Solari board replacement at South Station and Back Bay

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Postby CSX Conductor » Fri Apr 07, 2006 10:37 am

danib62 wrote:I was just wondering, is there anyway we can convince the T to donate the old board to seashore or another rail museum? They could put it to some sort of use for demos or something I could imagine.
I call first dibs.....bet I could get some good cash some day on E-Bay. :P The only problem with the Solari board at BOS is the fact that the mini-boards over the doorways do not work in sync with the main one as they are intended to.
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NJ-ARP: High tech, high touch.

Postby Douglas John Bowen » Fri Apr 07, 2006 11:09 am

Ever smile at the 1950s-era sci-fi movies and their portrayal not just of technology, but of style? Why is it that, in the near-future (the early 21st century), life (and style) isn't like that?

The article generating this thread provides one answer, which some here seem loathe to acknowledge, let alone accept: Some people take comfort in "traditional" things. Even things such as aural ambiance.

Why do people still dine by candlelight? No one needs to. Why do some people (and not just rich people) choose to ride horses here and there? In most cases, they don't need to. Why does Yankee Stadium still (sometimes) play live organ music? It doesn't have to. The answer is because there's a "high touch" factor, a comfort zone, that some people, even younger people, become accustomed to, maybe even continue to expect.

It's no different in transportation. Those of us who love the sound of their automobile doors' "thunking" as they close might ponder the fact that for at least two decades now, silent car doors have been possible, indeed easily achieved. Customers don't want them, apparently mostly for psychological reasons. They hit a comfort zone. It soothes them, possibly even "informs" the brain that the door really has closed (or opened).

Why not the same reaction to a Solari board? People are accustomed to, indeed some anticipate, the sound. For those who can ignore it, fine. But if it's possible to make something better technologically, while retaining a patina or flavor of the past -- if that commits the crime of actually making people feel better -- what's wrong with that?
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Re: NJ-ARP: High tech, high touch.

Postby WonderlandMan » Fri Apr 07, 2006 12:13 pm

Douglas John Bowen wrote:Ever smile at the 1950s-era sci-fi movies and their portrayal not just of technology, but of style? Why is it that, in the near-future (the early 21st century), life (and style) isn't like that?

The article generating this thread provides one answer, which some here seem loathe to acknowledge, let alone accept: Some people take comfort in "traditional" things. Even things such as aural ambiance.

Why do people still dine by candlelight? No one needs to. Why do some people (and not just rich people) choose to ride horses here and there? In most cases, they don't need to. Why does Yankee Stadium still (sometimes) play live organ music? It doesn't have to. The answer is because there's a "high touch" factor, a comfort zone, that some people, even younger people, become accustomed to, maybe even continue to expect.

It's no different in transportation. Those of us who love the sound of their automobile doors' "thunking" as they close might ponder the fact that for at least two decades now, silent car doors have been possible, indeed easily achieved. Customers don't want them, apparently mostly for psychological reasons. They hit a comfort zone. It soothes them, possibly even "informs" the brain that the door really has closed (or opened).

Why not the same reaction to a Solari board? People are accustomed to, indeed some anticipate, the sound. For those who can ignore it, fine. But if it's possible to make something better technologically, while retaining a patina or flavor of the past -- if that commits the crime of actually making people feel better -- what's wrong with that?


Good post. I agree
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Postby Ron Newman » Fri Apr 07, 2006 12:40 pm

I wish digital cameras emitted a loud click when taking a picture. Probably for all the reasons given above.
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Postby NealG » Fri Apr 07, 2006 12:47 pm

I recall a large Solari board at the airport in Frankfurt Germany, it was constantly clacking as flights would arrive and leave. I remember it in 1991, but cannot recall seeing it last time I was there, in 2004.

As of August, 2004, all German railroad stations that I visited (Flughafen Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Hannover, Hamburg, Braunschwieg, Vienenburg (which claims to be the oldest bahnhof in Germany, which I stumbled upon during a transfer) Wernigerode, Berlin Zoo and Ostbahnhof) had working Solari boards, so I imagine that finding parts to them are not as difficult as stated. Also, platforms in all stations, even the most insignificant rural stations, have at least one small Solari board indicating the destination of the next train to arrive. Another, slightly unrelated thing I noticed was that all clocks on the platforms and in the stations were synchronized to the second. It was almost creepy.
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Postby davedeboston » Sat Apr 08, 2006 1:09 pm

Building on that list of Solari boards in Europe, I too noticed them in Berlin, and also saw a large one at Zurich Hbf. Actually, I probably saw them everywhere while backpacking around Europe with a railpass, but, those are the ones I can remember.
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Postby ckb » Sat Apr 08, 2006 3:31 pm

Ron Newman wrote:I wish digital cameras emitted a loud click when taking a picture. Probably for all the reasons given above.


I have a Nikon which does this.

In some sense, while I agree with Mr. Bowen's analysis, many of his example analogies don't quite match up to this one of the Solari board (or of my camera). The silent car door thing, for example. Its not that car manufacters make a silent door and then have speakers which simulate the "thunk" of the shutting door. Instead, they keep the authentic "thunk". I think this is more like putting smokestacks on electric motive power because that's what steam engines used to look like.

So while I agree that there are comforting reasons for being "traditional", I don't appreciate what is effectively dishonesty from modern things attempting to appear traditional. It is a "Disney-fication" of South Station. An aural cue that the signboard is changing is essential, but a synthesized chime would be much more appropriate than a "clack clack clack" recording.
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NJ-ARP: Another analogy needed?

