Posts Tagged ‘Solari Boards’

Philly Solari Board Now on Display in Museum

August 7, 2019

There was much made of the removal of the Solari board from Philadelphia’s William H. Gray III 30th Street Station back in January.

The iconic board, which provided arrival and departure times of Amtrak trains and made a pleasing noise as its flaps spun around each time it was updated, has since been taken to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

At the time of its removal, a Philadelphia company, Oat Foundry, said it could build a modern, replacement flipboard that fulfilled ADA requirements, but Amtrak wasn’t interested.

Amtrak had cited the Solari board’s failure to adhere to ADA standards as one reason why it ws removed.

For the hearing impaired, the Solari board was unable to provide visual updates, which instead were provided by a public address system. That is not a problem with the new digital board that replaced the Solari board.

The passenger carrier also pointed to the board’s age and the difficulty of obtaining replacement parts.

The Solari board, which is named for its Italian manufacturer, was the last of its kind in the Amtrak network when it was turned off on Jan. 26.

Named after the Italian manufacturer that made it, the Solari board is, technically, on loan to the museum.

Amtrak has hired a developer to redesign 30th Street Station and working the Solari board into those plans are under consideration.

For now, the Solari board can be found in the Rolling Stock Hall on Platform 5 West next to a 114-year steam locomotive.

The museum has cleaned it and placed it on a base. In time, the museum plans to add a video screen to the exhibit that will show the Solar board in operation as well as explain its history.

Talks between Amtrak and the museum housing the Solari board there began in 2016, but languished until 2018.

Although the board arrived at the museum in February, it didn’t go on display until late July.

The Solari board will remain at the museum for at least the next three years.

Museum officials have said that if it can’t be incorporated into the 30th Street station redesign, they will be “honored” to keep the Solari board permanently.

Flip-Flap Board Nostalgia Will Abate in Time

February 7, 2019

Reader Greg Knapp recently wrote to ask why some folks in Philadelphia are obsessed with the removal of the Solari board at 30th Street Station.

You might think that someone had suggested moving the Liberty Bell to Washington or New York.

Knapp wrote that given the challenges that intercity rail faces in the United States, the end of this tradition is minor. He is correct of course.

Much of this story has been driven by nostalgia and the fact that the retired Solari board was the last of its kind.

Featuring a flip-flap mechanism, it was a marvel to behold. When train times were updated the board came to life with numbers and names whirling around at a fast clip.

If you looked carefully, you might see names of trains that are gone and destinations Amtrak no longer serves from Philly.

The many news stories I’ve read quoted people as saying they would miss the sound of the flaps flipping over.

I can understand that to a point even if I’ve never lived on the East Coast nor traveled all that much in the Northeast Corridor.

I’ve come to associate the whirling flaps and the noise they made with a way of life that is long gone in the Midwest where I’ve spent most of my life.

One of my fondest memories is sitting in New York’s Penn Station on a Saturday night back in the early 1980s and watching that station’s Solari board in action while hearing the station public address announcer give train boarding announcements every few minutes.

Except in Chicago, even the large Midwestern union terminals have never had the level of train service that continues to exist in the NEC, particularly if you take the existence of commuter trains into account.

The retirement of Amtrak’s last Solari board might have gone largely unnoticed beyond a news story or two but for the efforts of a Philadelphia congressman who made an issue of its removal.

Online petitions imploring Amtrak to keep the board drew 2,500 signatures.

A Philly company chimed in to say it could design a digital train board for 30th Street that would approximate the look and sound of a flip-flap board.

Nonetheless, I would not be surprised if the passion many have for a digital flip-flap board cools off as those clamoring for it move on to other concerns.

The news media outlets that kept this story alive will move on to other stories. The loss of a tradition made for good copy for a while, but not indefinitely.

Amtrak has been noncommittal about a digital flip-flap board for 30th Street and it might quietly tell the company offering to build it one “thanks, but no thanks.”

The digital board in Philadelphia won’t have the same character of a flip-flap board, but the trains continue to run as they always have and passengers are finding their trains just fine.

Solari Board May Return to 30th Street Station

February 7, 2019

The plot surrounding the fabled Solari board at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station continues to twist and turn with the latest development being a report that Amtrak might return the board to the depot after all.

The Philadelphia news website Billy Penn reported this week that Amtrak is requiring that the Solari board be used in the station in some capacity.

That mandate is reportedly part of a request for proposals for a $37 million development project at the station, which is formally known as William H Gray III 30th Street Station.

The board was removed from the station in late January and news reports have said that it will be displayed at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

Billy Penn reported that an Amtrak official told it that the developer must “utilize the Solari Board as part of the master development.”

The website also said that the Solari board that was removed last month was not the original one installed in the 1970s but a replacement board installed sometime between 1986 and 1990.

Removal of the Solari board prompted a public protest that was led by a Philadelphia congressman.

Many people waxed nostalgically about watching the flaps of the board turn over when train information was updated and how pleasing that clicking sound was.

The latest report indicated that Amtrak is unsure how it will use the Italian-made Solari board in the Neoclassical station, which was built in 1933.

The passenger carrier will apparently ask the developer for its opinion of how to best use the board, which after its removal was transported to the museum in Strasburg.

That board was the last of its kind used by Amtrak. It has been replaced with a temporary video display.

Amtrak plans to eventually employ a large “video wall” to display train information.

Workers are replacing wiring with fiber optics and once that is complete will install display screens.

After software testing and personnel training, Amtrak expected the display to be in operation by sometime in March.

