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Hotel Commodore: Part 2 — 10 Reasons Why You’ll Love the New Skyscraper Next to Grand Central History Photos

In part one we left off with the story of the Hotel Commodore and its gradual fall into disrepair, mirroring the downturn of passenger railroading in the United States. The subsequent story has been oft-told, largely because one of the major players is a flamboyant former president of the United States. In his first major real estate deal, Donald Trump used his father’s influence with the local political apparatus to negotiate a deal for tax breaks for the old hotel. After arranging an unprecedented 40 year tax abatement arrangement with the city, Trump then negotiated with Hyatt to partner in...

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Times are changing… Events Photos

It’s that time again… that loathed period of the year when we change our clocks and lose an hour of sleep. Our world today is thoroughly regulated by time, but it wasn’t always that way. Time was once more fluid, independently existing at the local level by simply observing the sun, or by watching a prominent neighborhood clock—that one in the town square, perhaps. To the railroads, time was essential. Schedules were to be kept, and inaccurate timekeeping could, and did, lead to accidents. The oft-mentioned mantra is that every railroad rule is written in blood, and that included even...

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Behind the Scenes at the Subway’s Power Control Center Trains Photos Videos

Throughout the city there are countless nondescript structures that garner little attention from passersby. Hidden within one of them is the Power Control Center of New York City’s subway system, which like many important pieces of infrastructure today tries to keep a lower profile. A venerable hive of activity, the Power Control Center occupies an enormous room with long rows of seafoam green control panels running its length. Clusters of desks are arranged in the middle between the panels, with a perfect sight line to monitor the flashing lights and relayed information. The PCC’s expansive control panels display a schematic...

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A Rotary Converter and the Power Historian History Photos Videos

One of the joys of running this site is getting the chance to meet interesting people. When researching the supposed Nazi sabotage of Grand Central’s sub basement known as M42, I encountered a video on YouTube showing one Robert Lobenstein—identified as the retired General Superintendent of Power Operations at New York City Transit—starting up an old rotary converter. I had seen rotary converters before, the very ones in Grand Central’s M42, in fact. Yet I had never seen one in operation, and the video fascinated me. It was clear that the modern static frequency converters I had encountered on filming...

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Another snowstorm for Metro-North Photos

Things are slowly getting back to normal in the Northeast, which was blanketed in snow over the past few days. Central Park reported just over 15 inches of snow, and some areas of the Bronx were reporting close to 20 inches. Subway service above ground was halted at 2 PM yesterday, and resumed at 5 AM today. Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road shut down operations at 3 PM yesterday, but as of 4 AM this morning were both back online, subject to delays. Amtrak likewise cut service at 3 in between New York and Boston and New York and...

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Finally, Moynihan. Events History Photos

Viewed as one of the most heinous crimes to ever have occurred in American architecture, the demolition of Pennsylvania Station served as a turning point for historic preservation in the United States. With the destruction of McKim, Mead, and White’s Beaux arts masterwork, Penn Station’s underground tracks and modified mezzanines still survived, but only as a shadow of their previous selves. Gone was the light spilling through triumphant glass archways and elegant classically styled columns—a fitting gateway to New York that allowed one to enter “like a god.” Instead, one now “scuttles in like a rat,” navigating the subterranean labyrinth...

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