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

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.

 

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

The stairway to the clock tower at Grand Central Terminal.

( Stephen Nessen )
Grand Central Terminal, from the Catwalk
Grand Central Terminal, from the Catwalk ( Maya Bernstein//WNYC )
Face of the Grand Central Clock, Viewed from the "Window" Underneath
Face of the Grand Central Clock, Viewed from the "Window" Underneath ( Maya Bernstein/WNYC )

Detailed image of the Clock Works in Grand Central Terminal.

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

View from the clock tower at Grand Central Terminal.

( Stephen Nessen )
Park Avenue, Viewed from the Clock Tower
Park Avenue, Viewed from the Clock Tower ( Maya Bernstein/WNYC )
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