The signs, they are a changin'

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New York's Penn Station hosts liquid crystal display or simulated Solari-style or sign board that will soon be replaced with more advanced electronic signs. Philadelphia's 30th Street station is among the last in the U.S. to have an electro-mechanical Solari board.
Joseph M. Calisi
WASHINGTON — Sorry, Bob Dylan, the signs they are a-changing.

Those electro-mechanical sign boards that have announced the arrival and departure of Amtrak trains since Amtrak was Amtrak, are gradually going the way of E units and the Pointless Arrow logo.

The boards, Passenger Information Displays in Amtrak-speak, are gradually being replaced around the system. Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert says the signs are being replaced by modern digital displays on a station-by-station basis.

Split-flap or Solari boards — the name comes from the Italian company that first made them – were invented in 1956. Since then they have become icons in airline and railroad terminals around the world.

Amtrak's program is nothing new. The Baltimore Sun reported that Amtrak replaced the signs in Baltimore Penn Station in 2010. Travel media outlets say Philadelphia's 30th Street Station is next.

A project to replace liquid crystal display simulated Solari-style boards at New York's Penn Station, themselves replacements for the electro-mechanical versions, recently made news because it caught the eye of a Twitter follower and the transportation reporting arm of online news organization, Politico.

Tolbert says the New York Penn display project is huge. Four wall-size video departure displays, nine large and 10 medium-size departure displays, and 13 gate boards. There are also medium-sized arrival boards. Amtrak is adding vocal messaging to aid visually-impaired patrons to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Progress is progress, but for those who long for the clacking sound of letters and numbers, there is some comfort online. Dixieland Software has created an Amtrak Solari Board simulator. Type in the station code and watch the letters flip on a specially designed website.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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