At 9:15 am on November 29th…

At 9:15 am on November 29th, local media outlet Billy Penn tweeted an article by Michaela Winberg. The article stated that Amtrak’s 30th Street Station would be saying goodbye to the famous clackety-clack sign that shows train arrival and departure times.

Whyy’s Radio Times Coverage

As public support to stop the removal grew, other outlets began to pick up the story and spread the word. “The news that Amtrak will replace the board this year has created a wave of nostalgia for the good old days of “analog” signs. Those lamenting the change also point to the board’s distinctive sound that travelers have come to depend on for updated travel information. Marty Moss-Coane starts off the episode by talking about the tug between the 30th Street sign, technology and aesthetics with Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron and Mark Kuhn, CEO of Oat Foundry, a Philadelphia firm that manufactures similar boards. We’ll also hear from Congressman Brendan Boyle, who spoke with Amtrak’s CEO about the removal of the sign.”

Click below to hear the full conversation

*Credit Whyy Radio Times

Philadelphians Pitch In

As word spread about the removal of the Split Flap from 30th Street Station, Philadelphians began to express their love for the display. Memories of past vacations with family and new age fan art spread throughout social media.

Oat Foundry Steps Up

As a local company founded by Philadelphia natives, we too have memories of the clacking sound as we rushed to catch our train. As a leading manufacturer of Split Flap displays, we stepped up and made an official statement to Amtrak that we could replace the old board with a new one that meets all of the modern ADA and connectivity needs.

#SavetheSign Q&A

Q: How would an Oat Foundry sign differ from the old Amtrak flip board to meet ADA requirements? 

 

A: There are two major factors that determine ADA compliance: font and letter size. The old 30th Station display did not have a large enough letter size to be ADA compliant.

At Oat Foundry, we can print any ADA font and the letters are large enough for the height of the stand in 30th Street Station.

After meeting with Amtrak, we researched ADA laws and made sure that Oat Foundry Split Flap displays are ADA compliant.

Some more information about our displays:

  • Oat Foundry displays are completely modular, making maintenance and repairs very easy.

  • Oat Foundry modules are larger than Solari modules, offering a greater viewing distance than the previous board.

  • Oat Foundry displays can be integrated with APIs and Amtrak’s PIDS. This would allow the text-to-speech system currently in place to show on the Oat Foundry Split Flap as well (the existing sign cannot do this). As an example of data integration, there are Oat Foundry displays all over the world showing flight tracker information 24/7.

  • Oat Foundry displays are reliable. We have a test sign running in our shop that has completed well over 10 million rotations (40+ years of simulated use) without fault.

Q: Has Oat Foundry presented Amtrak with the representation board posted on Twitter? 

 

A: The sign shown in our most recent Twitter video was an available six row by 32 column split flap headed to a customer in Germany. While it is a smaller scale version of the proposed Amtrak 10 row by 64 column Solari board, given its recent removal, we wanted to show the public what the design and capabilities of an Oat Foundry display look like.

For 30th Station, Oat Foundry is proposing two signs, back to back, each more than three times the size of the one that was displayed on Twitter. Amtrak currently has all of the Oat Foundry technical information to make a decision!

Q: Are there any updates on the timeline for a new sign? 

 

A: Amtrak executives will decide when they want to bring a Split Flap back to 30th Street. At that point, Oat Foundry will then go through their rigorous procurement process at the end of which we will be a potential awardee – a process which takes 16 weeks.

We think we are competitive on value, technical excellence, aesthetics, and (as a local company) support. 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!

Q: Why do you think Philadelphians care so much about the sign at 30th Street Station?

 

A: Philadelphians feel a deep personal connection with the split flap at 30th Street Station. It is a symbol of travel, and a reminder of coveted memories. It’s a vital part of traveling in and out of Philadelphia, serving as a familiar welcome and a comforting farewell.

After the announcement was made that the display will indeed be replaced, current and past Philadelphia residents reached out to us asking to keep 30th Street Station ‘flapping’! The idea of a bright, characterless LED screen invading the beautiful 30th Street Station has resulted in nothing less than a public outcry. This type of digital screen, which you can find virtually everywhere, brings unwanted ads, and even more time looking into a searing light source.

The people of Philadelphia have seen other displays be replaced and don’t like the change. They don’t want to see it happen again – especially in their hometown.

Q: Any updates on whether or not Oat Foundry will be involved?  

A: Not yet.