The centennial of New York's famed temple of transport provides an occasion to consider the distinction between 'terminal' and 'station.'
That's a question I've been noodling, or noodling over (note to self: check to see whether "noodling" in this sense can be used transitively) for the past several weeks, when I haven't been distracted by blizzards and budget meltdowns. The actual anniversary of the terminal's opening to the public was Feb. 2, but the special exhibition in Vanderbilt Hall runs into this month, and New York Times reporter Sam Roberts's new book, "Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America," will be around to savor for some time – along with any number of other books on this famed temple of transport.
Grand Central is the largest railroad terminal in the world, and one of the world's great public spaces. It was built to tame the chaos and truly life-threatening danger that railroads presented in the city at the turn of the 20th century. Old photographs taken before Midtown was as built up as it is today show sunlight pouring in unimpeded as through the rose windows of a cathedral, but with more luminosity. Art directors looking to suggest "the public square" for a book-jacket cover or a magazine essay illustration often turn to images of Grand Central.
The point I have to offer is less a linguistic issue to raise and more a copy editor's nitpick: Note that it's Grand Central Terminal, not Grand Central Station – however deeply the latter may have etched itself into collective thought.
There's a Grand Central station on the New York subway system, and a Grand Central Station, adjacent to the railroad terminal, that is a United States post office. A is, etymologically, a stopping point along the way. But Grand Central is a terminal, because it's an endpoint.