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(rshsdepot) Grand Central Terminal, NY, NY (Two stories)

Grand Central restoration nearly done


October 27, 2005

You may have noticed she's had some work done.

Grand Central Terminal, where an exterior and interior restoration has continued through four presidential administrations, is now just months away from a return to its former grandeur with the recent removal of scaffolding from its south and west facades.

Latticework and black tarps that had shrouded the two very public sides of the Beaux-Arts train depot were disassembled during a six-week period that ended Sept. 25, completing a two-year, $21-million scrubbing.

Cleaning and repair of the station's 21,000 loose and grimy limestone blocks has taken this long because each stone was bathed in a fine mist of filtered water intended to gently lift the nearly century-old layer of grit that had accumulated.

After six hours of misting, each stone was treated to a low-pressure rinse with purified water. If the bricks were stained by copper or iron, a poultice of clay and reactive chemicals was applied, an MTA spokesperson said.

The project also involved the cleaning of two unseen and virtually unknown interior lightwells. Those contain the pyramid skylights from which the famed "melon" chandeliers hang over the north balcony and Oyster Bar ramps. The cleaning has noticeably increased the amount of reflected light that now shines into the main concourse.

The gods Mercury, Hercules and Minerva, all of whom hang out on the south facade above the landmark clockface, received special attention; the cracked pen in the hand of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, was strengthened with a stainless-steel pin. And the clock itself, a 13-foot-wide, stained-glass jewel, was cleaned and regilded with sheets of 23.75-karat Italian gold.

"I've been working on Grand Central for 20 years, and seeing the exterior finally come to fruition gives a great feeling of accomplishment," said Wayne Ehmann, the Metro-North Railroad's chief architect.

All that remains to finish the grand dame's face-lift is some maintenance on the east side, which will likely take eight or nine more months. The public won't see much of that $6-million effort, which includes masonry repairs, window replacement and painting, because the eastern face is only partially visible along 43rd Street and from the nearby Hyatt Hotel.

The north side, which abuts the MetLife Building, did not need restoration. 
Copyright ? 2005, Newsday, Inc. 

10 things you didn't know about Grand Central

October 27, 2005

Grand Central Terminal and station are spread across 49 acres of Midtown Manhattan. The 700,000 passengers who move through it daily make the commuter station the nation's busiest.

A small hole in the ceiling near the head of the constellation Pisces was made in 1957 by the tip of a Redstone rocket, a prop brought into Grand Central to help get New Yorkers excited about America's space program.

Each clock atop the information booth in the main concourse is bejeweled with an opal face. Auction houses have pegged the value of the four faces at more than $10 million.

An acoustical phenomenon allows conversations held in one corner of the "whispering gallery" outside the Oyster Bar to be heard pitch-perfectly in a corner of the station some 40 feet away.

The acorns visible as ornamentation throughout the station were the "family sign" of the Vanderbilts, who built the behemoth depot in 1913.

A Metro-North train is parked directly under the Waldorf-Astoria in a "secret station" when the president is in town, in case the commander in chief needs to make a quick getaway.

Metro-North officials brag that roughly 80 percent of the possessions left on trains are returned to their rightful owners through a streamlined lost-and-found operation. Among the items most frequently lost by commuters: eyeglasses, umbrellas, house keys and some 300 to 600 cell phones a month. Among the less common items found by cleaning crews: artificial limbs, glass eyeballs and -- once -- a suitcase full of human remains, traced to a surgeon who had a legitimate reason for carrying them.

Some five tons of newsprint are recycled from Grand Central every day.

The staircase on the east side of the station, a 1990s addition to the concourse, is precisely 1 inch smaller than the staircase on the west side of the station. The difference is designed to distinguish it from the original design to anyone studying the building in future centuries.

Train conductors are given one minute's leeway on departure times to allow for last-minute stragglers who come racing down the platform. Thus, the 3:37 to Stamford is still considered to be "on time" if it leaves at 3:38. 
Copyright ? 2005, Newsday, Inc. 

The Railroad Station Historical Society maintains a database of existing
railroad structures at: http://www.rrshs.org