Underground Railroad?


About 30 years ago one of our volunteer firemen found a small sinkhole in his backyard. It was large enough to drop an extension ladder into, so he climbed down into it with a flashlight. It was part of an old stream bed that had been converted into a storm drain that ran down from the top of the hill to the river. This particular section, however, was like a very large hallway with a high ceiling (about 10’/3 metres high) and about 12’/4 metres across. It was shored up with heavy hemlock beams for the walls and ceiling. He said there appeared to be wooden “benches” and short platforms (like wooden cots) on both sides. They seemed to serve no other purpose other than for people to sit and lie down on. He surmised this may have been part of the underground railroad from when slaves were escaping from the south. Since there was no way to fill in the sinkhole, he dug around the hole, set a steel plate over it, filled in over that and reseeded the lawn. This “hole” is one block down from my house and is now part of the old town storm sewer - which a few years ago was rerouted at the western edge of my property. The water now flows through a new storm sewer down to the river at a different location several hundred feet (~91 metres) to the south.
I have no idea as to why this just popped into my head, but I thought I’d share this little tidbit of trivia with all of you. :smiley:


Interesting… I remember seeing several such finds in the past… a lot of the time, the tunnelers (sandhogs) would build alcoves for taking breaks and short rests as well… rather than go back to the entrances… also as shelters just in case of a collapse… some were quite ornate… when in use… some still exist… but work way back was by hand in a lot of cases and slow… as you said there were diggers, and tunnel liners and shoring crews not to mention material removal and delivery some how… that ‘railway’ might have had rails for real… like a mine tunnel… wonder if anyone ever wrote up the history of the construction… someone must have filed plans for that when it was built… or even a report when it was bypassed…

Edit: this was lower Manhattan I was taking a look on a search of Sandhogs a famous bunch…
Not sure what they were up to but there was a tag saying “tunneling into lower Manattan”
Nothing as small as your item, but they always create rest / shelter areas in those days…


I found it on a search page… the site was defunct.


That’s interesting. A while back I did a lot of reading about the tunnels beneath New York City - one dug for a president’s railroad car - which still sits down there. One could spend hours… no weeks/months… researching and reading up on this topic. And that there are indeed tunnels beneath many major cities - and no-so-major - all over the world. Many have quite a fascinating history behind them.