FDR's Private Railroad

A tour

When my sister started working at the famed Waldorf Astoria in 2009, she heard about the private railroad tracks connecting the hotel to Grand Central Terminal.

Used by President FDR so that the public would not see him in a wheelchair, the tracks were off limits and supposedly out of use, a bit of an urban legend to New Yorkers.

But this year, the hotel and the city changed course. They would be giving a tour to a group of architecture students from Switzerland. When the hotel asked for volunteers to go with the group, my sister jumped at the chance.

The tour started at Grand Central, where the animated, energetic station master revealed secrets of the architectural wonder.

He brought us high above the main gallery, to the glass catwalks overlooking the public space.

He pointed out that the constellations painted on the ceiling are backwards, and that the hole in the ceiling from the time they tried to fit a rocket inside the main hall. He let us test out the whispering galley downstairs, and showed us the remains of the thick soot that once covered the entire interior.

Then, after two hours of stories, and six years of wondering, it was finally time to see the secret tracks.

In FDR's day, they didn't even have to walk off the train.

It turns out the tracks are still operational. President George W. Bush was the last to use them. A few feet away, off the tracks now, FDR's private rail car still sits.

Join me as I wander through NY. #seewhatisee #newyork #secretspots

Share This Story


get the app