Friday, December 23, 2016
The Irregular Guide to New York City Entry #11: The Mystery of Track 61
(Above: The Waldorf Astoria)
Underneath the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Hotel in midtown Manhattan lies a mysterious train station. Few people have seen it, and even fewer know why it was built—or who once rode in the private train car that still sits on the tracks.
(Above: The mysterious train. Photo from Gothamist. Link below.)
Who was powerful enough to have a secret train station built beneath one of the fanciest hotels in the world? And why did he need his own private car?
In the 1940s, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was keeping a secret from the country. He’d contracted polio decades earlier, and the disease had left him unable to walk on his own. He didn’t want the world to know about his infirmity, so he kept it carefully hidden. The secret train station beneath the Waldorf Astoria was constructed so that he could enter and leave the hotel without being seen in a wheelchair.
(Above: A rare photo of President Roosevelt in a wheelchair.)
A 1940s-era armor-clad train car (with bulletproof windows) remains parked thirty feet below the New York streets, ready to whisk FDR out of the city at a moment’s notice. Rumor has it that the station itself still serves as an emergency exit for presidents and other dignitaries whenever they come to town.
Lots of pictures here. And a cool article on hotels with secret entrances here.