I've been there, before most people ever knew about it. One of my uncles (father's brother) was an electrician for New Your Central Railroad and worked several years at Grand Central Station. (now called a terminal). They are making it into a commuter only terminal and all of the Amtrack trains will eventually all go in and out of Penn Station, the second underground station in NY City.
I was in that basement one day with him back in the 1960's. It's where the rotary converters were located that converted the AC power from the power company into DC for the third rail electric locomotives. All but two of the rotary converters have now been replaced with transformers and rectifiers, and the two remaining are no longer in use, but in WWII it was considered a very critical and secret place. Hitler sent spies to try to destroy it, but they were caught before reaching it. It's known as M42. There is another former secret place in Grand Central that most don't know exists. It's a special siding and platform with an elevator that goes up into the Waldorf Astoria with direct access to the street. It was built for FDR when he was president so he could come and go from NY secretly. It is called M50. I've been there too. There are videos of both places now on YouTube.
They have also been building two more levels of track and a mezzanine level between them under the existing two levels of track that has existed for the past 100+ years. It's 260' below the existing levels. The excavating is complete, along with the tunnels to allow Long Island Railroad trains to come into Grand Central. The design for all of this began in 1960. But the station part was only begun about 10 years ago. There are YouTube videos about their progress on this. It's called "The East Side Access".
None of this is considered "secret" any more, but access is still very restricted.
I was in other places with him haven't ever been considered secret, but no one talks about them. The huge arched windows in the end of the main open area of the station has hallways running through them (actually two windows in each position with a space between for the hallways). If you ever go there and watch those windows for a while, you will see people walk across. There are catwalks above the ceiling of that main room to access the lights in the ceiling for bulb changing. Access to the clock on the front of Grand Central is also possible through catwalks and ladders. There are steam and power tunnels, emergency exit tunnels, etc. that aren't secret, but most do not know about them. There are also maned switch towers on each level for controlling the directions and platform positions of the arriving and departing trains.
Here are some of the early videos of the East Side Access Project. It will be two levels of tracks with a mezzanine station between them, with elevators and escalators to bring you up into the existing levels of the station.
There are many other videos available on YouTube. "East Side Access" is the key to a whole list of them. Excavation is now supposed to be complete and they have begun building the two levels and station between. It will likely be a couple more years before it opens to the public.
Love stuff like this. None of it would work except for Manhattan once having been one gigantic solid rock. Now it's more like swiss cheese with all the tunnels, foundations, pipes and utilities. Just don't have any interest in living there.
Nor do I, but I like to go there once in a while. I grew up about 40 miles North of the city and would go there only by train when I had to do something that required my going. I avoided NYC as much as possible back then. Now that I live in North Carolina, I like to go every few years just to see what has changed and maybe go to a show I became very fond of Grand Central after they cleaned and restored it. Now, with the MTA running the new, quiet, and clean commuter trains, going to Grand Central from up to 90 miles North of the city is a pleasant experience any time of the year. Fifty years ago, you came home looking like you had spent the day in a coal mine. I won't drive into NYC unless I'm headed through it to somewhere else. Fifty years ago the traffic was bad enough to justify taking the train, but the vehicle traffic is much worse now, and the train is 1000% better than it was.
The station itself is about 5 acres, but the trains and platforms extend North of the station under the other buildings in two original levels for about 50 more acres.
The new MTA trains all have Diesel engines on the North end of the train and are diesel/electric. The South end of the train has a cab in it for the driver to use when going South and it as well as the cars have third rail shoes on both sides for running the train on 600 volt DC electric. The tracks running North from Grand Central have third rails for about 25 miles to a railroad maintenance yard where the tracks going North no longer have the third rails. At this point the diesel engine on the North end of the train takes over for the rest of the trip North. When heading South, the diesel is shut down at this same point where the third rail begins supplying power, and the train runs on third rail power for the rest of the trip to Grand Central. 65 years ago they swapped engines to switch from diesel to electric or from electric to diesel at this same point. Lately, they have been considering extending the third rail service to allow eliminating the diesels from the commuter trains. When Grand Central Station was built 100+ years ago, they had to electrify the rails because coal burning steam engines were being forced out of the city because of the pollution problems they caused and because the station needed to be built underground.
Most railroad stations have the trains stop next to the platform, and then continue on in the same direction when they leave the station. All of the Grand Central tracks end at the platforms, and then the train leaves by backing out, so they are double ended and can be driven from either end.
There is one loop track on each level (out under the street in front of the station) where the trains can be turned around on each level, but they are seldom used any more. Actually, I don't think they use the one on the lower level at all any more. Off to the East side of the platform tracks there are many sidings for storage and maintenance equipment on both levels. The platform M50 that was built for President FDR is over to the East on the upper level. His armored rail car that held his Pierce Arrow when he came to NYC is still sitting at that platform.
There are many video tours of Grand Central, but this one is recent and shows much of the public portion of Grand Central. As you can see, it's a combination shopping mall and a train station. The food (restaurant) concourse is the lower of the two levels and the train platforms are reached through doors to the left of the cameraman when he shows both the upper main concourse (with the information booth and clock in the center) and the food concourse on the lower level.
Go to "YouTube" and search for "Grand Central" if you want to see more. One of the video tours shows the small square of uncleaned ceiling that they left in one corner of the main concourse to show how dirty the station had become in it's 100+ year life. I can remember when it was that dirty and so poorly maintained that less than half of the light bulbs were working. and the lower level wasn't even being used. Only a few shops were open back then too.
Thanks for the history lessons, Charlie. It is amazing the engineering and work that went into building this and other hidden gems. Hopefully, these things are being preserved and are not being destroyed in the name of progress.
Lived in Queens in the early 60s. Never knew such places existed.
DRT, good place to live if you like ethnic foods. My neighborhood was predominately Italian. Lady next door made several gallons of tomato sauce. Imagine having your windows open in the summer! Buon!
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