The Rollsign/Destination Sign Thread

Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.

Moderators: CRail, sery2831

Re: Are exterior rollsigns gone for good? Is LCD here to st

Postby obienick » Thu Nov 24, 2011 11:07 pm

Can't they set up the LCD to blink "B Boston" and "B College"?
Posts: 380
Joined: Mon May 21, 2007 7:30 pm
Location: NY

Re: Are exterior rollsigns gone for good? Is LCD here to st

Postby Arborway » Thu Nov 24, 2011 11:37 pm

I can't help but imagine the LCD signs on the Bredas are just a bunch of cobbled-together 1st gen Gameboys.
Posts: 899
Joined: Wed Oct 11, 2006 2:11 pm
Location: Jamaica Plain, MA

Re: Are exterior rollsigns gone for good? Is LCD here to st

Postby R36 Combine Coach » Fri Nov 25, 2011 1:06 am

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:Backlit dot matrix LCD's suck. It's 1990 technology, and the Bredas show it can't even contain all characters in the word "Boston College". They're also bulky units with fluorescent bulbs that need changing, susceptibility to vibrations and collission (bulb), and susceptibility to extreme cold weather (LCD screen rupturing when frozen). I bet when they start getting replaced by decade's end on the Red Line 01800s and on Green since they're probably not rated for more than 15 years. totally done with rollsigns.

The 01800s' relative, the NYCT R110Bs, also had them, as did the R44/46s to this day. For the latter they are a relic of the early 1990s when these cars were being overhauled.
Since my friend continues to chain smoke nonstop, she is probably an Alco.
User avatar
R36 Combine Coach
Posts: 5224
Joined: Mon Jun 09, 2008 8:51 pm

Re: Are exterior rollsigns gone for good? Is LCD here to st

Postby sery2831 » Fri Nov 25, 2011 3:48 am

octr202 wrote:It all seems to depend on what type of sign is chosen. SEPTA is putting LED signs, almost identical to what's used buses, on their Kawasaki LRVs, and Muni is replacing the roll signs with quite readable displays on their Bredas. I do wish that the T had used those displays (look much more like the Blue Line cars) than the ones they did, especially since the Red Line's 01800's were already showing that the LCD signs apparently don't hold up well by the time the Type 8's came along.

I thought I read somewhere that some MUNI Breda cars came with rollsigns and other with LCD signs. And it is not a conversion. But I could be wrong...
Moderator: MBTA Rail Operations
User avatar
Posts: 5138
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 2:15 pm
Location: Manchester, NH

Re: The Rollsign/Destination Sign Thread

Postby StevieC48 » Sun Nov 27, 2011 8:50 am

Your right John if you look on you can see pics of both sign curtian and LED's. Looks like the LED's came in the latter order of the fleet. Curious on why this was done though and if they will changeover to LED's?
Farewell old friend thanks for the memories.
#4 EBT cars Hawker Siddley 1978-2009

Instructor/Inspector SERY
Member 25 years proud
User avatar
Posts: 1635
Joined: Fri Jun 18, 2004 8:43 pm
Location: Taunton, MA

Re: The rollsign thread

Postby RailBus63 » Sun Nov 27, 2011 1:09 pm

djimpact1 wrote:I found the same scenario for another example of possible multi-generational/differing production location signage (2 vehicle types, with 3 different versions of the same destination on a rollsign). Note the following (with corresponding pictures):

1. Boeing LRV with a single-lined destination displaying "LECHMERE", using a stretched Impact-looking font (#3448) - takes up most of the width of the rollsign
2. Boeing LRV with a single-lined destination displaying "LECHMERE", using a Cafeta-looking font (#3462) - takes up much less room than 3448's rollsign
3. Type 7 Kinki with a single-lined destination displaying "LECHMERE", using a Helvetica-looking font (#3670).

How common was it to have multiple versions of one destination? Were there ever any more than 3 alternate versions of the same one destination displayed? Were some rollsigns Boeing/Kinki-produced and others MBTA-produced?

3462's sign is the original Boeing LRV sign. There were very few changes made to these signs until the mid-1980's when additions were cut in ('B WASHINGTON ST via COMMONWEALTH AVE' and 'C NORTH STATION via BEACON ST' for example) and even those changes were done in a similar narrow-style font to match the original signs.

3670's sign was also original for the second and third batch of Type 7's. The first group of Type 7's (3600-3649) had essentially the same signs as the Boeing cars with the new 1980's additions included. Those first 50 cars had crank sign mechanisms to match the LRV's. The later Type 7's had the electronically-controlled signs and one major difference was that in-town destinations such as 'LECHMERE' had a larger font.

3448's sign was a later sign version that appeared in the 1990's (not sure exactly when). A chunkier font for many readings and some such as 'D RIVERSIDE' lost their 'via' designations.

As for the LED vs. LCD. vs. rollsign argument, I'll always have a soft spot for the classic roller sign. How many of us as kids were captivated by watching an operator scroll the sign past all those mysterious destinations? It's main drawbacks were seemingly related to any incremental expense later in life - too many transit agencies didn't bother to replace faded or outdated signs or to pay the labor expense necessary to splice in new readings when necessary.