Postby Douglas John Bowen » Mon Apr 10, 2006 2:09 pm

We at NJ-ARP will leave perceptions of aural "dishonesty" up to ckb and others; it's not within our core mission, and we wouldn't presume to tell anyone what he or she may like, authentic or otherwise.

But it's clear some people can handle, indeed knowingly accept, "dishonest" sounds, as well. Case in point. WINS news radio (1010 AM) in New York, which has audible "ticker" noise as a constant background.

WINS discontinued the sound many years ago for a brief period, reasoning (in all honesty!) that such a sound didn't accurately reflect its actual newsroom environment. Good or bad, right or wrong, such "honesty" didn't sit well with listeners, who literally begged WINS to reinstall the background sound (or "noise," depending on your viewpoint).

WINS did, and still runs that sound to this day. Most journalists, and probably most people, know newsrooms no longer sound like that. Perhaps some object -- and that's fine. But someone -- in this case, many someones -- appear(s) to like it.

Since South Station falls well outside NJ-ARP's normal purview, it's not our place to suggest what the station (or its champions) install there in terms of signage or technology. And if there's anything our group might share with ckb, it's the dislike of real life as Disney!

Our initial point -- flawed analogies or not -- was simply that personal preferences don't always follow a surface logic, or maybe any logic at all. That doesn't make superfluous sound "bad" -- or good, as ckb himself points out. It might, however, make such difference of opinion understandable.
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Postby apodino » Sat Apr 15, 2006 6:07 pm

its been a long time since I have posted on here, as I live in WI now and really don't keep up with the T like I used to. But I noticed this and one question came to my mind. Would a new replacement for the solari board combine the commuter rail and amtrak trains, or would they keep them separate? And can they add led displays to the end of each track just so that passengers might not get confused, showing all stops it will make?

And on the subject of the living legend Bob Brigham. He was an Amtrak employee. Is he still on their payroll, or does he work for MBCR now as they do all the MBTA announcements, or did he just flat out retire?
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Postby Ron Newman » Sat Apr 15, 2006 6:14 pm

From the original Globe article that started this discussion:
(Amtrak's Solari board at South Station will remain as Amtrak officials wait to review the new technology used by the T.)
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Postby Diverging Route » Sat Apr 15, 2006 8:10 pm

apodino wrote:And on the subject of the living legend Bob Brigham. He was an Amtrak employee. Is he still on their payroll, or does he work for MBCR now as they do all the MBTA announcements, or did he just flat out retire?


Bob still works for Amtrak. He is assigned to the Information desk in the lobby. He usually works Friday morning, Saturday & Sunday midday, and Monday and Tuesday afternoons. [For a good time, go up to him and ask which train goes to Awwwwwwww-burnnnnnnn-dale!]
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Postby benltrain » Sat Apr 15, 2006 8:24 pm

apodino wrote:its been a long time since I have posted on here, as I live in WI now and really don't keep up with the T like I used to. But I noticed this and one question came to my mind. Would a new replacement for the solari board combine the commuter rail and amtrak trains, or would they keep them separate? And can they add led displays to the end of each track just so that passengers might not get confused, showing all stops it will make?

And on the subject of the living legend Bob Brigham. He was an Amtrak employee. Is he still on their payroll, or does he work for MBCR now as they do all the MBTA announcements, or did he just flat out retire?


There are many more MBTA departures, and it would probably be in the amtrak passenger's best interest to know further ahead of time when their train will leave, and not have a bunch of MBTA departures in their way.
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Postby Nyterider » Sun Apr 16, 2006 7:47 pm

Has anybody seen the new Acela Express commercial that includes a digitally superimposed Solari board of "Boston Providence New York etc." on the existing one at South Station?
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Postby themallard » Sun Apr 16, 2006 9:10 pm

Nyterider wrote:Has anybody seen the new Acela Express commercial that includes a digitally superimposed Solari board of "Boston Providence New York etc." on the existing one at South Station?


I only saw the last few seconds of it, at around 11 at night.
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Foreign Solari Boards

Postby juni0r75 » Fri Apr 28, 2006 7:32 am

Since the topic came up I'll put in my 2p so to speak:

Here in the UK, all of the main-line stations that I have passed through in the South East have converted to multi-coloured LED screens which show the destination of the train as well as all of the intermediate stops. The reason I was told by the staff at South Central Rwy (now Southern Rwy) that they were converting was because they were having a lot of trouble with faults, the replacement parts for the older boards (such as at Victoria and Brighton) were becoming harder to come by, and that they were upgrading the communications network to be able to handle train scheduling and announcements all in one location which meant that the Solari boards could not keep up with rapid changes.

When I first came here in 2002, they began the conversion process with the London termini (on the southern part of the network, these are primarily Victoria, London Bridge, Waterloo, and Charing Cross), then they moved on to the secondary hubs such as Gatwick Airport, East Croydon and Brighton, and finally finishing with the more suburban stations. However, at stations with only 2 platforms (up-line and down-line), they use a much older type of yellow LED board on the platform (like the red MBTA signage) wich displays the next three trains to arrive at the station. These are quite old comparitatvely (from the late 80's). Finally, at rural / halt stops, they have an 'information box' where you press a button and it plays a recorded message telling you what train is coming and when it is to arrive. These are completely un-manned stops that don't even have ticket machines at them.

The funny thing is that in Brighton and Victoria Stations, they didn't remove the Solari boards, but just turned them around so they face into what used to be the service catwalk behind the boards! In Victoria, the new boards cover the Solari ones, but in Brighton, they are hung below them. From the platform side at Brighton (when the ads are not up) you can see the board with the last trains that it displayed the weekend they converted to the LED boards!!!

-A :-)
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