The New Grand Central Terminal Digital Departure Display

2319 views
60 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    February, 2018
  • From: Sparsely populated Nebraska
  • 545 posts
Posted by York1 on Monday, August 19, 2019 9:42 AM

I have no problem with new sign boards.  They are so versatile in what they show.

The problem, as others have pointed out, is that the people running the system sometimes think more is better.  If a blue background looks good, let's use a graduated blue on each line to make it look rounded.  If white letters on dark blue background look good, let's use white letters on light blue backgrounds.  Etc.

The boards in the pictures would work so much better, and look better, if the background were one solid color, and the white letters had a small black outline.  Easy to read, versatile, and up-to-the-second info.

The problem is the same with many TV ads, news programs, and weather reports.  "Just because we can" is not always a good reason for "should we?"

Saints Fan John

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,943 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Monday, August 19, 2019 10:25 AM

I am a bit confused about the complaints so far.  As far as I  can tell, the actual information on these boards is by white letters and numerals on a black, not colored, background.  Color appears reserved for the top of the sign to indicate which line, of the three, the information below involves.  And the colors chosen appear to reflect the colors used on the timetables, McGinnis Red-Orange for the New Haven, blue for the Harlem, and presumably green for the Hudson, although the latter also looks black in the photo.  This all seems sensible to me, and the reactions I get from other friends in the area are favorable.

But if you have complaints, my guess is that the current Metro North management is customer responsive.

 

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 8,261 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, August 19, 2019 10:32 AM

Flintlock76
OK, stand by everyone, I did some research.  The clock faces aren't opal, they're opal milk glass.  So I guess we can call the "real opal" thing a factoid after all.

Thank heaven you commented before I got to it.

Keep in mind that the glass used may well have come from Tiffany (the glassworks, not the jeweler) and hence constitute a more precious resource than you think.  And although you could argue if the Pieta is re-creatable then a similarly destroyed information booth is, too, a high appraisal of what is inherently a priceless artifact may make sense... especially for insurance coverage.  

In order to make these faces out of 'opal' you would need to polish, shape, and then tessellate a very large number of pieces of physical opal, probably as 'triplets' (in which a thin layer of diffractive material is sandwiched between a diffusing background (here, milk glass) and a hard protective layer (probably castable transparent glass).  This is not difficult to accomplish, but opalescent/favrile finish on a single molded face is more likely attractive at typical viewing distance.

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 8,261 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, August 19, 2019 10:47 AM

daveklepper
As far as I  can tell, the actual information on these boards is by white letters and numerals on a black, not colored, background.

It's a blue background, or at least I read it that way.  More precisely it's the EPG gradient effect with black on the bottom and "MetroNorth" blue on the top. 

It would make sense to distinguish the 'line items' in continuous boards, by color, with MetroNorth trains in their blue, Hudson Line trains in good old Brewster Green, and New Haven Line trains in McGinnis/Matter orange.  The problem is that damned gradient effect, which produces a ridiculously washed-out orange that destroys legibility of the all-white lettering even halfway up the bar (it is MUCH worse for the visually-impaired like me who have static resolution issues at high luminance).

All that's needed to fix the stupidity is, basically, to lose the EPG trope embossing (and, in fact, to go to a 'concave' effect, or shadowed-by-muntins, to keep the contrast across the letterforms, and put a black or dark hairline around the letterforms.

Any relatively savvy six-year-old could configure the electronic program generator in a few minutes.  Hell, I could probably do it in under an hour.  Apparently there are few people at MetroNorth who actually care about how text is registered in critical applications -- a pity, really, as there are whole SIGs at certain organizations that have already done the heavy lifting for what they ought to have.

Has anyone given a reason why retaining the separate boards for the individual services is preserved, now that you have a fully-addressable color display that could unambiguously show them together?  Bet if you took a poll of your correspondents they would think these to be positive improvements over what's currently there...

  • Member since
    February, 2018
  • From: Sparsely populated Nebraska
  • 545 posts
Posted by York1 on Monday, August 19, 2019 10:55 AM

daveklepper
I am a bit confused about the complaints so far.  As far as I  can tell, the actual information on these boards is by white letters and numberals on a black, not colored, background.

 

Dave, I may have been mistaken when I viewed the picture.  What is the blue background picture?  Is it the old one?

Saints Fan John

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • 950 posts
Posted by NKP guy on Monday, August 19, 2019 12:15 PM

Flintlock76
OK, stand by everyone, I did some research.  The clock faces aren't opal, they're opal milk glass.  So I guess we can call the "real opal" thing a factoid after all.   And the appraisal of the clock by Sotheby's for anywhere from ten to twenty million dollars is apparantly an urban legend as well.  Another factoid.

   As I suspected!

 

   Flintlock76...every time you post something I learn something!  Thanks for looking into this matter for me.  And you never come off as a Cliff Clavin-type.

   

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 8,261 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, August 19, 2019 12:30 PM

somebody needs to be the wingnut that holds Western civilization together.  At least in his own mind...

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,943 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Monday, August 19, 2019 1:10 PM

Absolutely!  The Blue background is old.   White-on-black is new.

See the second posting, please.

  • Member since
    February, 2018
  • From: Sparsely populated Nebraska
  • 545 posts
Posted by York1 on Monday, August 19, 2019 1:13 PM

daveklepper
Absolutely!  The Blue background is old.   White-on-black is new. See the second posting, please.