The newer LED signs are much, much improved over earlier electronic signs and offer the ability to display a variety of readings that rival the earlier curtain signs. As for LCD signs - they are the worst signs I've ever seen. Almost every 01800-series car seems to have one side sign that doesn't work, and you can't even read the destination on a Type 7 or Type 8 until it's about 30 feet away. I hope that the MBTA eventually replaces those wretched signs on the Green and Red Line fleet with newer LED signs similar those those used by SEPTA on its LRV's and PATH on its new heavy-rail cars.
User avatar
Posts: 1877
Joined: Tue May 04, 2004 1:48 pm

Re: The Rollsign/Destination Sign Thread

Postby digitalsciguy » Mon Dec 05, 2011 2:07 am

Just to generally contribute my two cents to this discussion:
  • Readability/Visibility
    LED sign technology has improved significantly and higher density units are available to provide much higher contrast, higher resolution, and overall much more readable text. This HD video of a set of new PATH PA5s shows some of those improvements. The PA5s (whose predecessors were direct relatives of the older Blue Line cars) use high resolution LED displays instead of the LCD head and platform signs on the new Siemens Blue Line trains and have a higher resolution internal passenger information display. Cost may be a factor, but I don't believe cost for higher resolution displays is cost prohibitive. From the customer service perspective, it is a necessary cost for which the MBTA should not be opting to neglect.
  • Maintenance
    The modularity of modern electronics systems on trains enables many systems to simply be extricated from the train as a single unit for shop repair and hot-swap replacement with a working unit to return the train to service. That said, since LEDs are solid-state devices, they are less prone to failure and the current generation of LEDs are more robust than the early generation of LEDs that were making their way into everything in the late 90s, early 00s. They are brighter, smaller, and come in an array of colours, including tri-colour units to reproduce millions of colours using the RGB colour system.
  • Accessibility & Flexibility
    This point almost makes this entire discussion moot. ADA provisions enforce a level of accessibility on government-operated entities and would likely require that modern passenger information systems be flexible enough to provide information to passengers in an efficient and timely fashion. (This should be the goal of a passenger information system regardless of provisions for accessibility.) While internal systems will likely continue to be high-resolution LED tickers, external signs are also used to convey information to riders on platforms and must be accurate. While route changes in Boston are few and far between, one roll sign out of sync from the rest of the train is an invitation for an ADA claim.

Quite frankly, I find it amusing this is even a discussion at all, besides one about nostalgia over antiquated sign systems. There is no question roll signs will ever be making it back into the system, simply because of the maintenance of roll signs and the significant amount of work required to add/correct destinations on a roll sign to an entire fleet of trains, considering the already tight operations budget.

Yes, LEDs eventually do fail and software botches up, but those failures are rare and are usually non-critical failures. If the software on a train fails such that the signage isn't correct, you're likely to have a much worse problem on your hands. Further, a single LED will fail, but you'll almost never have a whole field of LEDs fail at once; if you do and the unit is relatively new, you can swap the unit out and have the train go back into service.
User avatar
Posts: 89
Joined: Mon Aug 16, 2010 1:13 pm
Location: Boston, MA

Re: The rollsign thread

Postby boblothrope » Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:36 pm

RailBus63 wrote:As for LCD signs - they are the worst signs I've ever seen. Almost every 01800-series car seems to have one side sign that doesn't work, and you can't even read the destination on a Type 7 or Type 8 until it's about 30 feet away.

I've been seeing more and more older Red Line cars with torn rollsigns.
Posts: 514
Joined: Thu Apr 01, 2010 11:43 am

Mattapan-Ashmont PCC rollsign question

Postby lilbluefoxie » Thu Apr 26, 2012 6:17 pm

What are the readings on the Mattapan-Ashmont pcc trolley rollsign?
Posts: 254
Joined: Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:53 pm
Location: Long Island

Re: Mattapan-Ashmont PCC rollsign question

Postby jrc520 » Thu Apr 26, 2012 6:35 pm

I belive that it's just Mattapan-Ashmont now - in the past there may have been more, but not any more.
Posts: 294
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 12:36 pm
Location: Woburn, MA

Re: Mattapan-Ashmont PCC rollsign question

Postby theseaandalifesaver » Thu Apr 26, 2012 10:40 pm

What else could the roll signs could have listed?
Posts: 748
Joined: Tue Mar 14, 2006 9:34 pm
Location: Seattle, WA

Re: Mattapan-Ashmont PCC rollsign question

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu Apr 26, 2012 10:54 pm

theseaandalifesaver wrote:What else could the roll signs could have listed?

These were ex-Arborway cars in the 1980's, so any Green Line destination. I believe the signs are MBTA-era, so there's probably not many more total destinations on there than the Boeings and 3600's had.
F-line to Dudley via Park
Posts: 7355
Joined: Fri Mar 11, 2005 7:26 pm
Location: North Cambridge

Re: Mattapan-Ashmont PCC rollsign question

Postby MBTA3247 » Fri Apr 27, 2012 3:05 pm

Destinations I've seen on the front rollsign:
"Mattapan-Ashmont" or "M Mattapan-Ashmont" (depending on the car)
"No Stops"
"Test Car"

Destinations I've seen on the side rollsigns:
"Lenox St via Subway" (I think that's what it was)

There are undoubtedly more, but the signs are flipped so rarely I've never seen them.
"The destination of this train is [BEEP BEEP]" -announcement on an Ashmont train.
User avatar
Posts: 2668
Joined: Tue Jul 11, 2006 6:01 pm
Location: Milton

Re: Mattapan-Ashmont PCC rollsign question

Postby MACTRAXX » Fri Apr 27, 2012 7:27 pm

3247: Just curious: What color are the Mattapan Line's roll signs?
Are they white on red considering this line to be an extension
of the Red Line from Ashmont?

Posts: 3865
Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2005 11:55 am
Location: Islandia,Long Island,NY

Re: Mattapan-Ashmont PCC rollsign question

Postby jwhite07 » Fri Apr 27, 2012 7:48 pm

I'll answer for 3247... they are standard white on black. There are countless photos of the cars online for reference.
User avatar
Posts: 1444
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2004 7:39 pm


Return to Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests