More than 750,000 people step foot in Grand Central Terminal each day. Some are lured in by the shops, others by the restaurants. The train station is also a tourist magnet and attracts over 22 million visitors every year. New Yorkers, however, usually go straight to one of the 44 platforms that provide access to 67 different tracks – more than any other train station in the world.
What is probably the world’s most famous train station and one of New York's biggest attractions is also filled with secrets and a rich history of interesting stories.
Opened in 1913, Grand Central has become one of the most celebrated buildings in the city. However, it has been threatened with demolition several times, at first because it seemed old-fashioned, and later because people wanted to replace it with the tallest building in the world. In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that anyone would have taken these plans seriously.
The Backwards Constellation
The huge constellation depicted on the ceiling of the main hall (called the "Main Concourse") raises some issues. After the station opened, it took a while before someone alerted the Vanderbilt family, who built the station, that the entire ceiling had been painted from the wrong perspective. They quickly tried to come up with an explanation, saying that it was the so-called “divine” view of the stars, i.e. the impression from above. However, that only accounted for some of the zodiac signs – others weren’t backwards at all. To sum up, the painting is as much of a mess as it is a beauty.
The Hidden Platform
This extra train track was originally built for the transport of goods. Over time, though, it became a highly exclusive private track for those who were rich enough to commute via train between the station and the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The most famous passenger was President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His private train wagon is still in the station today and available for viewing.
Short Films While You Wait
Between 1937 and 1967, there was a cinema with 242 seats right next to track 17. It showed short films, news, and cartoons. All of the productions were under 20 minutes – a perfect length for passing time between train rides.
A Nicotine Patch on the Ceiling
In 1998, the ceiling of the main hall was opulently restored – only a small black spot was left in its original state. Research shows that 70% of the pollution came from nicotine and tar rather than from train exhaust.
The Jewel in the Jewel
The clock above the information desk (also in the main hall) is said to be worth over $10 million. Each of its four faces was made from a separate piece of opal.
The Whispering Gallery
This special space is located next to the famous Grand Central Oyster Bar and consists of four arches connected by a curved ceiling. Its special characteristic: when a person speaks in a normal volume into one corner, the person in the opposite corner can hear the words clearly, despite the fact that the distance between them is over 15 meters. To this day, nobody is sure whether the gallery was planned this way or whether it is an architectural coincidence.
This New York icon is far from just a train station – it has much more to offer than boarding and transferring. The Grand Central Terminal is deeply connected to New York at large and offers its own deep insight about the city. Take a look behind the scenes: LOCALIKE will help you organize an unforgettable tour of this magnificent landmark.