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Solari boards

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EveningStar

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Cannot answer the question, just nostalgic for the sound. Spotting at Birmingham New Street in the 70's, watching the massive board, poised for the flappity-flap noise along with the visual, waterfall, effect with rapidly changing glimpses of destinations. Sigh ... nostalgia is not as good as it used to be ...
 

yorksrob

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I thought the BBC article could have included a picture of one at one of our big stations.

The last one I remember seeing was at London Victoria some years ago.
 

EbbwJunction1

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This is a list as provided by Mr W Pedia:

United Kingdom

Solari Board at London Liverpool Street (now removed).
  • London Charing Cross, split into two sections with promotional images on destination blinds and up to two calling points per blind, operator shown below calling points, however as of 18 July 2007 these have now been dismantled and taken away to be replaced by the new LED boards like those used at Waterloo and Victoria.
  • London Liverpool Street, taken out of service September 2007. A live webcam used to broadcast frequently updated images of this board, but was replaced by a cessation announcement in 2007. The board, pictured, was blue coloured, with one destination per blind, operator above calling points, and could show a range of special messages, including "Boat Train", "Special Service", "International", "Stansted Express" and "This train has been replaced by a substitute road service".
  • London Victoria, replaced November 2004
  • London King's Cross, replaced in the early 2000s
  • Edinburgh Waverley, replaced by an LED departure board
  • Glasgow Queen Street
  • Glasgow Central
  • Birmingham New Street, replaced by LCD screens. The large clock from the board survived above the gateline, with the remaining panels replaced by advertising until the station extension was opened in 2012.
  • Manchester Piccadilly, replaced by LCD screen in 2001, as part of the station redevelopment.
  • Brighton, replaced by an LED display. A substantial part of the board has been preserved by the Network SouthEast Railway Society.
  • Reading
  • London Waterloo, replaced by LCD units in the early 2000s, still there out of use until December 2006, when it was taken down to make way for an LED departure board that became operational in March 2007.
  • London Paddington, was situated across the platforms and used to carry advertisements on the back, facing arriving passengers.
  • Watford Junction, black coloured, full flip columns for Silverlink County services to Northampton, Southern services to Gatwick Airport, and Virgin Trains West Coast and First ScotRail services to North Wales, the North-West and Midlands of England and various destinations in Scotland. However, for Silverlink Metro services to London Euston and Silverlink County services to St Albans Abbey the calling points are fixed and only the time of the next train is changeable, because all trains call at the same stations.
  • Woking
  • Esher, removed in early 2000s. Controlled from ticket office
As you can see (my bold) it looks as if London Liverpool Street was the last one, although not all of them have dates.
 

Bletchleyite

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Watford Jn was replaced with the same type of LED board that MKC has (previously having had only TV screens, and for a short period a much smaller LED display) at around the same time.

I agree it was probably Liverpool St.

As an aside Solari di Udine still exist and make LED boards and similar - the ones used on the Hamburg U-Bahn carry their brand, for instance.
 

Mag_seven

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This is a list as provided by Mr W Pedia:

United Kingdom

Solari Board at London Liverpool Street (now removed).
  • London Charing Cross, split into two sections with promotional images on destination blinds and up to two calling points per blind, operator shown below calling points, however as of 18 July 2007 these have now been dismantled and taken away to be replaced by the new LED boards like those used at Waterloo and Victoria.
  • London Liverpool Street, taken out of service September 2007. A live webcam used to broadcast frequently updated images of this board, but was replaced by a cessation announcement in 2007. The board, pictured, was blue coloured, with one destination per blind, operator above calling points, and could show a range of special messages, including "Boat Train", "Special Service", "International", "Stansted Express" and "This train has been replaced by a substitute road service".
  • London Victoria, replaced November 2004
  • London King's Cross, replaced in the early 2000s
  • Edinburgh Waverley, replaced by an LED departure board
  • Glasgow Queen Street
  • Glasgow Central
  • Birmingham New Street, replaced by LCD screens. The large clock from the board survived above the gateline, with the remaining panels replaced by advertising until the station extension was opened in 2012.
  • Manchester Piccadilly, replaced by LCD screen in 2001, as part of the station redevelopment.
  • Brighton, replaced by an LED display. A substantial part of the board has been preserved by the Network SouthEast Railway Society.
  • Reading
  • London Waterloo, replaced by LCD units in the early 2000s, still there out of use until December 2006, when it was taken down to make way for an LED departure board that became operational in March 2007.
  • London Paddington, was situated across the platforms and used to carry advertisements on the back, facing arriving passengers.
  • Watford Junction, black coloured, full flip columns for Silverlink County services to Northampton, Southern services to Gatwick Airport, and Virgin Trains West Coast and First ScotRail services to North Wales, the North-West and Midlands of England and various destinations in Scotland. However, for Silverlink Metro services to London Euston and Silverlink County services to St Albans Abbey the calling points are fixed and only the time of the next train is changeable, because all trains call at the same stations.
  • Woking
  • Esher, removed in early 2000s. Controlled from ticket office
As you can see (my bold) it looks as if London Liverpool Street was the last one, although not all of them have dates.

