3. Track 61

Track 61
Historic Track 61.

The abandoned Track 61 at Grand Central Terminal has a storied history full of clandestine government movements and illicit affairs, at least according to city legend. Untapped New York busted perhaps the biggest myth of Track 61, the story that the abandoned train car which sat on the track for decades belonged to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, However, there is some truth to other legends. Track 61 and Track 63 were originally built to carry freight and serve as loading platforms for a nearby steam powerhouse that served Grand Central. When the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel purchased the air rights above these tracks in 1929, it also acquired the track below, and the steam powerhouse was subsequently knocked down. A New York Times article from September of that year announced that the hotel would feature “a private railway siding underneath the building,” where “guests with private rail cars could have them routed directly to the hotel.”

The first person to reportedly make use of this private station was General John J. Pershing in 1938, who would proceed into an elevator and make his way into the hotel; it is unclear whether the elevator led directly into the hotel, though. And although the Roosevelt train car myth has been debunked, there is one documented occasion on which President Roosevelt made use of Track 61. On October 21, 1944, Roosevelt made a campaign stop in New York City. A Secret Service memorandum states, “At 10:05 p.m., the President will leave the hotel over the same route he entered, i.e., via east side Lexington Avenue elevator, and will then proceed via New York Central elevators to the New York Central Rail[road] siding, located in the basement of the hotel.” Every U.S. President from Herbert Hoover to Barack Obama has stayed in the Waldorf-Astoria’s presidential suite. According to an article in The New York Post, the track was likely used as an “escape option” by the Secret Service for President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in 2003 while in meetings for the U.N. General Assembly.