Update Jan. 27: The board is completely gone.
Time has run out for the iconic split-flap departures board at 30th Street Station.
Photos and videos posted to social media Thursday night showed workers in orange vests and hard-hats methodically dismantling the signboard — while it was still running.
Manufactured in Italy by Solari di Udine, the display was the last active one of its kind along Amtrak’s service lines. It does not comply with ADA standards, Amtrak said. The Metro-North transit system had replaced its network of Solari boards by 2014, and New York Penn Station got rid of its flippy board two years ago.
Earlier on Thursday, Congressman Brendan Boyle told The Inquirer that the structure would likely be removed over the weekend, to be replaced with a digital display that is ADA-compliant.
Thursday evening, he released a statement in conjunction with Amtrak Facilities VP David Handera.
“I appreciate Amtrak’s ongoing commitment to meeting this challenge with a solution that honors the history of the Gray 30th Street Station and ensures a safe, enjoyable experience for all passengers,” said Congressman Boyle. “Accessibility is of paramount importance. However, at 30th Street Station, there is tremendous opportunity to achieve these aims in a manner that also retains the iconic character of the Solari sign – of which thousands of passengers have spoken out in support. I remain committed to continuing my advocacy with Amtrak to achieve such a resolution.”
The statement continued:
The Solari Board will be taken down this weekend. Temporary boards with train information have already been installed and will be supplemented by Amtrak staff that will be on hand to direct customers. The new Passenger Information Display System installation will be complete in late February.
The William H Gray III 30th Street Station Solari split-flap board was installed in the 70s to replace a chalkboard. The sign and its signature click-clack sound have come to symbolize the city and its history to Philadelphia residents and visitors alike. It is the last analog train schedule board at any Amtrak station across the nation
Amtrak is actively seeking a master developer partner for Gray 30th Street Station to assist in introducing new customer amenities, reinvigorating the retail and commercial potential of the station and other customer improvements, and anticipates naming a final Best Value Proposer in late 2019.
News broke back in 2016 that the mechanical display was on its way out. It’s destined for the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum, which said last fall it expected delivery some time in January.
Once word got out that the end was near, a giant outcry arose among Philadelphians and train enthusiasts, who — out of nostalgia or sentiment or just appreciation for its tangible nature — reacted strongly to having the clickety-clack of the board replaced with yet another glowing screen. A change.org petition to save the original quickly garnered more than 2,200 signatures.
As it happens, local company Oat Foundry makes a modern version of the split-flap board, which it says could be made fully accessible and compliant.
On Friday, Oat Foundry posted a demo showing a working version of such a board.
At Rep. Boyle’s recommendation, Amtrak officials met with the Oat Foundry team multiple times over the past few months, per the Inky, and a deal may still be worked out to install one of those modern flippy boards — but as an attraction, not the main information source.