London Euston is a major omission from that list.
 

Andy R. A.

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Used to operate the ones at Euston. Stacks of yellow plastic computer punch cards to feed into the card reader. The Airport style ones were more flexible in what could be displayed using the individual squares/lettering. While normal service trains could be displayed easy enough it was sometimes a problem with Specials as there were not always flaps with the myriad of extra places on them. You would end up putting up the Departure time and just 'Special Train' (White on Red), no stops included. I remember we had a set of Test Cards so you could check individual flaps for faults. The annual update for the new timetables could prove problematic, when some of the new flaps were installed with spelling mistakes.
 

CC 72100

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I do remember the Solari board at Paris Gare du Nord when I lived there in 2013-2014.
 

Bald Rick

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I found this article this afternoon, and found it a wonderful read.

I actually have 2 of the flaps from the Liverpool St board, I didn’t realise it was the last in service. One of them might be of particular interest to Spurs fans! I wonder what it’s worth?
 

Merle Haggard

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Used to operate the ones at Euston. Stacks of yellow plastic computer punch cards to feed into the card reader. The Airport style ones were more flexible in what could be displayed using the individual squares/lettering. While normal service trains could be displayed easy enough it was sometimes a problem with Specials as there were not always flaps with the myriad of extra places on them. You would end up putting up the Departure time and just 'Special Train' (White on Red), no stops included. I remember we had a set of Test Cards so you could check individual flaps for faults. The annual update for the new timetables could prove problematic, when some of the new flaps were installed with spelling mistakes.

What puzzled me about the Euston one was that sometimes (but not always) the destination station would also be the last of the calling points (not logical, of course).

I also remember that when there was a 'lull' in departures (often the aftermath of an IRA bomb alert) in the late 70s/80, with the usual absence of any useful loudspeaker information, the sign that a train about to run was the Solari bursting into action, with the calling points revolving. Waiting for your destination station to appear, and hoping that it stopped then ... but it quite often went through the whole lot a few times. Sometimes then went back to blank, hopes dashed.

And the digital clocks at Euston which also used flaps - but obviously with digits on - that had vertical instead of horizontal folds. . They went 23-59 then 24.00 (isn't that 0000? so why did they even have 24 on?) then up to about 24.05 before the hour went over to 00 - happy nights waiting for the 0015 all stations Crewe via Northampton and watching the clock.
 

edwin_m

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What puzzled me about the Euston one was that sometimes (but not always) the destination station would also be the last of the calling points (not logical, of course).
That was probably from having to combine groups of stations in half-size type on one flap face, as each row could display one of only about 40 different flaps. For similar reasons there were sometimes blank rows part way through the lists of calling points.

I visited the Solari control room at Waterloo once, also driven by punch cards. That was so complex that the left and right hand sides of the boards had different lists of stations (possibly the Main and Windsor lines, I don't recall) so if a card was put in one of the slots for the wrong side the result was a highly improbable itinerary!
 

Peter Mugridge

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I visited the Solari control room at Waterloo once, also driven by punch cards. That was so complex that the left and right hand sides of the boards had different lists of stations (possibly the Main and Windsor lines, I don't recall) so if a card was put in one of the slots for the wrong side the result was a highly improbable itinerary!

Ah! Does that explain the large number of impossible routes I saw, some of which I managed to get photos of?
 

joncombe

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Yes remember the main board at Waterloo with these displays well. They also used to have them above each platform just showing the time and destination of the next train. I used to like watching the names of the stations flash past.

Then they were replaced with those terrible Plasma screens that were too small, not bright enough to be read in sunshine and soon suffered from terrible burn-in too. Thankfully they were soon replaced with the current LED displays which are very much better.

I still saw some small types of these displays in use in Switzerland last year on station platforms.
 

Taunton

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I think it was a Southern Region/NSE thing that the penultimate lines could display "Cancelled/Delayed", followed by "Due to", and finally a whole string of excuses "Flooding/Fog/Ice/Industrial Action/Train Fault/Staff shortage", etc. Occasionally the display would need to cycle through all these. It always raised a laugh from the punters on the concourse. And it was, really, the inspiration for the scriptwriters of the comedy TV show of that era, Reginald Perrin, with all his deadpan excuses, different each time, of why he was late for work (plus a name check for every station on the Waterloo suburban lines).

http://www.leonardrossiter.com/reginaldperrin/Train.html

"Escaped puma, Chessington North" was my favourite.
 

