience.