January 29, 2019
The iconic split-flap board at 30th Street Station was removed this past weekend, but with any luck a new (and similarly noisy) board will take its place.
While the novelty of the original, vintage Solari board will still be a lost treasure to the city, Philly-based engineering agency Oat Foundry has stepped in to offer its split-flap display services. The agency — which designed the boards at Reading Terminal Market and the Franklin Hotel — released an example of the kinds of split-flap boards they design, and how it would look displaying train times at 30th Street Station.
The two entities confirmed to PhillyVoice they are in talks to collaborate on a new board.
The Foundry expressed interest in maintaining the same look and feel of the sign back in November when plans to take down the original relic started re-circulating.
The old board at 30th Street Station was not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards, which requires certain fonts and sizes on display boards. According to Amtrak, the board was neither integrated in 30th Street's PA system for automated audible announcements, nor able to display detailed messages and detailed boarding information that could be integrated into their public address system.
A representative with Amtrak said, "we needed to implement a digital sign that was ADA-compliant as soon as possible in order to comply with federal regulations, and the disability community made it clear we should not delay any further."
On social media last Friday, Oat Foundry posted its own split-flap iteration, which would be able to display any font and that its letter sizes are large enough. It would also be compatible with the text-to-speech system currently in place at the station.
A preview of an Oat Foundry Split Flap Display updating train times and PSAs for 30th Street Station. @6abc @PhillyInquirer @billy_penn @IngaSaffron @FOX29philly @KeeleyFox29 @PhillyDailyNews #30thstreetstation pic.twitter.com/uYc6QQ2VXw— Oat Foundry (@OatFoundry) January 25, 2019
In the video, you can hear that signature clicking noise when the times, train names, and locations change.
According to a representative with Oat Foundry, the video uses a sign headed to a customer in Germany and is a smaller version of what the Amtrak sign would be — which would consist of two boards back-to-back of 10 rows by 64 columns.
Amtrak currently has all technical information required to make a decision on the board's implementation, Oat Foundry told us.
"We think we are competitive on value, technical excellence, aesthetics, and (as a local company) support," a company representative said Tuesday afternoon. "Oat Foundry is excited for the opportunity to deliver an ADA compliant product to the people of Philadelphia that satisfies that nostalgic love with an updated back-end, for a fair price!"
As far as a timeline, there's no date set for when Amtrak may approve or reject the design. But if they do eventually decide to move forward with a split flap collaboration, Amtrak's procurement process will take six to 12 months, according to the Foundry, while they would need six to 12 weeks for implementation.
Update: This article's headline was clarified as a "replacement option" for Amtrak's retired 30th Street flip board, as the Oat Foundry video includes an existing work intended for a client, not a prototype.
This article was updated with statements from both Amtrak and the Oat Foundry after its initial publication.