Peter Mugridge

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Could you post a couple Peter? Might be quite interesting. ;)


I only have two already scanned so far, one from Woking and one from Waterloo. Sorry about the quality of the Waterloo image. The Waterloo one only has one spurious station, but some of the others that I have yet to scan have completely garbled routes.
 

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Andy R. A.

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What puzzled me about the Euston one was that sometimes (but not always) the destination station would also be the last of the calling points (not logical, of course).

It was the way some of the flaps were laid out with the stations on it. Some had the penultimate calling point on the upper panel flap, and the destination on the lower panel flap. Depended on who had made up the cards from the Solari manual. The booked service trains had all the cards made up in the DMO at the start of each new timetable. It was left to us 'on the ground' to make up any 'extras', avoiding duplication of information if at all possible by referring to the manual. Extras were normally made up on the night shift. Problems also arose when the flaps were altered each year. I remember that they were installing new flaps for the Fort William service, the bottom flap read 'Stations on request' (Upper panel) 'The Royal Highlander' (bottom panel). This replaced 'The Ulster' (top panel) 'Express' (Lower panel). However for some reason only part of it was changed, ending up as 'Stations on request - Express'. The only information the operator had was a repeater in the Box showing the Departure/Arrival Time plus the Destination/Originating Main flap. There were no monitors while I was there, and the only time you were aware of problems with the display was if someone actually noticed it and bothered to phone you.

I also remember that when there was a 'lull' in departures (often the aftermath of an IRA bomb alert) in the late 70s/80, with the usual absence of any useful loudspeaker information, the sign that a train about to run was the Solari bursting into action, with the calling points revolving. Waiting for your destination station to appear, and hoping that it stopped then ... but it quite often went through the whole lot a few times. Sometimes then went back to blank, hopes dashed.

I can only speak for the time I was there, but I don't think there was ever a time during the occasional bomb scare/hoax that the trains were ever cancelled off the Boards. I always put the next 10 scheduled services up at all times (even on nights), and they were only cancelled off when the train was actually leaving (you could visually see the trains coming and going from all the platforms where you sat). The situation you describe of the Boards 'Running through' was an indication of a fault with that particular Board. The Set-up consul had a green light on it, this would 'pulse' as the Board was cancelling off or setting up. You could see something was wrong as the green light would remain steadily illuminated for 5 seconds or so, and then pulse again until the Board had cleared. Not having a visual check on the Concourse Displays it wasn't possible to pinpoint the faulty flap immediately. Normal practice would be to try the Board with the same card several times to see if the fault cleared. After the third attempt you would leave that Board blank until you had time to do a proper test. That would consist of putting a Test Card in each flap in turn. If the flap was working okay the green pulsing light would stop and extinguish when the flap was set okay, if it wasn't you would get the steady green light and then the flap would continue to run through until cancelled (If you listened carefully this fault would be accompanied by a 'click' from the consul). It was then possible to use that Board as long as your next display didn't use that particular flap. (You would take the Computer Card and count down the rows of punch holes to see if that flap was to be used). At busy times when you needed to have all the Boards in service it was possible to re-arrange the flap layout on the card to avoid the faulty flap and keep all Boards in service. There was a small machine like an old Credit Card 'swipe' device, you put a blank card in and punched out the slots to form a new display.
One of the main bugbears of the system was damp, warm air on the Concourse would mix with cold air in the gallery behind the boards and sometimes condensation caused the system to break down into a cascade failure. In cases like this the good old Emergency Roller Type display would be wheeled out onto the concourse.

The only times you would find the Boards mostly blank was serious disruptions, and you had three boards set up with various calling points, but headed with the dreaded header flaps of 'Please travel from Paddington', 'Please travel from St. Pancras', and 'Please travel from Kings Cross'.

And the digital clocks at Euston which also used flaps - but obviously with digits on - that had vertical instead of horizontal folds. . They went 23-59 then 24.00 (isn't that 0000? so why did they even have 24 on?) then up to about 24.05 before the hour went over to 00 - happy nights waiting for the 0015 all stations Crewe via Northampton and watching the clock.

Really don't know about the digital clock on the concourse, although the one in the Box did have the strange layout that it went from 23:59 to 24:00 and then almost immediately went over to 00:00.
Must've been after my time there as the night service I remember putting up went 23:30 Glasgow, 23:35 Bletchley, 23:45 Barrow, 00:10 Wolverhampton, 0050 Liverpool & Manchester, 03:50 Watford, 06:05 Northampton.
 
