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Pennsylvania Station—commonly known as Penn Station—is the major intercity train station and a major commuter rail hub in New York City. How in the world are we supposed to move to using trains more and away from constant reliance on cars when we keep aversive places like Penn Station? 1910 was the grand opening of Penn Station and it looks like this photograph was taken while construction was still in progress. Just glance at the upper level-- the masonry of the entrance to the Main Waiting Room is clearly visible in the center glass arch.
Therefore the light in the tunnel must be the light filtering down through the baggage courtyards' skylights. If this is facing east and there appears to be an open cut toward Seventh Avenue, which there should not be, I think I know the answer.
About a decade ago you used to be able to see the old glass blocks in spots where the awful faux marble floor had worn away to nothing.
As for the stairs, I'd love to know if the architects of Grand Central had always planned the upper-level ramps, or if they changed their plans once they saw what was going in at Penn Station. You can see the track numbers increasing right to left, so no question the view is eastward. I've never seen the definitive date when the tracks were roofed over-- presumably when the catenary was added circa 1932, but could have been earlier for all I know. Penn Station was notable for its extensive use of cast glass prism lights in the floors and walkways.

My first memories of Penn Station are from the mid 60's, returning from the Worlds Fair in Flushing Meadow.
How I would have liked to have seen the station in its early days, with all that glass admitting sunlight all the way down to the track level. One of the criticisms of the original Penn Station was that the staircases were too narrow and long.
But, the staircase reads "Exit B'way" and the the platform numbers are increasing towards the left. December 24, 2013 By admin Leave a Comment The original Penn Station was built in 1910 and was destroyed in 1963 to make room for the new Madison Square Garden. In Live and Let Die, it is the setting for Bond and Solitaire’s exit from New York via The Silver Phantom. You can get some good footage of this location in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Strangers on a Train. The western wall of the concourse had no such masonry in the corresponding location, just glass.
I'm pretty sure it's still there too, just waiting for the current floor to wear away under the feet of millions of commuters. The lower levels of GCT, however, do have narrow stairs that make reaching a platform nearly impossible if they are detraining another train on the same platform. The famous concourse wasn't the only part of Penn where the tracks were open to the glass roof-- take a look at the building plans.

These "vault lights" transmitted natural daylight from the glass roof down through the many levels of the building, an effective energy-saving method that is rarely used today. I remember making my way through the massive waiting area below Madison Square Garden, finding my track, then making my way down into the dark, dank, smelly space below, where I would board the PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson) trains for the trip across the the river to New Jersey.
All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission. The thick glass prisms were mounted and grouted into waterproof cast iron or steel frames like those used to light basement storerooms under urban sidewalks.
I can imagine those brass handrails gleaming, having just been polished by hand, the smell of Brasso still lingering in the air. This rail entrance into an important (the most important?) US city is a seedy, unpleasant, surly, ugly, embarrasssing place. It was replaced with ugliness, low ceilings, no natural light, filth, grime, and a claustrophobic stench of decay.

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