PlanPhilly

Amtrak may spare 30th Street Station's beloved flipping board

The beloved split-flap sign at 30th Street Station, in Philadelphia, may have earned an 11th hour reprieve following public outcry over a proposal to replace the iconic “clickety-clackety” schedule board.

Congressman Brendan Boyle said on Tuesday’s edition of Radio Times that he had called Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson Monday night to discuss the plan.

“The thing I raised with him and that we talked about in much greater detail was this sign,” he said. “People, myself included, have an attachment to this clickety-clack sign.”

Station improvements, including the installation of a digital schedule display, were first announced nearly two years ago. But it was revealed last month that the current sign could be ripped out as soon as January 2019.

Boyle said he was “encouraged” to learn that the digital display was part of a larger strategy to better deliver real time scheduling and gate change information to passengers inside 30th Street station. The congressman said sign replacement was only one piece of that strategy and that Anderson believed the split-flap display could be preserved.

“About three different times he said he was optimistic that he would be able to keep the sign,” the congressman said. The only U.S. company that continuously manufactures the electromechanical boards, Oat Foundry, is based in the Philadelphia region. Oat Foundry CEO Mark Kuhn said last week that his company had pitched Amtrak on a new sign for 30th Street.

“What I’m hoping is that Amtrak responds to some of this romance and says, ‘we are hearing what you’re saying, and Oat Foundry makes this great and very affordable solution. Let’s put one in the lounge, let’s put a couple in the concourse.’ It doesn’t necessarily have to be transportation information,” Kuhn told PlanPhilly.

Older split-flap displays like these are sometimes known as “Solari boards,” popularized by Italian manufacturer Solari di Udine in the 1950s. The 30th Street display was installed in the 1970s and is last of its kind in operation at any Amtrak station.

Reached for comment, an Amtrak spokesperson said they would issue an official statement by the end of day Wednesday.

About the author

Ryan Briggs, Data Reporter

Ryan Briggs is WHYY's data reporter.  He works on the PlanPhilly team and across the WHYY newsroom on investigative features. Before joining WHYY, he covered politics, criminal justice and government policy since 2011. He has worked as a staff reporter for Next City, the Philadelphia City Paper, Philly.com and City & State PA, while contributing stories to a variety of other news outlets as a freelancer, including WHYY.



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