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Catching Trains at the Grand Central Terminal in New York City

Catching Trains at the Grand Central Terminal in New York City

Once a lavish way to enter the bustling city of New York, the Grand Central Terminal welcomed passengers riding in exquisite cars as an exchange for interstate travel on their final arrival to The Big Apple. The terminal, as we know it today, was opened in 1913 after many revisions and reconstruction efforts from the original depot built in 1871. At one time this was the most expensive construction project in NYC and today the the terminal is full of history, secrets, and treasure hidden in plain sight.

On my first trip to New York City last year I decided to spend an few hours people watching in a special place that helped build one of our nations greatest cities through transit. While the days of smoke filled hallways and baggage handlers are gone the terminal is still vibrant with activity from the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers coming and going.

Chrystler Building New York

The eagle above, with a wingspan of 13 feet once perched at the old Grand Central Depot before it was demolished in 1910. Discovered in a backyard in Bronxville NY, the eagle was brought back and placed on the Lexington Ave. entrance in the 1990s.

Transportation became cheaper in the 1960s with cars and airlines replacing the need for interstate travel by train. To adapt the Grand Central Station began its migration to a commuter terminal. The difference? Trains end at terminals where as a station is one in which they pass through, you will find the Grand Central “subway station” below.

Today, over eighty million people transit through Grand Central each year into and out of Midtown Manhattan.

Grand Central Terminal

If you want to meet with friends in style put down the cell phone and arrange a time to gather at the information booth, at a predetermined time before venturing out into the city. I challenge you to find your friends in the main concourse without depending on modern technology, it’s not that hard and maybe you will meet someone unexpected.

There are over 750,000 people passing through each day so sit back, relax, and enjoy some quality people watching as commuters pass by.

Notice the constellations of the night sky on the ceiling? After workers had finished painting it an astronomer complained they were not in their correct places, an error who’s cause is assumed to be from laying out prints on the ground resulting in it being painted backwards. The original plans included a skylight that was never fulfilled.

Grand Central New York

Hitler even targeted the Grand Central Terminal as it was closely related to the war efforts and responsible for 80 percent of troop movement in this region of the country.  The FBI luckily stopped saboteurs after they crossed the Atlantic in a submarine before they could take explosives to this hub in Manhattan. The area they were after?  The elusive M42, which is not even on the blue prints for the terminal and is hidden deep underground.  One bucket of sand could shut down the whole operation.

Below the clock centerpiece in the terminal is a secret staircase that leads to an information kiosk located on a level below. Another secret found buried deep underground is an armored train car used by President Franklin Roosevelt that connects to the famous Waldorf-Astoria.   FDR could travel secretly into the city as his presidential car fit onto the train and the hotel had an elevator equipped to bring it up to their garage.

Grand Central Station

The opal inlayed clock above the information booth is valued at over 10 million dollars!

Flipping through guidebooks on the terminal you will see the changes an infrastructure required to create such a modern marvel.  I highly encourage you, if passing into Manhattan by train, to look for more information and spend some time wandering the stations.

For those who prefer not to read you can rent a headset at the terminal to be guided around the points of interest on an audio tour. If you don’t want to look so touristy download the app to your smartphone before you go and you can look like every other New Yorker with your ear buds in and face glued to the crackberry.

Ever taken one of the 700 trains that daily run from the terminal?  What makes this transportation hub so special for you? Share a comment below for those looking to visit NYC.

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