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Grand Central Terminal full of secrets

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Albany/HV: Grand Central Terminal full of secrets
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Grand Central Terminal is familiar to millions of New Yorkers and travelers, but a unique tour helps people behold its many hidden gems and mysteries. Stephanie Simon has more.

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. -- On a special tour of the mysteries and hidden treasures of Grand Central Terminal, the tour guide, Dan Bruckner, shows participants that there is a lot to learn, including patience.

"There really is a jewel, like a real jewel, somewhere in this main concourse," Bruckner said. "I'm going to show you where it is, but not until the end of the tour."

Bruckner says there is also a hole in the ceiling that introduced America to the Space Age. There is not a single listing in the terminal that doesn't have a mistake on it and Bruckner says mistakes of all sizes are in the terminal.

"There's a 22,000-square-feet secret and there's a secret here that's only one inch in size," Bruckner said.

But again, he does not reveal those secrets until the end of the tour. With those cliffhangers in mind, Bruckner's tour begins with the first mystery, why there is a little black rectangle on the terminal's famed blue, starry roof.

"That was the color of the entire terminal before we cleaned it from 1996 to 1998," Bruckner said. "It turned out to be tar and nicotine from cigarette smoke."

The next stop is the "Whispering Gallery," where I chatted with my colleague Roger Clark. It's a mystery anyone can unfold. Stand at opposite corners and talk to each other and the sounds travels perfectly.

Next stop is the catwalk, a beautiful glass walkway designed for ventilation and illumination. From there, those who are willing to kneel down get an unparalleled view.

For those willing to climb even higher, Bruckner lets visitors climb up the clock tower, which looks out onto Park Avenue.

We started to run out of time, so Bruckner brings us back to the concourse to reveal the mysteries. The hole in the ceiling is from a NASA rocket on display in the terminal that did not quite fit. The mistake on the boards is that all the listings are one minute earlier than when the train actually departs. The one inch mistake is that the east staircases, built much later, are an inch smaller than the western staircase, so future historians will know they were not part of the original building.

The bigger mistake is the October zodiac constellation, which is perfect in every way, except it is completely backwards.

The valuable jewel is the 1930 clock inside the information booth in the terminal's concourse.

"Every face of that four-face clock is made out of one solid piece of precious opal," Bruckner said.

And that final gem is clearly Bruckner himself.

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