Grand Central Terminal New York

Many people erroneously call it Grand Central Station, but it hasn’t been that for many years, since 1913, in fact. It is probably the world’s best known railway station thanks to its many appearances in film and on TV, Grand Central Terminal it is certainly one of the world’s busiest terminals.

Constructed of glass and steel, the 100-foot (30m) wide by 650-foot (105m) long structure rivalled both the Eiffel Tower and Crystal Palace for primacy as the most dramatic engineering achievement of the 19th century. The updated station also featured a “classical” facade, a unified 16,000 square foot waiting room, and distinctive ornamentation. It is estimated that 21,600,000 people visit the terminal each year, so it needs to be grand to cope with that much traffic.

Grand Central is the largest station in the world in terms of number of platforms. Situated in midtown Manhattan at 42nd Street and Park Avenue, there are 44 platforms on two levels, which are serviced by 67 tracks and the terminal covers an area of 48 acres (19 hectares).

Grand Central is more than just a station, as within its perimeter are shops, food hall, restaurants and bars. It is also more than just a transit point, but is a meeting place too, where greeting friends near the ornate four-sided clock in the main concourse is a typical thing to do.

Construction of the new terminal lasted ten years and because the rail system was electrified, spurred on by a steam train tragedy at the old station, the platforms and lines could be constructed underground, with “air” rights given to those who constructed buildings above the lines. A massive 2.8 million cubic yards of earth and rock were taken from the site for a project that would have cost $2 billion at today’s rates.

Although Hollywood has us believe that passengers arrive or depart Grand Central for places far afield, the transcontinental rail carrier, Amtrak, no longer uses Grand Central. Instead the terminal services Metro-North Railroad services to New York State and Connecticut, the New York Subway and New York City Transit Buses.

Despite its noisy atmosphere, the terminal has a whispering gallery, which is part of the dining concourse near the famous Oyster Bar and Restaurant, and the ceiling above the main concourse features a fresco of the night sky, with one major anomaly. The sky is painted backwards, and the stars are slightly displaced. This is because the painting was based on a medieval manuscript that visualized the sky as it would look to God from outside the celestial sphere.

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