The Cobble Hill Tunnel was one of the earliest subterranean rail tunnels in New York but disappeared below the streets of Brooklyn in 1861 and was forgotten about, confined to history beneath the ever expanding borough. It was rediscovered in 1981 by Bob Diamond, an 18-year-old with an interest in exploring. He led tours for years and was even involved in the founding of the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association which maintained a number of old trolleys in the Red Hook area of Brooklyn.
The tunnel is better known as the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel and was part of the Long Island Railroad. It was 767 metres and is the oldest railway tunnel in North America. It was built as part of the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railway in 1844 and the line ran as far as the South Ferry on Atlantic Street. It was used as part of the main New York to Boston rail route and was the main means of accessing Long Island from Manhattan.
Although claimed as the world’s first subway tunnel, Cobble Hill Tunnel had no stations and was only used for through traffic. It was closed in 1861 when New York State banned all locomotives from the Brooklyn City limits. It lay beneath the streets from then on and was largely forgotten about. It sometimes appeared in the headlines such as in 1916 when it was thought German terrorists were using it to make bombs and it is believed that it was used to bootleg whiskey during the prohibition era. In 1936, the NYPD tried to enter the tunnel to find a murder victim and in the 1940s, the tunnel was searched by the FBI for spies.
The Cobble Hill Tunnel remains disused and abandoned beneath the streets of Brooklyn with no plans to alter that status in the near future. The Brooklyn Historic Railway Association had their licence to operate tours to the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel revoked in 2010 and it now remains closed to the public.
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Category: Railway Tunnel