I think the aspect of model railroading that appeals most to me is trying to recreate the history and archeological feel of the real thing. I find abandoned railroad tracks, trains and buildings fascinating, even long disused earthworks can tell a story. Compared to other countries, here in the US our historical and archeological timeline is short but it’s not uninteresting. I have a penchant for abandoned railroad related things which is probably why I always like to include something abandoned in the model railroad scenes I build.
I recently read about what is referred to as the world’s first subway tunnel right here in New York and how a British-designed, Long Island Railroad Planet steam locomotive was used here in 1861. It seems this steam locomotive was used for some construction work in the tunnel and when the loco broke down, it was decided to simply bury it under Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Heck of a thing.
An offbeat, interesting New Yorker named Bob Diamond was the one to rediscover this tunnel and possible locomotive back in 1981 and for decades he was allowed to give tours to the public. I say “possible” locomotive as it hasn’t actually been seen but there have been geophysics done in the area and it appears to be there. It seems there are now all kinds of legal and political gymnastics involved in the uncovering of this historic loco. From New York’s City Hall to National Geographic, lots of people have had a hand in this but as of right now, it looks like the locomotive will remain buried.
Discoveries like this aren’t common here but they’re also not unprecedented. In 1916 Dutch explorer Adriaen Block’s ship from 1613 was found during digging for the IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit Company) subway line.
It would be a shame if the Planet locomotive in Brooklyn remain buried due to politics. Bringing something like this to the surface would be an amazing piece of New York’s historical and archeological story. And if you’re a conspiracy theorist (come on, aren’t we all?), the missing pages of John Wilkes Booth’s diary are said to be in the tunnel as well, proving pro-Confederate New York officials plotted to kill Lincoln. Like I said, a heck of a thing.
Newsweek | Tunnel & John Wilkes Booth Diary
Guinness World Record For Oldest Subway Tunnel
Adriaen Block’s Ship