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Notes from the Underground: The Secret Tunnels of Brooklyn

Notes from the Underground: The Secret Tunnels of Brooklyn
Culture
Contributing Writer
  • 23 march 2009

Enter Electus Litchfield, contractor-swindler. It is Litchfield who Bob Diamond can thank for his tunnel. Litchfield was paid $130,000 to refill the tunnel, but instead simply capped its ends, sealed its manhole covers, and forged documents to state that the tunnel had been completely refilled. After that, the world’s first subway was forgotten.

That is, until 1981 when a little blue dot on Diamond’s “treasure map” led him to a smooth manhole cover near the intersection of Court Street and Atlantic Avenue. After removing the cover with Department of Transportation workers, Diamond crawled seventy feet to find a small door. With a long metal bar, he punched through the tunnel’s roof and broke through to its cool interior. It measured seventeen feet tall, twenty-one feet wide, and some 1,611 feet long.

But there was something missing—the train.

“Something inside of me told me that the tunnel was real, that it wasn’t just someone’s wishful thinking,” recalls Diamond. “That’s the same gut instinct that I have about the other side of that stone wall.” Diamond suspects there is another six blocks of tunnel closed off with a bulkhead, behind which, he believes, will be the missing locomotive.

Now more than thirty years since his quest for the tunnel and its train began, Diamond hopes that 2009 will finally be the year he breaks through the wall, proving or disproving the myth of the mystery locomotive once and for all.

Diamond gives 1.5 hour tours of Brooklyn’s hidden tunnel. The next tour is scheduled for April 19. Check here for more details.

A documentary about Diamond’s quest, entitled “What’s Behind the Wall?,” is currently in production. Watch a preview of the upcoming documentary below:

– Contributed by James Hilger

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