Came across this on a reddit thread. Very interesting stuff, I wonder what kind of train pulled it.
Lying forgotten two hundred feet below one of America’s most iconic buildings lies the closely guarded secret of one of America’s finest presidents – rusting away when it could be a monument to his greatness. Hidden under the Grand Central train terminal in New York lies a vast area that was unknown to the outside world until the late Eighties. It houses the power network that is responsible for the electricity that runs the entire station – and was a key target for Hitler during the Second World War. But there is also the little known Waldorf-Astoria platform, which is known by Grand Central staff as the Roosevelt Platform. And there is parked the decaying hulk of the train the four-times elected president used to hide his disability, the paralysis from the waist down which forced him to use a wheelchair in private.
It was while holidaying at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada, in 1921 that Roosevelt contracted what is widely assumed to be polio. The result was devastating and he was unable to move his legs again, although using leg irons and hip braces he taught himself to walk short distances with a cane by swivelling his hips. He refused to accept his paralysis, as he was convinced it would ruin any hopes he had of continuing in public office.
Roosevelt had become a state senator in 1910 and after a brief spell in the Navy was voted in as Governor of New York in 1929. His presidency began in 1932 at the height of the depression with nearly a quarter of the working population jobless and two million homeless. In such difficult times, Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not want anybody to know of his own problems and arranged to journey in and out of New York via Grand Central in a personal armoured train. ‘The platform is directly under the Waldorf Astoria and after Roosevelt’s 6000 horse powered diesel train would pull up on the tracks it would let his personal car out of the side,’ said Dan Brucker, 52, spokesperson for Metro North, the company that runs Grand Central Terminal. ‘The car would then drive off the dark and secret platform into an elevator which would take it directly into the Waldorf Astoria garage. ‘This served to protect Roosevelt’s safety and protect his disability through polio from the public at large.’ The train is still visible in the poorly light disused platform, a remnant of a different time in American history, when industrial icons like locomotives ruled the land. ‘Grand Central is always changing with the times,’ he said. ‘For such an impressive and grand space she holds her own very well, even now when she is covered by skyscrapers and the urban jungle.’FDR on the Campaign trail.
After returning from the Yalta conference in the Ukraine which discussed the reorganisation of post-war Europe in Ukraine, he addressed Congress from a sitting position on March 1 – an unprecedented admission of his paralysis, for which he apologised. However, he was still in command of his mental faculties and travelled to Warm Springs, Georgia, where he had built a hydrotherapy facility to combat his paralysis. There he planned for the forthcoming founding conference of the United Nations, for which he had high hopes and even considered resigning from the presidency just one year after his re-election in order to become its first head.
However, he was taken suddenly ill on April 12 and died in The Little White House, which is now a museum. His personal train stopped running – and hasn’t moved much since. During the war, it was not Roosevelt’s train which concerned Hitler but the immense power grid under Grand Central, which to this day powers the transportation of more than one million people per week up and down American’s East Coast. Constructed as part of the redesigned terminal in 1913, this colossal top-secret area ten storeys deep – known as M42 – was left off all blueprints for the station and its existence was only officially acknowledged by the station owners in the late 1980’s. Accessible via a lift that is almost 100 years old, M42 is still one of the most closely guarded areas. The exact location of M42 is still classified information,’ said Mr Brucker. ‘Its history is one of denial and subterfuge, as you can imagine given its importance not only to New York City today but in the war effort during the 1940’s.
It was this significance which led Hitler to concoct a plan to dispatch two spies to take out M42 and in doing so stop the movements of thousands of troops across the Atlantic to Britain in anticipation of D-Day. ‘Powered by the old power station on 23rd Street in Manhattan, M42, known as such because of Grand Central’s 42nd street address, contained 12 rotary AC/DC convertors,’ explained Dan. These facilitated the movement of all passengers from the station and were vital. ‘They also of course helped move all the troops through to New York before boarding the transport ships bound for Europe. ‘However, even though these rotary convertors were impressive pieces of engineering, they had one almost comical weakness. ‘They could be destroyed and stopped from working by throwing a simple bucket of sand into the rotating blades.’ As such M42 was guarded by armed soldiers throughout the Second World War. ‘These guards had two distinct sets of orders,’ said Mr Brucker.
‘With their eyes trained on the lift doors they had orders to intern anyone for the duration of the war who may have inadvertently stumbled into the lift and found their way down. ‘And more importantly, they had orders to shoot on sight anyone they saw emerge from the lift with a bucket of sand.’ In fact, according to Mr Brucker, two German secret agents were dispatched to Grand Central in late 1944 with specific orders to disrupt the American war effort, with M42 top of the list. ‘Erich Gimpel and William Colepaugh landed at Bar Harbor, Maine in November 1944, after being dropped off by a German U-Boat in the middle of the night that had traveled for weeks at low speed across the Atlantic,’ said Mr Brucker.. ‘They were ordered to travel at first to New York City with almost $60,000 (over $650,000 in today’s money) in bills on their person. ‘Their mission was to infiltrate and report back on American war efforts, especially the Manhattan Project and if the opportunity presented itself to destroy the rotary motors that were in M42.’ As it turned out, the pair left a European branded pack of cigarettes on the beach and were sighted coming to shore by a keen eyed dog walker. ‘The FBI launched a major manhunt and Gimpel was apprehended in Manhattan after Colepaugh turned himself in.’ They had failed in their mission to disrupt the European war effort and 80 per cent of all troop movements across the east of America to Europe.