Remember several years back when I mentioned “I didn’t know they were called Solari boards or that there were any left?”

Only one of the mid-20th century mechanical departure boards made by Solari exists in the Amtrak system. Extinction looms though, as Amtrak plans to remove it from Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station.

Pulitzer Prize winning architecture critic Inga Saffron of the Inky wants it saved and shows that it can be.
Amtrak, keep the mod flipboard sign. It’s part of your heritage. | Inga Saffron

It doesn’t have to be that way. Joseph DeCarlo, who runs Solari’s New York office, told me the company could rehab the existing board in Philadelphia for $100,000…

It’s ironic that Amtrak decided to ditch its split-flap boards just as the technology was gaining a renewed appreciation. Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams said the company made the decision because boards were becoming “hard to maintain” because Solari no longer manufactures the parts (true). One by one, digital screens have taken the place of split-flaps in Boston, New York, Newark and Baltimore. Only Philadelphia’s Solari board survives, but Abrams said it is scheduled to be removed in mid-January.

Saffron also notes that a Philadelphia area company called Oat Foundry is making analog split flap signs. I’d love to buy one and find reasons to use it.

I barely remember split-flap boards from when I was a kid (and I only passed through 30th Street Station once), but even then they were interested and now the analog era has passed, even more so. At the very least, I hope this or some of the other split-flap boards are still able to be preserved in a museum, perhaps the American History museum’s transportation exhibit. I had the same hopes for the neon REDUCED SPEED signs that the New Jersey Turnpike stopped using a few years back.

Or, you know, maybe Gritty can save it…

Leave a Reply