30th Street’s Solari Board

The Solari board is an interesting creature.

They’re a form of display board that I most closely associated with railway stations before I started to research them.  One of the more known Solari boards was at Grand Central Station in New York City.  The first time I remember seeing a Solari board was in an old black and white movie that had a scene in a railway station.  No, I don’t remember the movie… just the board updating.

Compared to a digital display, a Soalri board has a personality and some intrigue about it.

How is that possible?

Well, check this out Solari board updating itself and tell me if there’s personality and intrigue in a Solari board compared to a LCD or LED display!

Sorry for the wiggle – this is hand held video taken of the Solari board at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.  Yes, I know, I preach tripod use… but sometimes, you just can’t travel with a tripod…

Why do I say it has personality?

Well, it has sound and action.  It doesn’t flicker – it’s very straightforward and direct.  It’s not like looking at a television or computer display to be told where to go or when to be there.

Why do I say it has intrigue?

Well, it’s like a carnival or casino game in that you don’t know what it’s going to say until it stops and is silent.

According to our friends at Wikipedia, there are exactly eight (8) Solari boards left in the U.S.  You can learn more about Solari boards, which are covered on Wikipedia in an entry called “Split-flap display” by clicking here.

This video is also posted on the Laughing Frog Images YouTube Channel.

The original video was shot in 4K format on a Lumia Icon.  It has been downsampled and reformatted for posting on YouTube.

Amtrak Gallery updated!

You might has well have figured that this was coming given the recent videos and NJT gallery update!

There were some firsts in my brief time on the platform waiting for my train.  Besides the NJT ALP-45DP, I saw and photographed my first Amtrak ACS-64 locomotives.

There was probably two  “lasts” that day as well – my final video and still images of Amtrak’s AEM-7 locomotives.  As the ACS-64s arrive, the AEM-7s are being put out to pasture.

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In the above photo, we see Amtrak’s Siemens ACS-64 pulling a northbound into the station as a Bombardier ALP-45a pushes a NJT train south.  If those names don’t sound familiar to you, or sound”foreign”, there’s a reason.  These locomotives are based on European locomotive designs, as there isn’t a sufficient market (or cohesive transportation policy) here in the States for the domestic manufacturers to create and maintain an off-the shelf domestic locomotive design.

Fittingly, at least to me, was that my southbound Northeast Regional Train was pulled by AEM-7 917.  As she drifted into the station, there was still enough sun left to capture her in pixels, and that image is in the Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor Gallery on Laughing Frog Images.  In all likelihood, that was my last ride behind an AEM-7.  Despite being over 30 years old, she was earning her keep that day, and I clocked her over the century mark (100 m.p.h.) more than once on my journey.

Amtrak donated AEM-7 to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, so they won’t go the way of Alco’s C-628 and numerous steam and electric locomotives that either live on in recycled metals or are forever gone.

Amtrak is betting that the Siemens ACS-64 will be around for a while, unlike the HHP-8 locomotives from Bombardier / Alstom that were 15 years old and are being replaced along with the AEM-7s.  The Amtrak HHP-8s never quite lived up to their expectations or potential.  Time will tell…

For the curious, all of the new images started as a .dng file from my Icon smartphone.

Thanks for looking!  And think about what a cool coffee cup this picture would make for you or the railroad enthusiast that you know…  If this one doesn’t catch your fancy, there’s more in the Frog’s galleries!

45 Seconds at EWR Station

One of the nice things about waiting to see a train at the NJT / Amtrak Newark International Airport Station is that you’re generally going to see trains, especially if you’re waiting during rush hour.

Occasionally, you’ll see multiple trains at once – I’ve been able to capture three trains at once in a still image.  Not a great still image mind you, or else I’d be posting and talking about that, but I’ve done it.  There are times where it’s a busy 45 seconds at Newark.  And there are times it all comes together.

