Grand Central Terminal is returning to its days as a departure and arrival point for long distance railroad travel — at least temporarily. Select Amtrak trains will stop and leave from Grand Central through the end of August to take some strain off Penn Station. Roger Clark was there to see the first trains pull into the station.
It hasn't been a regular occurrence at Grand Central Terminal in more than a quarter century.
An Amtrak train pulled in just after 7:30 Monday morning from the Albany area — leaving passengers eight blocks north and a bunch of avenues east of their usual destination.
"It's not quite as easy because I have to go to Columbus Circle so I have to walk to the D instead of just jumping on the C at Penn Station," said Amrak Passenger Dr. Madeleine Harbison.
Harbison was on one of Amtrak's six weekday Empire Service trains.
They will run in and out of Grand Central instead of Penn Station through September 1, part of the effort to relieve the stress on that beleaguered transit hub.
The switch came as a surprise to at least one passenger we spoke with.
"I just found out when I got here," said Carl Andrews. "For me it's easier. I just jump on the number 4 or 5 train. So this actually worked out okay. It worked out alright."
Once known as an intercity and long distance railroad terminus, Grand Central has been all about the Metro-North Commuter Railroad since 1991, when the last Amtrak left for the Hudson Valley — that service ended when Amtrak consolidated at Penn Station. Not everyone was happy to be part of the flashback experience.
"I work on the other side of the island," said another.
But on the other side of the coin, other passengers recognized they were part of a little Grand Central Terminal history.
"I remember back in the late 70s, early 80's, used to come in here," said another. "Because I went to school in Albany."
"Kinda fun," said another. "Especially to come in on the first train. Nice change of pace? That's right."
"The Amtrak crew had some help making its way in and out of an unfamiliar station — a pilot crew including a Metro-North engineer and conductor boarded the train in Westchester to help guide it in.