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The iconic Grand Central Terminal is a building with more than a few secrets. Constructed in 1913 with the wealth of the Vanderbilt family, there was a lavish private office (now known as The Campbell Apartment), glass catwalks, a hidden spiral staircase, and even artists’ studios on an upper floor. One of the most infamous secrets of the terminal, however, was a secret track used specifically for a president to access one of the most famous hotels in the world. Known as Track 61, it leads to a special platform that was never used or intended to be used in regular passenger service—it just happened to be in the right place.
Although Grand Central Terminal is a relatively modest building above ground, it occupies 49 acres of below-ground land. That means that all the surrounding buildings sit on top of Grand Central tracks. This goes for the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which opened on one of the Grand Central lots, from 49th Street to 50th Street between Park and Lexington avenues, in 1931. Construction of the Waldorf Astoria included building out a freight elevator that would directly access the below tracks of Grand Central Terminal. The freight area would take the place of an underground powerhouse which supplied steam to the station. The powerhouse would be replaced in 1929, when Grand Central started getting steam and electric power from Con Edison.
So if you were rich and important enough, you could direct your private train car to Track 61, exit onto the underground platform, and take an elevator up to the Waldorf Astoria’s basement. It allowed for guests to access the hotel without ever having to leave the terminal or go outside. […]