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Look | Exploring Grand Central's Secrets With the Author of 'Hugo'

Friday, January 06, 2012

WNYC
Brian Selznick, Behind the Clock (Maya Bernstein/WNYC)

When Brian O. Selznick wrote "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," a graphic novel about an orphan in 1930s Paris, he imagined the secret spaces of the Gare Montparnasse train station in Paris. 

For inspiration, he visited Grand Central Terminal, and drew his interiors in pictures that were three inches by five inches. But the scenes in the book — hidden tunnels, secret rooms, the giant clock tower — were all drawn from Selznick's imagination, and then turned into the recent film "Hugo," by Martin Scorcese.

Just recently, for the first time, Selznick got to explore Grand Central's secrets and WNYC was invited to tag along.

The private tour took him to Grand Central's deepest sub basement, its lost and found, along its catwalks and up into the clock tower.  At each step along the way, the station gave up its secrets, which were eerily similar to the story of Hugo Cabret, a small boy who keeps the clocks running, steals to eat, and struggles to repair a lost automaton, his last connection to his dead father. 

That struggle leads him to Isabel, an orphan raised by the station's toy seller, who mysteriously owns the key that will unlock the automaton.

 

Maya Bernstein/WNYC
Phone in Elevator to the Secret Subbasement
Maya Bernstein//WNYC
Giant Wheels Once Generated Grand Central's Power
Maya Bernstein/ WNYC
A Meter, Part of Grand Central's Ancient Machinery
Maya Bernstein/WNYC
Selznick with the key to Grand Central's machinery, that went missing
Illustrations from The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Copyright 2007 by Brian Selznick. Used with permission from Scholastic Press
Isabel with the missing key from The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Maya Bernstein/WNYC
The Floor of Grand Central Terminal, viewed from the catwalk
The stairway to the clock tower at Grand Central Terminal.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

The stairway to the clock tower at Grand Central Terminal.

Maya Bernstein//WNYC
Grand Central Terminal, from the Catwalk
Maya Bernstein/WNYC
Face of the Grand Central Clock, Viewed from the "Window" Underneath
Detailed image of the Clock Works in Grand Central Terminal.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Detailed image of the Clock Works in Grand Central Terminal.

Maya Bernstein/WNYC
The Clock Works in Grand Central, Smaller Than the Movie
Illustrations from The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Copyright 2007 by Brian Selznick. Used with permission from Scholastic Press
Hugo and Isabelle in the clock tower from the Invention of Hugo Cabret
Maya Bernstein/WNYC
Brian Selznick, Behind the Clock
View from the clock tower at Grand Central Terminal.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

View from the clock tower at Grand Central Terminal.

Maya Bernstein/WNYC
Park Avenue, Viewed from the Clock Tower

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Comments [5]

Lee from NYC

What delightful photos! Looking forward to taking the tour noted in the WNYC article at http://www.wnyc.org/blogs/wnyc-news-blog/2012/jan/03/new-yorks-lost-subways.

Thank you for this old-New-York treat.

Jan. 14 2012 06:42 PM
m

Wasn't this space also an inspiration for the hideout in "A Winter's Tale"?

Jan. 13 2012 09:21 AM
Cynthia Crane from NYC

Loved the movie and this piece is the icing on the cake. thank you!

Jan. 07 2012 09:46 AM
Sarah from Manhattan

Looks magical. Is there any way to schedule a tour?

Jan. 06 2012 05:56 PM
Robin Epstein from Brooklyn

Way cool, kudos to all, including the photographer.

Jan. 06 2012 03:03 PM

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