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The President's Secret New York City Train Station

Dan Lewis runs the popular daily newsletter Now I Know (“Learn Something New Every Day, By Email”). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

Grand Central Terminal, located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, has more than 40 platforms. But one of those platforms is almost never used.

In 1871, Grand Central opened its doors. While the building itself stretches from 42nd Street to 45th Street, the terminal as a whole extends — underground — as far uptown as 50th Street. One of the buildings above these tracks, somewhere between 49th and 50th Streets, was a powerhouse for the Terminal. The powerhouse had its own loading platform beneath it, used for discharging workmen and transporting machinery to the site as needed. But when Con Edison, the local utility company, began to provide power to the Terminal, the powerhouse became redundant. By the late 1920s, the world famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel took over the entire block between 49th and 50th, bulldozing the powerhouse. By historical accident, the Waldorf-Astoria has its own, rarely used, train station.

Rarely used. But not never used. When the President of the United States is in town, the platform is a backdoor to safety.

For decades, the Waldorf-Astoria has played host to presidents visiting the city. In the mid-1940s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited the hotel, and a potentially apocryphal story suggests that he, for reasons of both vanity (he wanted to hide the fact that he was wheelchair-bound) and security, employed a custom-made train car that brought him right to the Waldorf-Astoria's "secret" train station. The custom-made car—replete with bullet-proof glass, gun ports, and plate armor—still sits on the tracks, somewhere beneath Grand Central, as it is too large to move without taking it apart. It also remains on site because it may be useful. When the President is in town, all the entrances to the platform are guarded by police officers and military personnel, ensuring safe access to this underground escape route by the President in case of emergency.

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BONUS FACT:
The Waldorf is not the only New York landmark with an unused subterranean train platform. City Hall, in downtown Manhattan, is home to an unused, frozen-in-time subway station. There was also a whole hidden subway system in New York City, as well as ones in Chicago, Cincinnati, and Washington, DC.

The original source for this post is a great CNET News article about the secrets of Grand Central. But a comment therein suggested there was more to the story. A bit of Googling led to the details above. --Dan

To subscribe to Dan’s daily email Now I Know, click here. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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Looking for a New Career? Airlines Will Need 637,000 More Pilots Before 2035
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If you're looking for a career path with plenty of job prospects, you could do worse than earning a pilot's license. As Bloomberg reports, Boeing—one of the biggest plane manufacturers in the world—estimates that in order to keep up with travel demand, the world will need to get 637,000 more pilots in the air over the next 20 years.

Across the world, more people than ever before are traveling by plane, with the number of passengers increasing 7 percent between 2015 and 2016, as the International Air Transport Association reported last year. Those numbers are expected to keep growing, and the organization estimates that by 2035, there will be 7.2 billion air passengers per year traveling across the world, thanks to a combination of rising salary trends and decreasing ticket costs.

That doesn't necessarily mean a huge influx of travelers hitting U.S. airports. Much of this increase will likely come from China, India, and other countries across Asia with expanding air travel industries. And as a result of needing more planes and routes to transport the growing demand for flights, airlines are going to need to hire more pilots (and other staff) to keep their planes in the air. That's why North America and Europe will need 117,000 and 106,000 more pilots by 2035, respectively, compared to the Asia-Pacific region's 253,000.

In short, the career prospects of pilots are looking pretty promising, especially if you speak Mandarin. You might want to look into flying lessons.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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Live Smarter
The Best Ways to Avoid Germs While Flying
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The weeks you spent avoiding sniffling colleagues around the water cooler can seem all for naught the moment you board a plane during cold and flu season. But as Travel + Leisure points out, having a few of these proactive tricks in your arsenal could help you avoid other passengers’ germs.

As you pack, stash a travel-sized bottle of nasal spray in your carry-on. Mucous membranes in our noses protect us from infectious agents, but airplane air can dry them out, so remember to apply regularly while flying.

Once you're seated, an antibacterial gel or wipes will take care of the microbes chilling on your tray table. When beverages and snacks are served, wipe down the tray table's surface, which has been called one of the dirtiest places on the plane. And skip the possibly unsafe airline coffee or tea.

Air travelers are typically crammed into planes like sardines, but there are still ways to limit your close contact with others. For example, linger toward the back or front, away from dense throngs of people, while waiting in line to board. Once you’re on the plane, opt for a window seat if you have a choice. Aisle seats typically have more leg room, but they also expose passengers to more germ-rich people walking in the aisle.

One last tip for staying healthy while flying the friendly skies: After you're seated, switch on the overhead vent to increase air circulation. You'll breathe easier if you're not sitting in a spot where germs are concentrated.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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