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Cowley

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I only have two already scanned so far, one from Woking and one from Waterloo. Sorry about the quality of the Waterloo image. The Waterloo one only has one spurious station, but some of the others that I have yet to scan have completely garbled routes.
Great stuff.
 
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In the late 1980s the Network South East Solari rain on a slightly different time to the InterCity one.

I don’t think I was ever there at midnight (the last DC lines train was, from memory, 23:37) so the rather earlier (I was a student) 09:59:59 to 10:00:00 on arrival was my usual one involving all six boards moving. 19:59:59 was less likely as it required me to have just missed the 19:57 train. While watching Solari boards do their thing was interesting I generally preferred not waiting extra time rather than seeing the change.
 

gg1

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Always remember one oddity about the New Street solari board in the late 80s/early 90s. When cycling through destination stations one of the options was Sandwell and Dudley, I’m not aware of any service ever being timetabled to terminate there.
 

Bletchleyite

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Always remember one oddity about the New Street solari board in the late 80s/early 90s. When cycling through destination stations one of the options was Sandwell and Dudley, I’m not aware of any service ever being timetabled to terminate there.

In those days was it practice to put up what was timetabled and make announcements rather than put up what is actually happening as it is now? A train must have terminated there at some point.

I half recall Merseyrail sometimes put up the normal destination and announced bustitution for part of the journey, sometimes put up the actual destination if it was on there (e.g. Sandhills), and sometimes put up "Special", same with the front of the train.
 

gg1

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In those days was it practice to put up what was timetabled and make announcements rather than put up what is actually happening as it is now? A train must have terminated there at some point.

Don’t know what standard practice was at New Street but SAD was definitely set as one of the standard destination options for a number of years, it was my local station at the time which is why it stuck in my mind. In my teenage ‘spotting years from 1987/88 to 1991 I definitely don’t remember any terminating services there, I suppose there may have been some prior to that but I’ve never seen a reference to them.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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Used to operate the ones at Euston. Stacks of yellow plastic computer punch cards to feed into the card reader. The Airport style ones were more flexible in what could be displayed using the individual squares/lettering. While normal service trains could be displayed easy enough it was sometimes a problem with Specials as there were not always flaps with the myriad of extra places on them. You would end up putting up the Departure time and just 'Special Train' (White on Red), no stops included. I remember we had a set of Test Cards so you could check individual flaps for faults. The annual update for the new timetables could prove problematic, when some of the new flaps were installed with spelling mistakes.

I used to have one of those Euston board flap spelling mistakes.
It was supposed to be "Long Buckby" but came out as "Long Buckley".
Someone picked it up from the railway memorabilia shop across the road from the station and passed it on to me.
Not sure if it ever got on to the real departure board - you'd hope it had been rejected at the proof-reading stage!
 

Andy R. A.

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I used to have one of those Euston board flap spelling mistakes.
It was supposed to be "Long Buckby" but came out as "Long Buckley".
Someone picked it up from the railway memorabilia shop across the road from the station and passed it on to me.
Not sure if it ever got on to the real departure board - you'd hope it had been rejected at the proof-reading stage!

I think it was around 1977/8 we had a Sunday afternoon train that started back from Barmouth, and the flaps had to be changed to incorporate the new service. Unfortunately the first time the train ran it was found that Aberdovey had been spelt Aberdoiery, on all of the Boards. It was one of the times that things moved very quickly, as by the following Sunday the correct spelling flap had been installed. Often wonder if any of the mis-spelt ones managed to survive ?
 

Merle Haggard

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Always remember one oddity about the New Street solari board in the late 80s/early 90s. When cycling through destination stations one of the options was Sandwell and Dudley, I’m not aware of any service ever being timetabled to terminate there.


Might have been used for the same reason as 'Hemel Hempsted' (?Hempstead?) appeared as the destination of the all-stations Euston via Northampton trains - so that passengers didn't get misled into catching a slow train.
 

Merle Haggard

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Very interesting, Andy. You've solved a 40 year mystery of why, in a quiet period, the Solari would burst into action and after whirling around would go back to blank. Hopes raised and dashed.
Another anecdote, tangential to Solari displays, was back when I worked at Eversholt House and involved with mishap forms. TSIs (train stopping irregularity) would result from a down Inter-City, booked 'U' at Watford Jct, hurtling straight through. This was because the driver involved turned up at the last minute (prob spent too long in the Griffin!!!), just looked at the Solari, saw it was r/a Stockport or some such - and overlooked the fact that the Solari didn't show U stops...
The reference to the 00.15 and '24.08' was in the late 60's - a useful train for spotters, as, apart from ending a full day down South you could also get up North early on a Sunday morning (01.30 from Northampton) in the dying days of steam.
 
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