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Inside New York City's most secret basement

'World's Strangest': Inside New York City's Most Secret Basement

Most visitors to New York's Grand Central Terminal probably have no idea they tread over one of the most secret basement vaults in the history of the city.

Under 10 stories of subterranean marble and upholstery shops, power plants and other substructures lies a giant room rich in history and unknown to most. At certain times in the past, anyone who mistakenly found themselves in the elevator to this room risked being shot at the bottom in order to keep the vault's secret safe.

What exactly did this room contain to warrant such protection?

At 22,000 square feet -- almost as large as the station concourse above -- the chamber housed nine huge "rotary converters" weighing 15 tons each. These converters transformed over 11,000 volts of alternating current in the direct current needed to power the trains above.

The converters were the beating heart of a system that powered the Northeastern rail system -- over 2000 miles of heavily used tracks.

When the rotary converters were installed in 1913, the purpose of having them below ground was to allow for more profitable development of skyscrapers on the surface. However, the protective nature of the underground chamber came in handy by the outbreak of World War II.

The northeastern railways were vital in moving troops and equipment to the eastern ports. If the converters under Grand Central Terminal were damaged or destroyed, the US war effort could have been crippled.

Indeed, the room was targeted by Nazi spies. Luckily for the Allied war effort, the saboteurs were spotted coming ashore from their U-Boats by a Coast Guard watchman. The group was intercepted by the FBI before they could stage their attack on New York's most secret basement.

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marianicole62 July 19 2014 at 9:59 AM

That's right, I mean why would you even talk about something like this! Especially now, since this Administration has decided to let all foreigners into the country!

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3 replies
runswthscisors40 July 19 2014 at 10:29 AM

Is this where they hid Obama's real birth certificate, and college records??...........

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5 replies
brennemanbelkin July 19 2014 at 8:48 AM

Real good AOL.
Give some terrorist a target.

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2 replies
ahallie brennemanbelkin July 19 2014 at 11:53 AM

I'm with you...incredible stupidity to release this article on the Internet!!! No wonder the terrorists around the world always have targets delivered to them....

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molly2peaches brennemanbelkin July 19 2014 at 10:04 PM

You guys are hilarious. These converters made 600 volt DC power to run traction railways. Out of service since 1950. Furthermore the piece is full of baloney. That kind of current cannot be transmitted very far. This system only provided for the immediate area of NYC.

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jbmatlack July 19 2014 at 9:59 AM

this story is factually incorrect and misses so much it's almost pointless. The rotaries in Grand Central serviced Grand Central and the Park Ave. tunnel. Not 2000 miles of track. Did the New York Central use electricity to power trains beyond White Plains? Not before the 1980s! The power was generated by plants in the Bronx, and by Edison Electric elsewhere in Manhattan when this station was created in 1928! Previously it was housed at 50th Street. Oh, and by the way, the Pennsylvania Railroad, which was electrified in 1908 from Wash., DC, to New Haven, CT and West To Harrisburg, PA, had above ground power stations all along the east coast. Did not the Axis want to destroy those as well?

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3 replies
buddwhyzr July 19 2014 at 10:56 AM

Amazing the projects the government builds without us knowing. There must be a lot of storage units filled with past workers to keep the secret.

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1 reply
croshatch buddwhyzr July 19 2014 at 2:17 PM

I believe it was built by the railroad, not the Government.

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1 reply
Peter Dee croshatch July 19 2014 at 10:57 PM

Don't say stuff like that, all of the paranoids won't have anything to whine about, sheesh.

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db1219 July 19 2014 at 3:17 PM

Actually, the most secret storage facility IS in NYC and it IS in Manhattan. However, it is not under Grand Central Station, nor was it ever a power station.
It is the safe for the all of the gold, silver and diamonds that are traded for on the New York Stock Exchange on a daily basis. It WAS below one of the Twin Towers before 9/11. Where is it today? No one knows.

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pasturemuffins July 19 2014 at 3:23 PM

And didn't AOL tell us last week that the only German incursion into North America was the Canadian weather station? Don't ever let facts get in the way of a good story. More McNews from AOL.

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phxdumpsters July 20 2014 at 12:18 AM

I heard about this when I was a kid in the 80s. WOW what a story.
Lame AOL

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katieryan5555 July 19 2014 at 2:45 PM

Most secret basement?

Not any more. Idiots...

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CPA11973 July 19 2014 at 2:11 PM

oops the secret's out. actually the secret was out a long time ago. A good place to put all the illegals, if they get electrocuted becuase they touched the wrong thing too bad. after all they aren't here legally and it saves the cost of housing and reurning them

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