“In the past, if you’d stepped into this elevator by mistake, you faced being shot at the other end, in case you told anyone what you saw,” says the narrator of this video from the Science Channel. And this is, essentially, what happened to two German spies when they tried to attack this hidden power substation below Grand Central.
But let’s back up. When Grand Central was built in 1913, part of the plan was to add a top-secret power substation. After tunneling down through ten stories of solid bedrock, engineers blasted and carved out a top-secret chamber known as M42, almost as wide as the terminal itself and covering 22,000 square feet. Here, nine rotary converters each weighing 15 tons and reaching heights of 20 feet, transferred 11,000 volts of alternating current to power the trains above. In 1941, when America joined WWII, the secrecy paid off.
The northeastern railway was crucial to transporting troops and weapons to the ports, so had the converters been sabotaged, the entire course of history could have been altered. Despite armed guards standing watch, a German spy worked in the sub-basement. He recognized its importance and told Adolf Hitler, who then sent Nazis over on U-Boats in the middle of the night, armed with an interesting weapon–sand. Throwing sand into the rotating blades would have wiped the converters out, along with 80 percent of troop and supply movement. Thankfully, the Coast Guard spotted the Nazi spies up near Maine and alerted the FBI, who arrested the men just as they were nearing Grand Central. Two of them were executed, and to this day, the location of the substation remains secret.
Video via the Science Channel
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