Exploring Grand Central's Secrets, With the Author of Hugo Cabret

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Photo: Brian Selznick in Grand Central's Clock Tower (photo Maya Bernstein/WNYC)

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

But just recently, for the first time, Selznick got to explore Grand Central's secrets, with Transportation Nation's Andrea Bernstein.

The tour -- not open to members of the public -- took them to Grand Central's deepest sub basement, its lost and found, along its catwalks, and up into the clock tower.  And at each step along the way the station gave up its secrets, secrets 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.

Illustrations from The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Copyright 2007 by Brian Selznick. Used with permission from Scholastic Press.


Click for the audio and slide show on the slide show here.