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New York's Grand Central Station Turns 100!

Click on the image for a closer look!

In his daily Toronto Railway History blog, Derek Boles, our TRHA historian, offers the follow on February 1st, 2013:

"Grand Central Terminal (GCT) in New York City was completed when the keys were turned over to the New York Central Railroad; the first train departed shortly after midnight on February 2. The station is in mid-town Manhattan at 42nd Street and Park Avenue and cost $43 million ($964 million adjusted for inflation). Over the years, GCT became the most famous railroad station in the world and was featured in numerous radio dramas, movies and television shows.
Grand Central was the Manhattan station of choice for most Canadians traveling by rail to New York City from Toronto and Montreal. During the heyday of rail travel, Torontonians could choose from several trains a day operated by Canadian Pacific/Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo/New York Central. Montrealers had a choice of four different routes to New York but the most popular was the direct Delaware & Hudson/New York Central service to Grand Central. The last intercity train to arrive at GCT was the the Amtrak Maple Leaf from Toronto on April 6, 1991, after which the terminal was used exclusively for commuter trains of the Metro-North Railroad. The station was beautifully restored in the late 1990s at a cost of $250 million (less than 40% of what is currently being spent on Toronto Union Station, although most of that is for new construction).

GCT has 44 platforms serving 67 tracks on two levels accommodating 597 trains on weekdays. The double level is possible since the trains are powered by an electrified third rail. By way of contrast, Toronto Union Station has 10 platforms and 14 tracks (only 12 of which will be in use for the next three years) for 190 commuter and 38 intercity trains on weekdays. GCT handles about 275,000 passenger trips a day compared to 160,000 at Toronto.

However, 750,000 people a day visit Grand Central and according to the travel magazine Travel + Leisure in its October 2011 survey, GCT is "the world's number six most visited tourist attraction", bringing in approximately 21,600,000 visitors annually. Grand Central hosts 94 retail outlets and restaurants and with a few exceptions like Starbucks and the Apple Store, most of them are not franchises. Toronto Union has hardly been a magnet for upscale shopping and dining in its present configuration although the developers hope that will change following the current renovation.
Construction is currently underway on a $6+ billion tunnel under Manhattan that will enable some Long Island Railroad trains that normally call at Penn Station to be rerouted to Grand Central Terminal. The East Side Access Project is scheduled for completion in 2019 and is expected to add another 162,000 passenger trips to and from GCT on a typical weekday.

In 2005, the National Geographic Channel broadcast a 90-minute program "Inside Grand Central," probably the most fascinating documentary ever made about a single railroad station and available on DVD. Another documentary on the building of GCT was broadcast on the PBS "American Experience" series in 2008. Apparently there are no plans to rebroadcast it for the 100th anniversary.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Metro-North Railroad have planned an extensive schedule of activities to commemorate the centennial of Grand Central Terminal."

To connect with Derek's Blog, click here and join the Toronto Railway Heritage Yahoo Group.

The Atlantic magazine has a wonderful set of 38 photographs about the history of this station.  Click here to view them!

Posting by Russ Milland

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