So there I was with my trusty Icon, and a southbound Amtrak Acela was coming through.  So, I set up for it and started the video before the train entered the viewfinder.  There’s a neat thing that happens in advance of a fast moving train on continuous welded rail – the rails start to “sing” before the train gets there.  As I set up at a bit of an angle to the tracks, if you turn the volume up – you can hear this before you see the train.  It’s pretty neat.  I’m sure that there’s a technical explanation and term for this phenomenon, but I’m going to go with singing…


And the Acela slides on through the station.  Then, I hear another train behind me – I have no idea what it is or what track it’s on, and I can’t turn around without really screwing up this hand-held video.  So, I try to stay still and just keep the video rolling.  I let it roll until the northbound Amtrak is out of view.  Until 45 seconds at Newark are memorialized.

An Amtrak local comes into view, cab car first.  Ok, that works!  And then, in the golden light of late afternoon, I hear the “psst”s (yeah, I know that’s not a word, but I don’t know how else to try to phonetically describe the sound) of the locomotive – and I still can’t turn around to see it.  And then, an AEM-7 in push mode glides by me.

And I’m happy, because I finally got a great video clip of an AEM-7 in sweet light!  You see, the AEM-7’s are being replaced after 30+ years, and I don’t get an opportunity to see them very often, let alone get a video in sweet light.  For all I know, this is the last time I’ll get an AEM-7 on video.  So, it was a good day.

One day, I might even find that miracle tripod that you can take with you on a whirlwind transcontinental business trip.

In the meantime, enjoy, hand-held and all!



Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor

As I’ve been moving and organizing and backing up image files, I stumbled across some iPhone images of passenger railroading on the Northeast Corridor, and I’ll be adding a few small galleries to share images of how others travel and commute.

The first of these galleries will be of Amtrak.

Several of these images are instant history, as the 900-series AEM-7 locomotives are well into their 30’s and are being replaced by new locomotives.

The AEM-7 is based on the Swedish Rc4 locomotive design, and was produced by the Electro-Motive Division (EMD) of General Motors from 1978 to 1988.  You can learn more about the AEM-7 on Wikipedia and also on Amtrak’s archives which also discuss Amtrak’s other electric locomotives.  (Amtrak’s history website is well worth a visit on its’ own merits.)

If you’ve never been around trains powered by electric locomotives, it’s different because they’re quiet.  Very quiet.  If the engineer doesn’t blow the horn, sometimes your only clue is the sound of the wind created by the train.  If the wind is blowing the sound the other way, you might not even get that.  It’s actually pretty neat to experience it.

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I often travel by Amtrak between work locations in CT, NJ and MD – it’s really the only way to go.  Public transportation on the East Coast may not be perfect, but it’s pretty darned close if your basis for comparison is the Los Angeles area. The photo above was taken at the Newark International Airport Station (yes, we do have shreds of logic where different modes of transportation connect!).

Out here, the transportation planners seem to have figured out that it’s a good idea to put light rail transit (modern streetcars) in where they tore up the rails that carried passenger trains and electric streetcars long ago.  As Homer Simpson would say, “Duh”.  Makes you wonder why they tore up the rails in the first place, but don’t get me started…

So, if you’ve always wondered what the trains look like “over there” and you’re curious, waste a little time and head over to the Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor Gallery on Laughing Frog Images.


New Videos posted to LFI YouTube

As I was moving and archiving files this morning, I came across a series of short videos I shot on my iPhone while waiting for a train.  I was actually at the station a little early that day!  I had actually forgotten that I took these.  I was always a little leery about “cell phone video”, but I’ve since learned (evolved?).

It’s kind of funny to say that you took these videos on your phone – at least to those of us of a certain age who remember the first mobile phones were the size of a shoe box!

And to others, it’s as normal as a sunrise.

And, who would have thought you could share things with the world in a matter of mouse clicks and minutes?

These are all short video clips of normal things if you travel by train on the Northeast Corridor.  For those who don’t, this is a glimpse into the life of some commuters’ daily routine between Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD.

The Amtrak locomotives you see – the AEM-7’s – are nearing the end of their service lives, and within a year or two, catching them on video won’t be possible.  That’s what led me to post these.  They’re not the greatest quality videos – I get that.  But now, they’re memories.  And soon, they’ll be history.

These were all hand-held.  Yes, I know, I’m not using a tripod – but you can’t easily carry a tripod on a multi-city business trip.

You can check the videos out on the Laughing Frog Images YouTube Channel.