New York

Exploring Grand Central Terminal

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All of us were heading to Yale that day. Xiao Chen was leaving earlier than us, having agreed to travel together with some group of people. She asked us to tag with her to the Grand Central Terminal.

“Let’s go to Grand Central Station and pretend we’re Serena.”

The Gossip Girl references were endless 😆

So we went there together from Times Square, walking on the same 42nd Street to reach the Grand Central Terminal.

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Brief history

In the mid 1800s, New York was booming. Trade was thriving and many people were going in and out of the city. Because of this the railroads were so important back then. The railroads were expanding, as the number of passengers grew exponentially over time. At one point, the people of New York had enough of the super polluting steam engines and asked that this be stopped at the 42nd street in the middle of the city, away from the population living further down. Hence, the railroad companies of the time agreed that the Grand Central Depot be built on the 42nd street. Over time, the passenger numbers doubled, tripled, quadrupled. The Grand Central Depot was then expanded, to double its size into Grand Central Station.

By the early 1900s, the Grand Central Station could no longer keep up, its infrastructure were outdated and its size could no longer accommodate to the ever increasing number of passengers. If you see the photos of how sesak the back of the station was during the day, you’d probably feel suffocated, too. So what’s New York city to do? Get rid of it and build something new!

Grand Central Terminal that we know today was built, in majestic Beaux Arts style by the architects chosen by the city and was meant to be even grander than before, yet built to fit in modern times.

Learn more about the history of Grand Central Terminal.

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The Grand Central Terminal experience

The Grand Central Terminal is a majestic landmark of New York and the largest transit hub in the United States, serving 750,000 passengers a day. It’s been featured in so many movies and TV series. That’s how I know most places in New York anyway 😆

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I expected this place to be, well, grand. If there’s one thing I picked up when traveling in New York, it’s that I’ve to keep in mind that things usually look better on screen than they are in reality 😆 If you see past the characters just outside the entrance to the terminal, you’ll see how beautiful the terminal looks on the outside. There’s the statues of Mercury between Hercules and Minerva and the iconic clock, famed for containing the biggest Tiffany glass.

I imagined the terminal to be standing in all its glory… but in reality, it surrounded small roads and skyscrapers, some being an eyesore 😐

The view gets better inside. It’s most amazing to know how people back in the days took so much care when it comes to aesthetics. I could see the opulence everywhere at the concourse — the grand stairs, the marbled floors and walls, the murals, the carvings, the chandeliers. The waiting room is also gorgeously built. If anybody looked closely they’d notice that there are a lot of carvings of acorns and oak leaves, a tribute to the Vanderbilt family, who built the railroad empire.

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That said… it’s all on the surface, because when it was my turn to go to Yale and when to the tracks underground, I was so shocked to see how filthy the tracks and trains were. It’s like entering into a completely different world -_- It’s okay, at least they keep everything else looking good.

If you’re in New York, spend some time checking out the Grand Central Terminal. In fact, go on its tour.

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