this is the story of how FDR hid his Polio from the public in New York City
Lying forgotten two hundred feet below one of America’s most iconic buildings lies the closely guarded secret of one of America’s finest presidents – rusting away when it could be a monument to his greatness.
Hidden under the Grand Central train terminal in New York lies a vast area that was unknown to the outside world until the late Eighties.
It houses the power network that is responsible for the electricity that runs the entire station – and was a key target for Hitler during the Second World War.
But there is also the little known Waldorf-Astoria platform, which is known by Grand Central staff as the Roosevelt Platform.
And there is parked the decaying hulk of the train the four-times elected president used to hide his disability, the paralysis from the waist down which forced him to use a wheelchair in private.
door to his secret elevator
His presidency began in 1932 at the height of the depression with nearly a quarter of the working population jobless and two million homeless.
In such difficult times, Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not want anybody to know of his own problems and arranged to journey in and out of New York via Grand Central in a personal armored train.
‘The platform is directly under the Waldorf Astoria and after Roosevelt’s 6000 horse powered diesel train would pull up on the tracks it would let his personal car out of the side,’ said Dan Brucker, 52, spokesperson for Metro North, the company that runs Grand Central Terminal.
‘The car would then drive off the dark and secret platform into an elevator which would take it directly into the Waldorf Astoria garage.
‘This served to protect Roosevelt’s safety and protect his disability through polio from the public at large.’
he train is still visible in the poorly light disused platform, a remnant of a different time in American history, when industrial icons like locomotives ruled the land.
‘Grand Central is always changing with the times,’ he said.
‘For such an impressive and grand space she holds her own very well, even now when she is covered by skyscrapers and the urban jungle.’
After returning from the Yalta conference in the Ukraine which discussed the reorganization of post-war Europe in Ukraine, he addressed Congress from a sitting position on March 1 – an unprecedented admission of his paralysis, for which he apologized.
However, he was still in command of his mental faculties and travelled to Warm Springs, Georgia, where he had built a hydrotherapy facility to combat his paralysis.
There he planned for the forthcoming founding conference of the United Nations, for which he had high hopes and even considered resigning from the presidency just one year after his re-election in order to become its first head.
However, he was taken suddenly ill on April 12 and died in The Little White House, which is now a museum.
His personal train stopped running – and hasn’t moved much since.