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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Touring Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central is one of those places, that even though it is one of the most amazing places in the world, as well as the world's largest train station, most of the people that enter it everyday don't appreciate it.  I have been to Grand Central many times for many different reasons, but didn't feel I really knew much about it, so I decided to do a tour.  The tours are held daily and are $20 and about 75 minutes long.  Jordan, our guide was very informative and I did end up learning some interesting facts about the history and present day use of the building.  I was hoping to be able to check out some of the areas in the building that are off limits to normal people, but due to security measures this is not possible, which is totally understandable.  

Grand Central with the Chrysler Building behind it.  One of my favorite views in the city.  

The statue on top of the main entrance to the station is Hercules, Minerva and Mercury.  It was finished in 1914 and is 48 feet high.  The clock consists of the world's largest example of Tiffany glass.  You can actually go up in the clock and the IV is a window that you can look out onto the street from.  I'm not really sure how you get to do this but I would love to!  

The Chrysler Building just because I love it.

Pershing Square right out front of the station.  

The Main Concourse.  Where you buy your tickets and check the schedules.  750000 people pass through here everyday between the commuters and tourists.

The stairs up to what is now the Apple Store.

The ceiling of the Main Concourse is painted in 23 (yes 23) carat gold.  It is a map of the constellations that is painted backwards.  The reason for this seems to be disputed.  Some people say it is painted from God's view, some people say that the painters read the blueprint backward.  If you can notice in the photo above the Pisces fishes is a black spot.  In 1957 in response to fears of the the Soviet Sputnik being launched, the American Redstone Missile was set up in the Main Concourse and a hole had to be cut in the ceiling to keep it in place.

The stairs up to the Campbell Apartment bar (featured in Mad Men).

One of the shoe shine booths down by the tracks.

One of the original lights from the first Grand Central now used as more of decoration.  It is over 100 years old.

There are 44 platforms and currently 67 tracks running into and out of the Terminal.

The original clock and board that was updated every few minutes by hand.

More original light figures.  All of the light builds in the terminal are bare because of the Vanderbilts who build the building wanted to brag that the entire station had electricity (it was 1913).  Another fun fact is that President Herbert Hoover flipped a switch in Washington DC that turned on the electricity here for the grand opening in 1913.

In the photo below you will see a black brick at the very start of the line that runs through the crab.  This is the color that the entire ceiling was from mostly tobacco and nicotine smoke from years of smokers walking through the concourse.  A 12 year restoration project that was completed in 1996 restored the ceiling to its original beauty and the single patch was left to show people what it looked like before the restoration.

The clock on the information booth is quite famous.  Most people think that it is made of Opal and worth between 10 and 20 million dollars.  This is not true.  It is actually made of brass and opalescent glass  and while it is famous, it is not worth anywhere near that much and the glass has had to be replaced over the years.

Old school elevators that I just think are cool.

The path down to the lower concourse with the most of the restaurants and stores including the Oyster Bar which has been in the Terminal since it opened.

This is the famous "Whispering Room" outside of the Oyster Bar.  The tiles and shape of the room create strange acoustics that allow you to whisper on one side and have people on the other side be able to hear you as clear as if you were talking face to face.

Another information booth in the lower concourse surrounded by restaurants.

Like I said I didn't get to learn all the secrets of Grand Central Terminal, and didn't get to go down to the very bottom basement 12 stories underground filled with a power station and the inner runnings of the station, but it was great to learn about a bit of history and really stop to enjoy the amazing beauty of one of New York's most iconic landmarks.

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