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You’ve been to the famous 5th Avenue shops and restaurants, you’ve seen Central Station, strolled through Central Park and climbed up into the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, but have you ever wondered what’s underneath those famous landmarks?
The New York Transit Museum is housed in an authentic subway station first build in the Art Deco era of the 1930s. Located at Boerum Plaza, at Schermerhorn Street, this wonderful interactive museum offers visitors the chance to see an amazing collection of vintage subway carriages and trains, climb aboard El (“elevated”) cars and even discover a working signal tower. The transport related artefacts showcase the history of New York’s amazingly complex underground rapid transit system, which is responsible for the safe delivery of hundreds of thousands of commuters and tourists every day.
Apart from the exhibits that visitors can climb on-board and discover in a hands-on fashion, there are also many artefacts, photographs and exhibits which explain the astonishing facts behind the engineering and construction feats that had to be undergone to create today’s subway network.
It is also possible to see one of the most splendid Art Nouveau subway stations – now defunct – that were ever created by either joining tours the museum organises for its members or by taking a downtown 6 train and remaining on it as it makes the loop around the stretch of Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall. The subway station City Hall was completed in 1904 and its vaulted ceilings and beautiful Art Nouveau skylights are as stunning today as they were then.
The museum is also responsible for the Arts for Transit program that has caused multiple art installations to spring up at subway stations to the delight of travellers. Murals, hand-painted panels, or unusual skylights are all part of the various ways in which art can inspire us on our daily commute.
The museum opens from Tuesdays to Fridays from 10 am to 4 pm and on Saturdays and Sundays it is open from 11 am to 5 pm. The nearest subway is A, C, G to Hoyt-Schermerhorn or R to Court Street or 2, 3, 4 or 5 to Borough Hall. On Wednesdays senior citizens and tourists over 65 have free entrance. An adult tickets costs US$ 7.00 per person and children ages 2 to 17 pay US$ 5 per child.
Taking the subway back to Grand Central Terminal there are more underground secrets to discover! The magnificent train station has a hidden platform, which is no longer in use. Track 61 was built to allow one particular passenger to board trains unobserved: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was rather shy about the fact that he was disabled. A tour through Grand Central train station reveals his 50-foot long platform and private elevator, which allowed President Roosevelt to travel unobserved on his private train. The armour plated train is still on exhibit today.
How to get there: The AirTrain from Terminal 4 at John F Kennedy Airport connects with the NYC subway service and the main Bus Terminal as well as Grand Central Station and Penn Station on a half hourly service (for more info, please visit www.NYCAirporter.com). Several suppliers of car hire rentals have their hire service desks at John F Kennedy Airport, too.