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.

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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. However, Amtrak returned to Grand Central Station beginning last summer and will continue to run trains from Grand Central again this summer, during track improvements between Spuyten Duyvil Station and Penn Station. These renovations include repairs to the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge, which was damaged in 2012 by flooding during Hurricane Sandy, as well as upgrades to the Empire Connector’s tracks and tunnels.

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 GrandCentralTerminal.com

Take Amtrak from Grand Central this Summer

Due to the work on the Empire Connection and Spuyten Duyvil Bridge, some Amtrak schedules will be affected. The following schedule changes will occur from Saturday, May 26 and Monday, September 3.

  • Empire Service, Ethan Allen Express, Adirondack and Maple Leaf trains will all be rerouted from New York Penn Station to Grand Central Terminal.
  • Lake Shore Limited will operate between Boston and Chicago, with New York City and Hudson Valley customers connecting from Empire Service trains at Albany-Rensselaer.
  • The work on Track 19 will occur between Friday, June 8 and Friday, July 20. The modified schedule announced in January 2018 will continue until the work is complete, with the exception of Keystone Service trains 640 and 643 which will still operate at New York Penn Station.

Updated schedules are now available. Amtrak staff will be available at Grand Central Terminal throughout the summer. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, here are directions on how to travel between New York Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal.

The Infrastructure Renewal Program is one element of our plan to modernize stations, infrastructure and equipment on the Northeast Corridor.

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