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Grand Central Terminal: Hidden Secrets Of A New York Icon (PHOTOS)

First Posted: 01/17/2012 1:11 pm EST Updated: 11/05/2012 4:57 pm EST

The first things visitors to New York's iconic Grand Central need to know is that it's not a train station. Because the massive train yard is the end of every line that arrives, it's more appropriately -- and accurately -- called Grand Central Terminal.

The name is just one of the many "hidden" secrets visitors to the terminal can find on a tour of the historic building, which opened to the public on February 2, 1913 and was refurbished thanks to the preservation efforts of, among others, Jacqueline Kennedy and New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission. It's now the home of the commuter Metro-North railroad, as well as restaurants, shops and the world's most alluring Apple Store. (It's also a hub for a number of New York City subways.)

On a January 11 tour led by Metro-North manager Dan Brucker, HuffPost Travel dug up many more tidbits about the Terminal through which more than 700,000 people travel every day. While visitors can't access some of these restricted areas, many of the secrets can be found on an audio tour or self-guided walking tour of the building.

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  • In the middle of the main concourse, the famed opal clock above the information booth is valued at as much as $20 million.

  • Oak leaves and acorns adorn the terminal because they're a symbol of the Vanderbilt family, who financed the construction of the building.

  • The Terminal's main exhibition hall hosts a holiday market and many other temporary events. It books up well in advance but can be rented out -- for $25,000 a day.

  • Every light bulb in the Terminal is bare, in a nod to the Vanderbilt family that wanted to show off the electric power -- and electric railroad -- they'd financed.

  • A "whispering gallery" outside the Oyster Bar relies on brittle Guastavino tile to echo sound from one corner to another, leading many visitors to stick their faces in these corners -- a bizarre sight until you realize they're chatting with a friend across the hall.

  • A fraction of the property held at the railroad's lost and found, which tracks approximately 2,000 items a month.

  • Metro-North's lost and found is among the world's most efficient, with a more than 80 percent success rate in reuniting owners with their property. These are the phones lost as of Jan. 11.

  • The lost and found sees, on average, 300 cell phones a month.

  • The railroad's lost and found is stuffed with umbrellas.

  • Among the oddities at the lost and found include these boots, as well as crutches, bicycles and pieces of framed art.

  • Even more umbrellas at the Metro-North lost and found.

  • A service elevator leads to New York's deepest basement and the converters that power the Metro-North railroad.

  • The "secret" basement known as M42 has three power conversion systems to change AC into DC for Metro-North operations.

  • This clock in the basement -- like all clocks in the Terminal -- is synced to the atomic clocks of the U.S. Naval Observatory.

  • These ticker tapes from 1922 were once used to track train movements. While they and other equipment in the basement, including giant rotary converters, are no longer used, they're still in place as a sort of mini-museum.

  • One of four red off buttons in Grand Central's "secret" basement. Pushing any one of these buttons will shut off all electrical power to Metro-North, including on trains and in the Terminal.

  • Many Metro-North operations happen on the seventh floor of the Terminal, but this elevator panel is one of the only mentions of the otherwise hidden level.

  • Orders for staff hang outside the Terminal's "Situation Room."

  • Inside the Terminal's Situation Room, where MTA officials convene in case of emergency.

  • Inside the Terminal's Situation Room, where MTA officials convene in case of emergency.

  • The Terminal's Situation Room overlooks the Operations Control Center where all trains and tracks are monitored.

  • Inside the Operations Control Center on the sixth floor.

  • One of many information sources inside the Situation Room.

  • Hallways in many of the restricted access areas of Grand Central are narrow and unpolished.

  • The view of the Main Concourse from the eastern window bay.

  • The view of the Main Concourse from the eastern window bay.

  • The view of the Main Concourse from the eastern window bay.

  • The view of the Main Concourse from the eastern window bay.

  • The eastern window bay looks out onto New York's newest Apple Store and Michael Jordan Steakhouse.

  • A divot in the ceiling in the Main Concourse remains from a 1957 display of a Redstone missile that was raised in the hall.

  • An American flag was hung on the south side of the Main Concourse after the 9/11 attacks.

  • A Tiffany glass clock overlooks 42nd Street, which can be seen by opening a window at the bottom of the clock face.

  • Park Avenue from Grand Central's clock.

  • The face of the Tiffany glass clock.

  • The face of the Tiffany glass clock.

  • A view from behind the glass clock.

  • Chalk graffiti in the room that houses the Tiffany glass clock appears to endorse pop singer Ke$ha.

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Filed by Paul Brady  |