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September 28, 2013 Weird & Wacky No Comments Email Email

Train railcar under WaldorfAstoria hotel.wahotelIN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says train buffs searching out that mystery or historic piece of railway paraphernalia, still seek ways today to (illegally) slip down to an abandoned rail platform under New York’s swish Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Because down there they find themselves in what is still officially part of Grand Central Rail Terminal – and at a platform a three-quarter-century old rail baggage car that for decades was wrongly thought to be the one-time armour-plated personal carriage of President Franklin D Roosevelt.

Platform 61 was built in 1913, abandoned only a few years later as surplus to need, and when the Train railcar US No 1 Ferdinand MagellanWaldorf Astoria was built above it in 1931, re-opened for use by wealthy VIP guests who – as was the fashion at the time – owned their own luxury rail carriages.

The wheelchair-bound President Roosevelt, who had polio in his later years, used Platform 61 in October 1941 to get into the hotel, complete with his armour-plated motor car that was taken by special car-elevator up to street level.

The custom-made Roosevelt carriage was built with 2cm thick armour-plating on floors and sides, 7.5cm thick bullet-proof glass windows, and even had machine-gun ports; it is now displayed at the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami, Florida – putting a lie to the myth that it lays rusting-away under the Waldorf Astoria.

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