During President Bush’s two-day stay this week at the ritzy Waldorf-Astoria in New York — where he was seeking international support for the U.S. resolution on Iraq — a special escape train was idling beneath the hotel, ready to whisk him to safety at a moment’s notice in the event of a terrorist attack, it was reported Friday.
The Secret Service arranged for the Metro-North train to be parked at an abandoned platform, always running and ready for instant departure throughout the president’s stay at the hotel on Tuesday and Wednesday, the New York Post reported, quoting unidentified law enforcement sources.
The platform — identified as Track 61 on Grand Central Terminal blueprints — is accessible by an underground passage from inside the landmark hotel and by a freight elevator that descends from a brass-sheathed door next to the hotel’s parking garage, giving the president and his entourage a second egress route in case of emergency, the Post said. Had that occurred, the train would have sped off to an undisclosed secure location, it said.
The unused station is under the Waldorf on 49th Street and Park Avenue and was never meant for riders, the Post said. The platform and adjacent tracks are normally used as a yard for out-of-service trains and can be seen by commuters going in and out of Grand Central Station, the newspaper reported.
Bush stayed at the hotel while attending a U.N. General Assembly session on Iraq and holding a series of meetings with world leaders. Members of his Cabinet, including Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, also stayed at the 42-story hotel, which was built in 1931.
Other leaders, such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, France’s Jacques Chirac and Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder, also have held meetings at the Waldorf this week.