There Could Be a Historic Train Under Brooklyn, but the DOT Won’t Let the Train Expert Get to It

March 23, 2015 | Liam Mathews

There may be an old-ass choo-choo train buried deep under Cobble Hill, but the DOT won’t let the National Geographic Channel dig it out because of wounded pride, the New York Daily News reports.

Bob Diamond, the subway historian who re-discovered the abandoned Atlantic Avenue tunnel believes there’s an 1830s-era locomotive hidden behind a thick wall in the tunnel and there was a report (PDF doc) done that suggests he may be right. Diamond wants to excavate in order to confirm and film it for a NatGeo documentary, but the Department of Transportation is stonewalling.

Leaked emails catch DOT public relations officer Seth Solomonow declaring that the doc will never happen because a lawsuit Diamond filed against the DOT in order to regain access to the tunnel after being banned makes the DOT look like “the bad guy.”

“If people from the Channel…want to call me they’ll simply be hearing me ‘yell at them’ and then (I’ll) make sure the film will NEVER HAPPEN,” Solomonow said during a Feb. 2011 conversation, according to Pam Wells, a Nat Geo executive producer.
“With the DOT being cast as the bad guy by Bob Diamond, we cannot, at this point, allow National Geographic access to the tunnel…Let me make it clearer. Do not call us. We will call you.”

The tunnel itself dates back to 1844, making it the oldest subway tunnel in the world. Diamond believes the train is a 177-foot-long steam locomotive dating back to 1836 sealed at the end of the tunnel. Diamond was banned from giving tours of the tunnel in 2010 by the DOT, who cited safety concerns, and he filed a $35 million lawsuit against the DOT the following year. The DOT publicly claims that excavating the train would be too disruptive on the busy street, but the emails show that the refusal is personal as well.

(Photo: Andrew Mace)