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6 Landmarks That Are Secretly Awesome Transformers

It's not unusual to have a second job on the side -- Steve Buscemi does a little firefighting, Roger Ebert used to write softcore porn, and famous singer Bruce Willis sometimes acts in movies. And in the case of some famous buildings and places, sometimes they like being boring old landmarks everyone knows pretty well, and occasionally they transform into badass secret identities that make them look like Optimus Prime's cooler older brothers. For instance, did you know that ...

#6. The Empire State Building Is Also a Blimp Docking Station

Daniel Kourey/Photos.com

The Mundane Landmark:

If you've never been inside the Empire State Building, let us save you like 30 bucks: It's a regular office building. Yeah, the view is kinda cool from up there, but you spend most of the time looking at normal building interiors as you wait in line. You're paying to relive the experience of going to the bank, except no one hands you money at the end.

Bobby Mikul/ PublicDomainPictures.net
Unless you bring a knife, and that's frowned upon.

But It's Also ...

The Empire State Building was designed with a more exciting purpose in mind, though: as a docking station for passing airships. As in the blimps would park there and passengers would go down a gangplank and be on the street in seven minutes.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Or six seconds, if you piss off the stewardess.

The above is a composite photo created in the 1930s to convey this totally sound and practical idea. In fact, this is the official purpose for that thing at the top: The Empire State Building's famous spire was built as a mooring mast for zeppelins, and the 103rd floor was to serve as the landing platform. So in addition to being the tallest man-made structure in the world at the time, it was supposed to double as a supervillain lair. The leader of the investors, Alfred E. Smith, who may or may not have read too many Buck Rogers pulps, envisioned the building as a looming blimp station in the middle of New York City. This one's real:

NY Times
"We'll also add a charging station up there for the blimp's death rays and robo-servants."

Oh, and it probably helped that those extra 200 feet conveniently made the Empire State Building taller than its closest competitor, the Chrysler Building. However, the grand idea only went as far as two test dockings -- one of which managed a three-minute connection, and the other of which managed to haul a bundle of newspapers from blimp to building. It wasn't exactly enough to inspire a great deal of passenger confidence, and the idea was quietly abandoned ... although the functionality is still there, technically.

Come on, New York. What's the worst that could happen?

#5. The Eiffel Tower Is Also an Awesome Science Lab

Wikimedia

The Mundane Landmark:

The Eiffel Tower was built for the Paris Expo of 1889 basically to show off. It really doesn't serve much of a purpose besides letting tourists take pictures where they pretend to be crushing it with their fingers and providing a living for millions of key chain vendors.

Wikimedia
And making the rest of Paris feel inadequate.

But It's Also ...

The tower's builder, Gustave Eiffel, was an engineer and a scientist, so he justified the big lump of metal's existence by turning it into a giant science laboratory. At the top of the tower, there's a private apartment where Eiffel conducted his experiments. He even invited Thomas Edison to hang out there and science with him.

Wikimedia
One presumes they smoked science blunts and snorted cocaine off the buttocks of science-strippers.

So this was another dumb tourist trap by day, and an awesome laboratory by night (and also day). Not all the experiments carried out there were a success -- one dude jumped to prove he could fly (he couldn't) -- but Eiffel himself used the tower in studies in astronomy, radio, meteorology, and most significantly the new field of aerodynamics, which he pioneered by dropping shit from his tower and seeing how long it took to get to the ground. It was, after all, his fucking tower, and he could do whatever he wanted with it.

Félix Nadar/Wikimedia
"Hey, darling, we're going to need a sofa. And a table. And a cat."

It was the tower's secret identity as a badass expander of scientific knowledge that ultimately saved it from being torn down when Eiffel's 20-year lease ran out, as was originally the plan. Its height was perfect for radio transmissions, and in 1905 an antenna was installed, which proved ideal for military communications when World War I broke out. So the tower wasn't just a scientist, but also a war hero. And a radio star: After the war, France's first station was installed there.

Eiffel died in 1923, marking the end of the tower's days of scientific experimentation, but the apartment/laboratory is still preserved and Eiffel's ghost presumably still roams there, encouraging jumpers to see how long they take to reach the ground.

#4. The London Underground Is Also a Secret War Factory

Linda Bartlett/Wikimedia

The Mundane Landmark:

The London Underground is the oldest metro system in the world, and ... that's about the most interesting thing you could say about it. It's where people go to stand still and watch their lives pass by in tedium if they're lucky, or get peed on by hobos if they're not.

Tom Page/Wikimedia
Rush hour in London's dental district.

But It's Also ...

When World War II hit England, everyone was called to do their part in the war effort -- even massive inanimate structures. Well, one massive inanimate structure. The London Underground's Central Line was being extended at the time, so they took the opportunity to transform it into a secret underground wartime factory. Add a vat of acid and some guy with steel teeth, and it would look exactly like the headquarters of a James Bond villain.

London Transport Museum
The only downside was that the entire workplace would collapse at the push of a button.

While some people were commuting to work, others were quietly assembling components for fighter and bomber planes in the longest, narrowest factory ever. The previous factory had been bombed to shit by the Germans, so the decision was made to hide the next one really, really well. The distance from the surface is somewhat exaggerated here, but try to tell us that the following diagram doesn't look like something you'd find drawn on the box of an '80s G.I. Joe action figure playset. You can't.

Phil Courtney/Plessey UK
Really? Not a single dinosaur fossil or pirate treasure?

It took almost two years and the equivalent of around $13 million to turn a mild-mannered tube system into a badass factory of death, but it worked. Four thousand people worked there, and it even had its own miniature railway to carry stock or the occasional VIP.

Obviously, they're not making war aircraft in a secret section of the subway anymore (at least not officially), but parts of the factory still remain down there. The most visible remnant is an old lift tower, which is now used as a ventilation shaft, and even today all the old pipes, cables, and concrete used in the wartime factory still hinder renovations of the stations. We also bet they've found at least one Nazi drill tank that was sent to find the factory and ran out of fuel.

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