A few months ago, news hit the newspapers and internet that the Connecticut Department of Transportation was going to be removing the Solari split-flap departure board at Union Station in New Haven. There was a bit of a fight about it though: people didn’t want to see the sign go. People tried writing letters… even I wrote a letter to the CDOT, which of course, was never answered. A Facebook group, called Save Solari, even rounded up 600 fans that wanted the sign to stay. Unfortunately, it seems that all those attempts to convince the CDOT failed. Construction on New Haven’s Union Station begins today. And Metro-North has confirmed on Twitter that it will include the replacement of the split-flap display with an LED sign. The construction also includes upgrades to the sprinkler and fire protection systems, heating and a/c improvements, rehabilitation of the elevators, reconstruction of the pedestrian tunnel, and upgrades to the PA system. The construction will happen over the next twelve months, at which point of this the Solari will be removed has not been mentioned. But apparently, it’s days are numbered.
News of the impending construction led me to finally take a visit over to Union Station on Saturday. Saturday was also National Train Day, though I wasn’t aware that there were even going to be events happening at the train station. In fact, I had been there for at least an hour before I even noticed. I heard the people talking in the corner, though when I went to go investigate, politician Ned Lamont was speaking. His groupies practically tripped over their own legs to get to me and give me stickers and other political propaganda. Which I had to reject several times, at which point I just left.
Later on when I was investigating the paper hats people were wearing, I noticed that there was a cake for Union Station’s 90th Birthday. You know about me and hats, like a moth to a flame. Over by the cake though, there was an agenda for the National Train Day events at the station, which is the only way I figured out that was going on. Ned Lamont was one of the listed speakers on that agenda. Though I didn’t listen to what he had said (me and politicians have a relationship completely opposite than me and hats), I just kept thinking he somewhat hijacked this odd “National Train Day” to promote his gubernatorial campaign. I am almost as skeptical of that as I am of the whole idea of “National Train Day” – a delightful marketing event by Amtrak. Conceptually it is cool, but the real idea behind it… well, it just feels as bogus as if Hallmark declared tomorrow “Give cards to all your coworkers day.”
Alright, that is enough drivel from me, what you really came to see were the photos, right?
Departure board, we’ll miss you! And of course, Happy Birthday Union Station. For more information about the construction, be sure to check Metro North’s site.
I want to eat the cake…and some chicken as well.
The cake was quite good… tasted like gingerbread. As for chicken, they did not have any of that. You always leave the most random comments on here. I don’t think any of my other readers know about how you cried for food while fasting.
Great photos! What a fine station…and a nice reminder of what a dump some of the MTA’s other stations are (Penn Station, for instance). Of course, the LIRR too had to “modernize”, and replace all its solari signs (though I thought Amtrak/NJT, upstairs in Penn, still has some sort of flip signs…not sure about that.) It’s a shame they’re taking out the one in NH, it seems to fit right in with the character of the place.
The ones in the Amtrak concourse were replaced around 2000 with crappy LCD ones, which are mostly broken now.
I never got CDOT’s reasoning for replacing the sign, because NJT has been putting up new ones recently.
The reasoning they kept stating publicly was that the current board was not, and could not, be ADA compliant. I even went far enough to acquire a copy of the ADA compliance guidelines and refuted that assertion, but of course they never took the time to answer me back. I cc’ed the state rep (who I had noticed was commenting publicly on some of the articles) and she said that once CDOT decides something, it is practically impossible to get them to change their minds.
We’re just lucky we still have Grand Central… and that it was saved before it could be taken down like the original Penn Station. Though losing one was probably an impetus for saving the other. But shit, we’ve got Madison Square Garden!
Boston South Station used to have three Solari boards, which were replaced with one massive LED sign. It has speakers at the bottom that try and completely fail to reproduce the signature clicking sound of the real boards. The sound effect isn’t synced with the board actually changing, and sometimes it sticks and keeps looping the sound over and over again. Even at rush hour, the tables under the speakers are often empty.
I enjoyed your photos from the event; that panorama image from the platform in particular is extremely impressive! Did you stitch it manually or use an automated program? I always encounter so many warping problems on panoramas that wide that I end up hand-stiching it and having SOMETHING looks obviously skewed or kinked.
Thanks! For the panorama I used AutoStitch (http://cvlab.epfl.ch/~brown/autostitch/autostitch.html) which works pretty well. Photoshop’s stitching works okay, but it always tends to warp really badly in some spots like fences and powerlines. At times after running it I do have to fix some things by hand, the yellow safety strip on the platform always gets kinda messed up. It is probably easier to let the program do it and just fix the errors, than doing it all by hand. I don’t think I’ve done one by hand in forever… probably because they take forever :P
Oh, and thanks for letting me know about the board in Boston. I had heard about it, but of course the MBTA claims they came up with the perfect solution with the sound and everything. Of course they’d paint a rosy picture of everything. :P
If you still need a Solari fix, head over to Secaucus, NJ: