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Grand Central Terminal: More Than a Transportation Hub

Grand Central Terminal

Courtesy of Grand Central Terminal

In February 1913, thousands of New Yorkers celebrated the opening of Grand Central Terminal. Within 24 hours, 150,000 rail passengers had passed through its doors. Today, Grand Central Terminal, with its 100+ tracks, 44 passenger platforms, cavernous main concourse and myriad of shops, restaurants and special exhibits, serves a bustling 750,000 commuters per day, 13 times the passenger traffic that John F. Kennedy Airport handles.

It’s hard to imagine New York City without the landmark Grand Central Terminal, not only because it is one of the world’s largest train terminals, but also for its ornamental carvings, chandeliers, marble floors and exterior sculptures. Yet, by the 1970’s, developers pushed to turn the historic station, which sits on 42 acres of prime Midtown real estate, into skyscrapers. It was President Kennedy’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who helped save this historic station by riding an Amtrak train!

The Landmark Express

On April 16, 1978, Onassis and 400 other supporters of Grand Central Terminal boarded a special train, called the Landmark Express, in New York City. They traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the proceedings between the Penn Central Transportation Company and New York City before the U.S. Supreme Court. Onassis and the others on this special train trip to nation’s capital believed Grand Central Terminal was an important example of American architecture and should be preserved. As a result of this case, Grand Central Terminal was saved and is now a national historic landmark.

Amtrak at Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis greets passengers on the Landmark Express (1978). | Photo Courtesy of Amtrak Archives

Amtrak used Grand Central Terminal as a terminal until 1991, when it moved fully to Penn Station upon completion of the Empire Connection. (Amtrak briefly returned to Grand Central Station in 2017.)  

If you’re passing through Grand Central Terminal, take time to experience its culinary hot spots, including The Campbell cocktail bar, Food Network chef Donatella Arpaia’s Prova Pizzabar, the Magnolia Bakery, and the new Art Bird & Whiskey Bar. Or take a self-guided audio tour of the station (30 minutes). Guided tours begin daily at 12:30 p.m. For more information go to