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it's right under Trader Joes
February 7, 2014 9:54 AM   Subscribe

How an obsessed explorer found and lost the world's oldest subway. "The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel was sealed in 1861, shortly after Brooklyn banned steam locomotives within city limits. Legend has it that the tunnel was reopened in the 1920s when it was used for mushroom growing and bootlegging, and in the 1940s when the FBI opened it looking for Nazis. But soon after, it was lost. In the 1950s two historians attempted to find it and failed."
posted by moonmilk (28 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
The fact that they opened it and it wasn't full of really surprised paranormal investigators chilling in thier secret base means we live in the dullest possible universe.
posted by The Whelk at 9:57 AM on February 7 [24 favorites]


Surprisingly few photos, or did I miss a link in the article?
posted by tommasz at 10:02 AM on February 7


I took the tour a few years ago and it was kind of awe-inspiring, but there were no dragon eggs or mid-century modern villain lairs at all.

I'm surprised that I couldn't find any earlier fpps about this tunnel on metafilter!

tommasz, the video has some nice photos in it, and flickr has a bunch of good ones.
posted by moonmilk at 10:03 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]


I'm all for this new era of fancy presentation of longer form web articles, but I really don't need to have my scroll bar zoom in and out of photos.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:04 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


This is in my neighborhood, and I also took the tour a few years ago (hey moonmilk!). It was really neat and the guy who discovered it is pretty eccentric, but not in a bad way.
As for photos, as cool as it is there wasn't actually that much to see, in my opinion. The major allure for me, my wife and our friends was just feeling that amount of space under one of our major thoroughfares, plus the story itself.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 10:15 AM on February 7


in the 1940s when the FBI opened it looking for Nazis

Nazis! You never know where they might be breeding!
posted by yoink at 10:17 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]


The story is really about Rob Diamond then about the tunnel.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:21 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Well, Bolsheviks in the washroom, Nazis under the Trader Joes.
posted by moonmilk at 10:22 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


I can see, maybe, why opening this up to the public again would have all kinds of legal ramifications, but surely we can excavate that LOCOMOTIVE??
posted by monospace at 10:32 AM on February 7


This reads like a variant of some "raised it from a baby now they're taking it away" trope. Single minded hard work, possessive, unwilling to share.
posted by k5.user at 10:32 AM on February 7


That was really interesting, and kind of sad too.

I'm all for this new era of fancy presentation of longer form web articles

I am too, for the most part, but those editors needed to come up with pull quotes that aren't completely inane.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:39 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


I'm amused to see PANYC referred to as a group of stodgy archaeologists. That's the professional archaeology group for NYC and they're very familiar with dealing with BS from the city (not to mention scurrying ahead of the developer's wrecking ball to try to record things before they're destroyed). I'd classify most urban archaeologists as 'harried' rather than 'stodgy'.

Of course, the question of Diamond wanting to dig up what may be a train could have caused a bit of conflict. An excavation on that scale would be very expensive and really should be done by archaeologists who will record things as much and as well as possible. You can only do it once, after all. And it's often best to simply leave features in situ if they're not under any sort of threat.

I've seen local historian types get wildly protective of 'their' sites before. Diamond certainly has a lot more invested than most, and deserves a place at the table, but it sounds like he's been alienating a lot of potential allies and hurting his own cause.
posted by ursus_comiter at 10:51 AM on February 7 [6 favorites]


Oh, they found a Nazi all right. They just thought he was dead because he turned a key and switched off his internal clockworks, and you would have thought Professor Broom would have figured that out in time to save his life, but, then, maybe he did, because he was sick anyway, and his death would finally give Hellboy a mission that might make him grow up a little.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:00 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


Needs more CHUDs
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:19 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]


I'd love to know about the locomotive. It's probably rusting away, though. Wold also love to get down there with my camera, tripod & a couple flashes.

Bummer about the city -- this kind of stuff isn't inherently all that dangerous, though I will say from looking through the flickr photos, he had way too many people down there on at least a few occasions. Seems like it would be prudent to limit trips to perhaps 10 at a time or some manageable number where the guide could account for everyone at all times, & do an in/out count. If there were a sudden bum-rush for the exit with 200 people down there, it would be what we in caving call an "idiot sump."
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:06 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Its a measure of how useless the DHS are that they haven't been down there looking for an Al Qaeda cell.
posted by biffa at 12:27 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


MAN! This was right up my street, figuratively and literally. I never got a chance to see it before the city stopped the tours and I moved away from the area. I love hidden history like this.

::pouts::
posted by droplet at 1:06 PM on February 7


Its a measure of how useless the DHS are that they haven't been down there looking for an Al Qaeda cell.

Unless, they've got it full of data mining computers.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:06 PM on February 7


Give it ten years and it'll be the next Highline. Wall to wall full of tourists. You'll be able to take all the photos you want. Mostly of other tourists, but still.
posted by yeti at 1:53 PM on February 7


There is a popular proposal for an underground park in NYC - The Lowline.
posted by The Whelk at 1:55 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Is it weird that this kind of reads as a hit piece on Rob Diamond rather than like, a Fair and Balanced™ reporting of the situation and the facts?

Like the entire thing focuses on his opinions about it, but paints them as illogical/hysterical/etc, and makes a point of just generally painting him as "crazy".

Maybe it's just my inner tiresome conspiracy theorist, but i made it like 3/4 of the way through and couldn't shake the feeling that this was championed by people who wanted him to fuck off.

I'll also note that i don't know any of the people involved, and hadn't heard of this until i saw this post. That just like jumped out at me though.
posted by emptythought at 2:00 PM on February 7


Is it weird that this kind of reads as a hit piece on Rob Diamond

I got a little of that "look, he's eccentric" vibe when he was unfolding the map & his dog was getting in the way, but maybe I know too many eccentrics or something, but it didn't really come off as a hit piece. I think they played up his attachment to the tunnel a bit, but it seemed like a sympathetic reading to me. We all have our thing, and that tunnel is his.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:39 PM on February 7


I mean, they did interview a couple of other people who kind of went on about how cool it was. We need eccentrics like that. If people didn't obsess about stuff, we wouldn't have any Lego castles or anything. I thought he came off as pretty awesome, really.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:45 PM on February 7


I took this tour only a year (or less) before it was over. I can't add anything the pictures and article don't cover, other than the fact that crossing the street from Trader Joe's in order to descend through a manhole cover in the middle of a street is a mildly surreal experience.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 3:57 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Needs more skulls.
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Explore More Than 3,000 Miles of Tunnels Beneath Montreal
posted by homunculus at 5:15 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


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