100 Facts For Grand Central Station's 100th Birthday


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The Clocks:

31. Grand Central has two famous clocks: the Tiffany clock that overlooks 42nd Street, and the round clock on top of the information booth in the main concourse.

32. The hands of the 42nd Street clock each weigh over 100 pounds, but so carefully balanced that they are turned by tiny gears.

33. When the clock needs servicing or repairs, a worker opens a little door behind the numeral VI and pokes his head out to assess the issue.

34. Time zones as we know them today were introduced in 1883, a result of railways' need for a consistent, unified schedule. In the early depot days of Grand Central, the three unique railroads operating under its roof made it especially important to keep a consistent schedule.

35. In 1884, Grand Central instituted a policy of standardizing time among its three different railways. The decision came from the necessity of preventing train collisions, but it had unintended effects on New Yorkers' sense of time. Scientific American wrote, "On the day when the new standards took effect, the clocks of about twenty thousand railway-stations and the watches of three hundred thousand railway employees were reset. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of city and town clocks were altered to conform. How many individuals reset their watches is impossible to compute, but they certainly could be reckoned in the millions.

36. Speaking of millions, Grand Central's signature four-faced clock that sits atop the information booth is worth between $10 - 20 million dollars.

37. This timepiece was removed for repairs in 1954; the Times reported, "This will be the first interruption to the bronze clock's ticking in the 21,500,000 minutes, more or less, since the terminal was opened in 1913."

38. The little acorn atop the clock is a symbol of the Vanderbilt family. Their motto was, "From the acorn grows the mighty oak."

39. In August 1880, Railway World described Grand Central's influence on time-keeping: "Conductors, trainmen, and others are compelled to keeping their watches in strict uniformity with the superintendent's clock....The time is distributed over the line each day as follows: At 10 o'clock 58 minutes and 30 seconds a.m. the word 'time' is sent by the main office to the telegraph stations between New York and Albany. The word is repeated for 28 seconds, during which time operators must see that their instruments are adjusted."

40. In the 1940s, the New Yorker reported that a man named Jacob Bachtold was responsible for keeping time throughout the station. He adjusted each clock daily, verifying the time twice a day with the Naval Observatory in Washington.

The Party:

41. A brass band from West Point will play a concert at 9:30, kicking off the events.

42. Caroline Kennedy, Sex and the City star and daughter of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, will make an appearance. (Her mother defended the station from demolition in the 1970s.)

43. The Vanderbilt family will celebrate some sort of "key ceremony" during the rededication ceremony in the morning. Sounds like some kind of weird initiation, so if you're trying to join the family, maybe now's your chance.

44. The restaurants and shops inside the station will offer 1913 pricing on all their wares. A side of fries will cost ten cents; a loaf of bread will be six. (Check out the complete menu here.)

45. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins will read a special poem commissioned just for the occasion.

46. At noon, the terminal will receive awards from the Guinness Book of World Records, the National Park Service, the National Railway Historical Society, and the American Society of Civil Engineers. They'll have to buy special cabinet to hold them all.

47. The Postal Service will issue a brand new stamp to commemorate the anniversary, and will only be available for purchase from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Lower Concourse Information Booth.

48. A replica of the station, made entirely out of Legos, will be on display in the station master's office.

49. Tons of the stores inside the station will be giving away free swag. Target is giving out train whistles, Vince Camuto will have tiny perfume bottles, and Swatch promises free pens.

50. Surprise performances are scheduled throughout the day, so we encourage you to hang around and explore.


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