Philly Firm Shows Split-Flap Board Concept

February 4, 2019

A Philadelphia company continues to design a split-flap train bulletin board that it says will replicate the look and sound of the Solari board that Amtrak removed from 30th Street Station in Philadelphia in late Januaruy.

Oat Foundry recently released a prototype design of a split-flap device that it is talking with Amtrak about creating.

The company has designed similar boards used at Reading Terminal Market and the Franklin Hotel.

Design work on a split-flap board began last November after Amtrak said it planned to remove the last Solari board that was still in use in its system.

Amtrak cited the difficulty of finding replacement parts for the Solari board as well as that board being out of compliance with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act that require certain fonts and sizes on display boards.

Oat Foundry said its split flap would be able to display any font in lettering large enough to meet ADA standards.

It is not yet known when Amtrak will respond to Oat Foundry’s proposal, but it said it needs six to 12 months to create and install the board.

Philly Solari Board Removed

January 28, 2019

The venerable Solari train information board at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station has been removed and replaced by a digital screen.

The board, which has been widely described as a flip board, was removed late Saturday night as onlookers recorded the event on their cell phones.

At the bottom of the board before its removal was a message “farewell Philadelphia.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the board was being sent to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania at Strasburg.

For now, a temporary digital screen has been placed near where the Solari board once stood.

The board’s removal has evoked nostalgia from many who said that its click-clacking alpha-numeric split-flaps were part of the ambiance of the station.

Installed in the 1970s, the Solari board was the last of its kind still in use by Amtrak. It was named after its Italian manufacturer.

The Solari board was placed in shrink wrap and put into a create for transport to the museum.

The Inquirer also noted that an old-style train bulletin chalk board that had remained in a hallway at 30th Street Station was also being removed to be taken to the museum.

Philadelphia May Get Solari-Like Schedule Board

January 13, 2019

Although continued use of the venerable Solari schedule board at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia is highly unlikely, Amtrak has expressed a willingness to use a modern iteration of the design.

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle said Amtrak is amenable to acquiring a modern Solari board design that has been created by Oat Foundry of Philadelphia, which makes split-flap signs.

The Solari board in Philadelphia is 40 years old.

Amtrak has already announced plans to replace it with a digital schedule board as part of a $100 million renovation project.

The carrier has said the current schedule board does not meet the Americans with Disabilities Act standards and does not interact with Amtrak’s Passenger Information Display System.

Oat Foundry has said it could build a new board that would have the feel of the original board but be ADA compliant and able to mesh with Amtrak’s digital systems.

Philly Solari Board Might Stay in Some Form

December 13, 2018

The Solari train information board at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia might be staying after all, a Pennsylvanian congressman said.

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pennsylvania) said he spoke with Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson in a plea to save the 1970s era relic that Amtrak has said it plans to replace with a computerized state-of-the-art system.

Boyle said Anderson was receptive to the idea of keeping the Solari board at the station in some form.

Earlier news reports indicated the board would be given to a museum.

According to Boyle, Anderson suggested that the passenger carrier could either refurbish the board or replace it with a new model integrated into Amtrak’s computer network.

Some in Philadelphia have protested the pending removal of the Solari board, having grown accustomed to its whirling and clacking as it updates train information.

In late November Amtrak had issued a news release saying it planned to replace the Solari board, which is the last of its kind still in use in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

However, Boyle said Amtrak hasn’t yet solicited bids from suppliers for the Solari’s replacement.

Boyle suggested that a newer model Solari-like information board might be acquired by Amtrak for use at 30th Street Station.

In announcing that the Solari board would be replaced, Amtrak said the Italian manufacturer of the board no longer makes replacement parts for it.

Philly 30th Street Getting New Information Boards

December 7, 2018

The venerable Solari board at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia as it appeared in May 2016.

The old Solari Board at Amtrak’s William H. Gray III 30th Street Station in Philadelphia is headed for museum while a new display is set to debut.

In a news release, Amtrak said the Passenger Information Display System that is being installed in Philadelphia is part of a project underway to replace display panels at each gate, revamp the public address system and change platform to become ADA compliant.

Amtrak said the new PIDS board will display gate and track information and have ADA features.

After is become operational later this month, the passenger carrier will upgrade display boards in ClubAcela Lounge, the food court, on the platforms and in other areas of the station.

The Philadelphia station also is getting renovations to ClubAcela Lounge, a lactation suite to provide mothers with a clean, dignified and private space to pump and nurse, and the retrofitting of eight of the moveable wooden waiting benches on with power outlets for portable and mobile devices.

During fiscal year 2018, Amtrak handled 4.4 million passengers at Philadelphia, making it the third busiest station in the national Amtrak system.

Philly Solari Board May be Headed to Museum

December 5, 2018

The venerable Solari train status board that for years has given information about Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and SEPTA trains at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia appears to be headed for a museum.

The board is expected to be removed from the station in January 2019 and moved to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

It is Amtrak’s last active electro-mechanical train information board and is named after an Italian company that made the flap display signs.

An electromechanical display device whirs and shows alphanumeric text in a manner similar to that of some alarm clocks. Solari boards were also used at some airports.

The boards are noted for their clickty-clack sounds as they updated train or flight status information. Replacing the Solari board is a digital annunciator.

In Philadelphia, the Solari board was installed aboard the information counter of the waiting room in the 1970s.

It was updated in the 1980s and has been kept going by using replacement parts from retired boards.

Although no formal agreement has been signed to move the sign to the Pennsylvania museum, the facility’s director said Amtrak has made a verbal offer.