Bob Diamond had been studying the New York subway system for decades. In 1980 (when he was 19), he came across the oldest subway tunnel in the system under Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Bob and his friends had petitioned to have a manhole opened so they could search for the rumored tunnel. By luck, Bob hit a patch of wall that fell through and allowed with some digging for them to find a relic kept intact since its last usage in 1861. The arched, brick ceiling was 17 feet high and its walls were decked intricately by stones. The tunnel was half a mile long, located between Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill. It held two railroad tracks.
He researched for months and went against the word of the MTA that no such tunnel existed. In 2011, the Guinness Book of World Records recorded the tunnel as the oldest subway tunnel in the world.
“He’s an urban archeologist, a theoretician, a person with tremendous intellect, and he has a willful stick-to-it-ness,” said Greg Castillo, president of the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association. “He has an indestructible spirit.”
Shortly after finding the tunnel, Diamond formed the nonprofit Brooklyn Historic Railway Association (BHRA). The association got the tunnel registered as a protected historic site in 1989.
Mr. Diamond used to give tours of the tunnel, but was shut down by the city for safety reasons. He still advocated regularly for trolley and rail service and the reopening of the tunnel for tours.