‘Clickity Clack' No More at Philly's 30th Street Station as Iconic Flipping Board Is Silenced

The push toward modernization and inclusion is causing the removal of the iconic Amtrak arrivals and departure board at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station

What to Know

  • The push toward modernization and inclusion is causing the removal of the iconic Amtrak Solari split-flap board at 30th Street Station.
  • The clacking board has alerted travelers to arrivals and departures since the 1970s.
  • Amtrak is replacing the board with a modern, ADA-friendly digital screen without the same sound.

"Click, clack, clickity clack!"

That familiar sound has grabbed the attention of people passing through the doors of 30th Street Station for nearly two generations. 

The Amtrak station's split-flap train status board is famously known for its shuffling departure and arrival times — the sign's motions producing an undeniable clacking sound.

But now it's been silenced.

Workers began dismantling the decades-old wayfinding machine this week in preparation for a new digital sign that will address accessibility deficits. It came down Saturday night.

"It makes me a little bit melancholy. It’s a piece of nostalgia," New York-bound passenger Valerie Monroe said Friday. “Like everything else it has to evolve and update and we will be grateful for it, but it is going to be missed.”

The board, which was installed in the early 1970s, holds special meaning for Monroe, who grew up, and still lives, in the Philadelphia area. She says her grandfather, uncle and other family and friends worked on the railroad.

The famous clicking departures board at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station is coming down early next year. Amtrak is replacing the board with a digital one and the station will be silent of a sound that’s become familiar to travelers around the globe.

In the days before smartphones, the Solari split-flap board would help direct passengers to the proper track or help people know if their friend's, colleague's or loved one’s train was about to arrive.

“This type of old display board is very symbolic,” Washington, D.C.-bound passenger Madelina Veres said Friday morning. “The sound and the image of the numbers and letters spinning on the board.”

She said that the display board makes her remember taking the train during her childhood in Romania.

The board has become a relic in the digital age and doesn’t meet disability standards.

"The new Passenger Information Display System is necessary to help us modernize the station, comply with ADA-law and sync the main board with the gate boards, which will improve the overall customer experience for our Philadelphia customers," Amtrak’s vice president for stations, facilities, properties and accessibility David Handera said.

Amtrak runs about 120 trains daily though Pennsylvania with 4.4 million passengers traveling in and out of 30th Street Station over the past fiscal year.

Crews began taking apart the board Thursday and work will continue through the weekend. Boards at each gate are being added and a temporary digital board is already being used, Amtrak said.

The split-flap board is going away but will not be forgotten.

“We too have a deep appreciation for the board as part of our history and are working with Congressman (Brendan) Boyle, D-Pa., and other leaders to make sure this board has a temporary home at The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania until it can be reincorporated into the station for everyone to enjoy,” Handera said.

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