4. The M42 Basement

Grand Central Terminal-Secret Basement-M42-World War II-Inside-NYC_1 copyOne of the remaining rotaries inside M42

Ten stories below Grand Central Terminal’s main atrium there lies a space that is so secretive it doesn’t appear on any maps or blueprints of the terminal. The location’s mere existence was only recognized as recently as the late 1980s. If an unauthorized person made his way down to the M42 basement, he risked being shot. What was so important inside this subterranean room? Nine rotary converters that provided power for all of the trains that ran through Grand Central.

The converters, which weigh 15 tons each, are no longer in use, but one remains in place as a tribute to its former service. Especially during World War II, it was imperative that the railroads ran without a hitch, as trains were used to transport troops and weapons to the ports of the east coast. A simple bag of sand could have sabotaged the whole system. During the War, German saboteurs were sent to disrupt the converters, an attack that would have been a major blow to the American force. If the saboteurs were successful in damaging the converters and shutting down the railway system, they would have halted 80% of troop and war material movement in the northeast. Luckily, the German plans were foiled by a member of the Coast Guard, who spotted them before they could even make it to the station.