Philadelphia: Time’s Up For Nostalgic Flip Board

It’s the end of the line for the much-loved flip board at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station.

Since 1971, this has been the soundtrack for millions of commuters and visitors passing through Philadelphia’s 30th Street train station, America’s third busiest.

But this weekend the distinctive, soothing clickety-clack finally fell silent as Amtrak workers (pictured below) dismantled the nostalgic status board, which is to be replaced with a digital system.

A temporary, diminutive screen (pictured below) went up in its place on Saturday afternoon. Look hard though, or you might miss it.


The split-flap board, developed by centuries-old Italian information display company Solari di Udine, was the last analogue departure board at any Amtrak station. New York’s Penn Station lost its flip board in 2016.

But unlike New York, where commuters didn’t seem overly fazed, in Philadelphia, the news created uproar with travellers, tourists and railway historians who’ve long admired the history and tradition of the old black and white favourite.

I even spent a good 20 minutes admiring and photographing the iconic flip board when I visited last year, much to my travel companion’s frustration.

Taking pride of place in the centre of the soaring neoclassical, art deco 30th St Station, the board was a reminder of a railway era that’s disappearing before our very eyes.

30th St Station

But its deteriorating condition and inability to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements (it has small letters and no audible announcements), meant Amtrak had little choice but to replace it.

Thankfully, Amtrak is listening to the groundswell of opposition and has been considering options for a digital board with a similar look and feel as the old Solari board. We won’t know what’s in store until the new system is installed next month.

For now, the old flip board will be hauled away to The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania where it will be on display.

If you’re planning to visit Philadelphia later this year, keep your eyes peeled. Amtrak has promised the sign will return to 30th Street Station and be incorporated into the infrastructure once a station upgrade is completed.

Did You Know?

More than 4.4 million passengers passed through Philadelphia's 30th Street Station last year, with about 120 Amtrak trains running through Pennsylvania daily.

© 2019 Bernard O’Riordan (Travel Instinct). All Rights Reserved. 


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