One startup wants to help keep the nostalgia alive at 30th Street Station - Philly


Nov. 29, 2018 12:00 pm

One startup wants to help keep the nostalgia alive at 30th Street Station

With Amtrak set to bring down the beloved flipping sign as early as January, Northeast Philly's Oat Foundry might have a pitch.


(Gif via Oat Foundry)

The soothing clicking sounds that have accompanied travelers at Amtrak’s 30th Street Station since the 1970s are coming to an end.

Billy Penn reports the beloved Solari board could come down as early as January, when its ownership will be transferred to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Per reporter Michaela Winberg, the sign will then go on display at The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, Pa.

For nostalgia’s sake, a Northeast Philly-based startup called Oat Foundry — makers of split-flap signs for companies like honeygrow and Air France — is thinking of pitching Amtrak a replacement.

One reason the sign is coming down is the technology behind it: The Solari sign is currently operated through a computer running on Windows 95. Oat Foundry’s signs run on Linux, and can be controlled via mobile apps and have API integration capabilities.

(Oat Foundry announced last month it will leave its Bensalem hub for a 5,100-square-foot space in Bridesburg.)

No matter what’s behind the signs, the real lure of split flap signs might be more on the low-tech side of things.

“From an engineering perspective, it’s simple: Signs like these have wide viewing angles and they make a sound to notify you that something has changed,” CEO Mark Kuhn told on the phone. “What everyone is tapping into right now is the nostalgia of it all.”

There’s also the realness of it. We look at way too many screens in a day (you’re looking at one right now!), so a moving, physical sign stands out.


Fun fact: The company once set up a small split flap sign at 30th Street Station as it conspired to help a man propose to his girlfriend.

“We brought it in and set it up near the Amtrak Lounge and controlled it from my phone,” Kuhn said. “It was a hit!”

A man and a woman kissing in front of aflippy sign.

Aww. (Courtesy photo)

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