Photo Essay: The Vast, Cavernous Spaces Beneath Grand Central Terminal

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An eerie calm over the city whole…
A whole of sights, sounds and smells, alien to the surface world…
A whole of structure, space and artifacts, aging in the darkness…
The subterranean world is the lone frontier of solitude…
amidst the chaos of urbanity.

Everyone loves Grand Central, right? I mean, what’s not to love? Trains, check! History, check! Myths, check!  Magic, check! Apple Storewell, we all still love Grand Central. In fact, it’s remarkable how clearly I can still remember when my love for the Terminal began.  The warm summer air. The dim subterranean light. The silent passage of time. It was a random Tuesday afternoon and I wandered into the ‘Vast…Beneath Grand Central.’ 12 hours later, I emerged. In hindsight, a midday curiosity tour was probably not the best time to access the inaccessible, but who can resist an impulse to self-discover the hidden Secrets of Grand Central?

That said, this article is not about specific subterranean icons like the infamous Roosevelt Platform beneath the Waldorf Astoria or the undocumented M42 Substation thirteen stories below grade. There won’t be any references to Whispering Galleries or Celestial Skies, not even a mention of Mole People. Instead, this article will simply share an essence of the The Vast…Beneath Grand Central with historic snippets and photographic teasers showcasing New York City’s most solitary landscape.

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The first iteration of Grand Central was constructed in 1871 and operated for over 30 years as the Grand Central Depot. A 1902 catastrophe prompted an ambitious plan to construct the present-day Grand Central Terminal, completed in 1913. Grand Central’s immense underground is comprised of two subterranean levels with 44 platforms and 67 tracks, extending over 100 blocks beneath the streets of Manhattan. It is both the largest train station and one of the largest inaccessible underground environments in the world.

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This inaccessible landscape is like a cavernous portal into another world. A colossus rich in untouched artifacts, forgotten equipment, and miles of tangled track—all covered in inches of remnant soot, railroad dust, and aging debris.  The Vast…Beneath Grand Central is an enchanted landscape, straddling the line between the center of the universe and a feeling a million miles away, being elsewhere unlike any other place in the City.  This cavernous environment is both functional and beautiful in its efficiency and utility—duly capable of touching our solitary senses and recalibrating our allegiances to the physical world in one of the most densely populated urban environments in the world. But, perhaps I am a bit biased.

Either way, the buried obscurity beneath Grand Central Terminal provides a poetic glimpse into a seldom experienced clandestine universe—that just so happens to also be at the heart of New York City.

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Next, check out The Clandestine Basement Under Grand Central Terminal or browse the popular Secrets of Grand Central Terminal and, as always, please consider joining Untapped Cities for an upcoming tour of the terminal’s secrets (but sorry, the basement level, glass walkways and/or the track environment are not available for public tours).

Tour of the Secrets of Grand Central Terminal

Follow the author on instagram @aaron_asis.

 Grand Central Terminal, Urban Exploration

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