Often called Grand Central Station, the famed commuter terminal located at 42nd Street and Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan last year celebrated its centenary having official opened February 2nd 1913. OK so this post is a little late, but I was lucky to be in New York in 2013, and even luckier to take in Grand Central Station during its centenary.
Never has the use of the word ‘Grand’ been more apt. This transportation hub is simply huge, but decorated as if is some kind of exclusive 5* hotel. The décor and finishings will have you a) wondering if you’re in the right place to catch your train, and b) missing that train because you’re all too too busy taking in your surroundings. Even will all the beautiful decoration inside the terminal, I’m not 100% sure that being late for your train entirely when the worlds largest Tiffany clock (14ft in diameter) sits on the outside wall of the terminal facing 42nd street? A big clock for a big terminal, but how big? The Grand Central Terminal hosts a whopping 44 platforms, 67 tracks, and each day some 750,000 commuters, tourists, shoppers and diners pass through the terminal in one way or another, therefore making it the worlds largest train terminal. That big!
As I mentioned previous, the interior of the station like no other train station I have ever experienced, it was certainly no TFL underground station. Standing inside the terminal, it was hard to know where to look at times with so many intricate and interesting features for my eyes to devour. The first feature to catch my eye sat plum atop of the central information kiosk, a meeting point for hundreds, if not thousands of friends, business doers and lovers each day, week and month of the year. The central clock is the terminals multimillion dollar jewel (estimated to be between $10 million to $20 million), with all four clock faces made from solid opal glass. The spike/acon looking feature atop of the clock itself is actually a compass and said to point exact due north … or to the next attraction, the terminals ceiling mural.
The beautiful mural that decorates the concourse ceiling depicts the the Mediterranean sky during the October to March zodiac and features 2,500 stars. Are they backwards or not though? Some argue that the mural was created in reverse by mistake, but there are also those who believe that the artists cleverly created the mural from the viewpoint of the gods. Very creative and clever if true, but still stunning even if a mistake.
100 years of secrets
Grand Central Terminal is old, and like most old things it has a couple of cool secrets hidden within. A great place to learn of these secrets is on a tour of the terminal with chief historian Danny Brucker. However, you may not be in a position to take such a tour (still worth reading the linked LA time interview I’ve linked) I’ve been kind enough to jot a few down for you. Who doesn’t love a good secret?
- There is a secret train platform, number 61, that has a concealed entrance, along with a lift that goes straight up to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. This platform was once used to convey President Franklin D. Roosevelt directly into the hotel.
- A once secret basement, widely referred to as M42 and which doesn’t even appear on the terminal blueprints, lies under the Grand Central, containing converters used to supply electric currents to run the trains from the Terminal. During WWI, German military intelligence are said to have learned of the basement, and sent two spies to sabotage it. The spies were arrested by the FBI before they could strike however.
- The information booth/kiosk in the centre of the main concourse is also known for having a “secret” door – although rather less secret now that someone has posted it on Wikipedia – leading to a small staircase down to a lower level information booth.
- The trains are late, or to train time boards are wrong, depending on how you look at it. The second of those scenarios is the more likely, with every departure time listed one minute earlier than the trains’ send-off — an intentional inaccuracy designed to give passengers an extra minute to get their back side in gear and make their train.
My experience of visiting the Grand Central Terminal
Short, but very sweet would describe my time spent exploring Grand Central. Whilst I would love to have taken a tour of the station (and maybe a few of its secret areas), I was working against the clock owing to the nature of my last minute visit to New York where I was to put together an A to Z of the city. As you may have guessed from the 1st photo at the top of this post, Grand Central Terminal was the G of my A to Z.
As mentioned, my time within Grand Central was short, but immensely enjoyable as I took in a good 25 minutes worth of people watching. Watching couples, friends and business partners meet at great with hugs, kisses and handshakes at the central kiosk. I spent another 10 minutes gazing at the beautiful ceiling mural, and then a further 10 trying to get my better half out of the shops … ah well, you can’t have it all your own way I guess.
You don’t need to be catching a train to visit Grand Central, so upon your next visit to NYC I suggest you check it out and simply take in your surroundings like I did.
Want to know more about the centenary of just the Grand Central Terminal in general? Head right this way –> http://www.grandcentralterminal.com