Transit Museum at Grand Central Terminal

Edification value
Entertainment value
Should you go?
Time spent 16 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned The Elevateds were built in the late 1890s and much of the signage was done in beautiful glass with floral decorations. I think of them as just big and hulking, but they must have been rather beautiful as well.

New York’s main Transit Museum is in Brooklyn, and it is very worth visiting.  When they restored Grand Central in the early 2000s, they opened a tiny branch (or “gallery annex”) of the museum there.  I’m tempted to say skip it — the exhibit space is very small, it’s more gift shop than museum, and there’s so much else to see at Grand Central.

And yet, I’ve seen some really good shows in that little space, so I wouldn’t dismiss the museum out of hand.

This year, the transit system is celebrating the construction of the new Second Avenue Subway.  In a brilliant bit of counter-programming, the current show at the Transit Museum’s GCT branch is about a bit of deconstructing, showing photos of the dismantling of the Third Avenue Elevated in 1955.

The pictures were all taken by Sid Kaplan, now a rather well known printer and photographer, but then a 17-year-old kid.  They are beautiful, great slices of life and times long gone. Even with the High Line and the remaining Elevated lines outside Manhattan, it’s still hard to imagine a time when Second, Third, Sixth, and Ninth Avenues were overshadowed by train tracks.

Sometimes when I ride the subway I imagine the future moment when a train rolls down those tracks for the last time.  It’ll probably be because of some calamity.  Flooding of the tunnels, giant monster attack, zombies.  Or maybe the subway will be obsolete someday due to self-driving cars or teleportation. So it resonated with me to see a sign announcing to riders, in a matter-of-fact way, the end of the Third Avenue El.

If your time at Grand Central is limited and you have to choose between seeing the Transit Museum there and, say, having a half dozen oysters at the Oyster Bar, or strolling through Grand Central Market, or just seeing the building itself, I  recommend you prioritize any of those other things.

But if you have a spare 15 minutes, the Transit Museum’s small, well conceived shows are worth the time.  And it is a fantastic gift shop, too.

For Reference:

Address Grand Central Terminal, main level, west side
Cost Free
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