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Touring Brooklyn's Lost Subway Tunnel

Just a few feet below the surface of Atlantic Avenue in downtown Brooklyn lies what's believed to be the world's first subterranean railway tunnel.

This historic subway was constructed in the 1840s to get an old stretch of the Long Island Rail Road away from the street, where encounters between trains, pedestrians and horse carriages led to frequent fatalities. By the 1860s, however, the tunnel fell out of use and was sealed up. For the next 120 years, it lay forgotten — until an enterprising Brooklyn engineering student named Robert Diamond managed to locate it in 1980.

Now, Diamond leads occasional tours of this forgotten infrastructure, where curious visitors can descend into the tunnel's depths and learn about its colorful lore. One particularly juicy bit: One of the tunnel's nastier construction foremen was done in by his work crew, who allegedly chopped him up into bits and then buried him in the walls.

We shimmied down a manhole cover in the middle of Atlantic Avenue to see the tunnel as part of an outing organized by Atlas Obscura, a seven-month-old website devoted to cataloguing curious sites. The tour was part of Obscura Day, a day-long series of unusual happenings around the globe.

Didn't make the tour? The Brooklyn Historic Railway has interesting photographs and historic documents right on their website.