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The President's Secret New York City Train Station

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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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iStock
Air New Zealand's London Pop-Up Restaurant Only Sells Airplane Food
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iStock

Bad airplane food is a cliché for a reason, but Air New Zealand is bucking the trend, Food & Wine reports. The airline's new in-flight menus feature culinary creations by New Zealand chef Michael Meredith and Peter Gordon, the Kiwi-born executive chef of London’s popular The Providores and Tapa Room. To promote their revamped meal options, Air New Zealand launched a free, two-day pop-up restaurant in London that serves nothing but airplane food.

The temporary outpost, called This is How We Fly, is running out of the Unit London gallery in Soho, but it's only sticking around for two days—April 25 and April 26 (which is today, which means you've only got a few hours left to give it a try). Patrons sit in airplane chairs and dine on options including “lamb with minted peas, braised lettuce with bacon lardons, and salt roasted crushed new potatoes with mint jelly" and a "yoghurt marinated chicken tikka with saffron pilaf jewelled rice, and aloo ghobi with spicy raita dressing,” according to Food & Wine.

Vegetarians were able to indulge, too, as the airline’s meatless dishes included “soy marinated tofu brown rice seaweed with sesame miso dressing and a chunky vegetable” and “tofu coconut curry with spinach and coriander green rice.” New Zealand wines and desserts like apple rhubarb and treacle tarts were also on the menu.

Air New Zealand didn’t simply wine and dine prospective flyers—they also surveyed them on their attitudes about airline food. The company questioned 1000 adults, and found that 25 percent of respondents preferred hospital menu options to airline cuisine. Meanwhile, half of respondents said they disliked airplane food. Still, customers were willing to reconsider their relationship with sky grub if it were made from fresher ingredients, or if menus featured a wider array of options.

Air New Zealand isn’t the only company in the South Pacific that's rethinking its approach to airplane food: Airlines flying out of the state of Queensland, Australia, have teamed up with a charity called OzHarvest Brisbane to collect uneaten sandwiches and snacks, which are then donated to more than 800 charities.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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AeroMobil
AeroMobil's Flying Car Could Land This Year
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AeroMobil

The flying cars of science fiction have always been a bit of a logistical nightmare: Vehicles in sky lanes zipping around, narrowly avoiding head-on collisions, and rarely meeting the ground. In other words, George Jetson probably would have needed some quality auto insurance.

The reality is still impressive, but a little more practical. This week, AeroMobil announced that their plainly named AeroMobil Flying Car—a small passenger plane that doubles as a street-legal vehicle—will be available for pre-orders beginning this year.

The four-wheeled plane (or winged car) has gone through several prototypes to get to a stage that AeroMobil says is in total compliance with current regulations for both aircraft and automobiles. A previous iteration used regular gas, could take off with 650 feet of airstrip, land on just 164 feet of strip, and reached speeds of up to 124 miles per hour. It also crashed during a 2015 test run in Slovakia. (The pilot, who deployed his parachute, survived.)

AeroMobil is keeping specs for their new, commercial version under wraps until April 20, when it plans on debuting the vehicle at the Top Marques Monaco industry trade show. The price is also TBD, but chief technical officer Doug MacAndrew told Business Insider last year that “it's not going to be cheap.”

[h/t Mashable]

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