The Grand Central Terminal of the New York Central Lines, at Forty-second street and Park avenue, takes its place with the great buildings of the world. In the construction of this monumental gate-way, whose portals open upon the broad highways of travel that radiate throughout three-fourths of the American continent, the dominant idea has been to combine beauty and magnitude with convenience and serviceability, so that the thousands of travelers from all parts of the country who each day enter the city, and those from abroad, strangers in a strange land, may go about the terminal with as little confusion as in passing from one room to another in their own homes.
In the history of railroad building there is nothing to compare with the work at Grand Central Terminal. It is a comparatively easy matter to dig a hole, lay tracks and put up a building, but to rebuild a station under traffic, change the entire plant so that not a vestige of the old remained, keep Boo trains running, and handle from 75,000 to 125,000 passengers a day was a proposition alive with engineering and operating problems. To do this, large purchases of land were made, in-creasing the area from 23 acres in the old terminal to 79 acres in the new, including both levels of tracks. As each new track, or group of tracks, was finished, a corresponding number of old ones was abandoned and traffic went on without interruption.
The bird's-eye view conveys an idea of what the rebuilding of Grand Central Terminal will give to the city of New York in the way of a beautiful civic center. This is the most original and in many respects the most distinctive phase of the development, and was made possible by the use of electric instead of steam motive power. The tracks were depressed below the street level, Park avenue and the cross streets from Forty-fifth street to Fifty-sixth street built in, thus reclaiming about twenty city blocks and throwing the entire area open for building purposes. It is probably the largest, and promises to be the most successful, combination of the esthetic and practical in city building yet planned in America. Where other idealistic group plans have failed or remained incomplete because dependent upon appropriations by the city, this one will succeed because of its earning power. The property over the rail-road yards, when leased, will turn in a revenue that will help to make good for, and pay interest on, the large amount of capital involved in the terminal and correlated improvements.
Dominating the group is the main terminal building. In designing this the architects had in mind an expression of the old terminal idea, which is a gateway to a city; hence the central part of the facade is in the form of a triumphal arch of monumental proportions surmounted by a statuary group representing Progress, Mental and Physical Force.
Inside the main building of the grand central terminal, are the waiting rooms, concourse, baggage rooms, retiring rooms, information bureaus and all the other features of a railroad station. Some idea of the size may be had when it is understood that the total area of the rooms for the public is six acres, or about the size of Madison Square, and that 30,000 people can be accommodated therein at one time without crowding. The outbound concourse is the principal feature. It is a magnificent room. Only when standing under its vaulted ceiling, spangled with constellations, can its impressive proportions be appreciated. It is lighted by six enormous dome-shaped windows, three at the east and the same number at the west end.
The waiting rooms are unique in station construction in that they are designed to serve as rooms where travelers may wait in comfort and quiet for the departure of trains or arrival of friends. These rooms are so located that it is unnecessary to pass through them in going from or to trains, and they are thus free from the hurrying crowds. A notable feature is the elimination of stairways, accomplished by the use of ramps or inclined ways, thus providing for the movement of vast crowds from point to point without confusion. This is an arrangement infinitely better than stairways, which are not only a nuisance, but dangerous when traversed by large crowds. There are forty-two tracks on the upper or express level and twenty-five tracks on the lower or local level, making in all thirty-three and one-half miles of tracks. The station at the street level is 672 feet long, 310 feet wide and 150 feet high; below the street level, 745 feet long and 455 feet wide and 45 feet deep. The terminal has a capacity of 1,053 cars.
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