Cobble Hill Tunnel - History


Construction began in May 1844. The tunnel opened for use on December 3, 1844, but was not completely finished until late Spring 1845. It was built mainly to satisfy public demand for creation of a grade-separated right of way for the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad (later Long Island Rail Road) on its way to the South Ferry at the foot of Atlantic Street (later Atlantic Avenue), where passengers could catch ferries to Manhattan. The construction of the tunnel also lowered the LIRR's grade through Cobble Hill.

In exchange for building the tunnel, the City of Brooklyn granted the B&J permission to operate its steam locomotives on Atlantic Street west of Fifth Avenue (then Parmentier's Garden/Gowanus Lane), all the way to Brooklyn's South Ferry (the present location of Brooklyn's Pier 7). Prior to the tunnel being built, the LIRR's western terminus was Atlantic Street at Clinton Street. Train cars were hauled by teams of horses along Atlantic Street from Clinton Street to Parmentier's Garden, where steam locomotives were attached. While the tunnel was being built, the railroad operated to a temporary terminal at Pacific Street and Henry Street.

The Cobble Hill Tunnel was part of the first rail link between New York City and Boston, Massachusetts. The railroad connected Lower Manhattan via the South Ferry to Greenport on the North Fork of Long Island, where a ferry connected to Stonington, Connecticut to a rail link that continued to Boston. This avoided some difficult construction of bridges over the rivers of southern Connecticut. In 1848, the New York and New Haven Railroad Line was completed through Connecticut, providing a direct, faster rail connection from New York City to Boston. The Cobble Hill Tunnel and the Long Island Railroad remained the primary means of access to most of central Long Island from Manhattan and New York City.

As built, the tunnel was 21 feet (6.4 m) wide, 17 feet (5.2 m) high and 2,517 feet (767 m) long.

Insofar as it carried railroad trains under a city street, some have claimed it be the world's first subway tunnel, though, unlike a modern rapid transit subway, it had no stations. The ends of the tunnel were sealed in the fall of 1861. The similar Murray Hill Tunnel on the New York and Harlem Railroad was built as an open cut around 1836, and roofed over around the 1850s, and is in use for automobile traffic.

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