 

Dave, sorry about that.  I misunderstood.  The white on black is very clear and easy to read.

Saints Fan John

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • 950 posts
Posted by NKP guy on Monday, August 19, 2019 2:10 PM

54light15
have heard that there is a place by the Oyster Bar where you stand by the entrance  and face the wall and speak at a whisper and someone on the other side will hear you perfectly. I could be wrong about the location but I am told it's by the Oyster Bar. It's an amazing place.

   This is a fact, not a factoid. The Oyster Bar is approached by going down a ramp (and what a ramp! Huge & impressive chandeliers, marble and stone everywhere, wide enough to drive two or three cars abreast, etc).  Halfway down is a landing and just to the right is the spot you want.  It's right outside the main entrance to the restaurant.  The effect works because one is under a small dome or rounded ceiling.

   The Oyster Bar!  Mmmmm.  

   "I'll have the fried Ipswich clams with a glass of on-tap lager, please." 

   

 

  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 4,716 posts
Posted by Miningman on Monday, August 19, 2019 2:45 PM

 Excerpt from Cornell Alumni magazine, March-April 2013
 It’s not technically a station. When it was built, it wasn’t central. But it’s undeniably grand. Those lessons and more can be gleaned in Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America, by veteran New York Times urban affairs reporter Sam Roberts ’68…
 Roberts, bespectacled and white-mustachioed like a vintage train conductor from central casting, is standing in the station’s Main Concourse, next to what’s arguably one of the planet’s most popular meet-up spots: the marble-and-brass information kiosk, topped by the iconic four-faced clock.
“There are urban legends that it’s worth ten to twenty million dollars,” he says. “I could not confirm that with anyone—but it clearly is priceless, made of opalescent glass. It’s just beautiful.”
 Excerpt from Robert’s book:
 What does the centennial logo mean?
 The centennial logo, designed by a Westchester commuter, Michael Beirut, and his team at Pentagram (and drawn by Joe Marianek), features the concourse’s iconic brass, four-faced clock. The original self-winding mechanism was designed by two Brooklynites, Charles Pratt (who founded Pratt Institute) and Henry Chester Pond. Built by the Seth Thomas Company, the clock is aligned to true North. On the centennial logo, the clock is set at 7:13. In twenty-four-hour time, that is 19:13, which is the year Grand Central opened.
  • Member since
    January, 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 1,904 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, August 19, 2019 3:33 PM

NKP guy

 

 
Flintlock76
OK, stand by everyone, I did some research.  The clock faces aren't opal, they're opal milk glass.  So I guess we can call the "real opal" thing a factoid after all.   And the appraisal of the clock by Sotheby's for anywhere from ten to twenty million dollars is apparantly an urban legend as well.  Another factoid.

 

   As I suspected!

 

   Flintlock76...every time you post something I learn something!  Thanks for looking into this matter for me.  And you never come off as a Cliff Clavin-type.

   

 

Aw shucks, now I'm blushing!

  • Member since
    January, 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 1,904 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, August 19, 2019 3:37 PM

Overmod

somebody needs to be the wingnut that holds Western civilization together.  At least in his own mind...

 

Gasp!  Wheeze!  Now I'm having hysterics!

Now that I've caught my breath, I've tried further research on the clock.  It was built by Seth Thomas, (Why am I not surprised?) but I can't find anything about who made the opal glass.  Could have been Tiffany, anything's possible, I think by 1913 Tiffany had forgotten  more about making art glass than anyone else in the world knew  at that time.

Anyone remember the old, classic, "Grand Central Station" radio show?  I'm sure David does!  But for the rest of us who are too young to remember old-time classic radio, here's the intro...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpCYr4eOXys 

And while listening, how many of you felt your imaginations kicking into overdrive?  See?  Old time radio still works!

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • 950 posts
Posted by NKP guy on Monday, August 19, 2019 6:07 PM

   If it's A Seth Thomas clock, why does the sign in the photo refer to it as a Ball clock?  Webb C. Ball of Cleveland and his famous clocks & railroad watches comes to mind.  Curious.

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 8,261 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, August 19, 2019 6:23 PM

NKP guy
If it's A Seth Thomas clock, why does the sign in the photo refer to it as a Ball clock?

Please don't tell me this is a question.

It's called a 'ball clock' because with its four curved faces on a pedestal it's round, like a ball.  Same with 'ball watches' (which are an actual thing, the round crystals magnifying the dial and hands on one side and the view of the movement on the other)

As far as I know, Ball did not make large repeater or tower clocks, as Howard did.  About the largest I have seen, from the jewelry side of his business, were carriage clocks (platform escapement) and I have yet to see one built to railroad standards, let alone with full cap jeweling. 

Reminds me a bit of a college roommate who was telling me of a stint 'riding the rods' during the summer -- he indignantly asked me, the railfan, why they labeled cars 'Hydra-Cushion' when they didn't seem to ride any more softly than other boxcars...

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • 950 posts
Posted by NKP guy on Monday, August 19, 2019 7:22 PM

   You horologists have a language all your own....

 

 

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 8,261 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, August 19, 2019 7:35 PM

NKP guy
You horologists have a language all your own....

It gets worse, too ... but fortunately, sometimes a good ball is just something to watch.

The story of Mr. Ball's self-confident foray into the world of actual high-precision timepieces is a bit amusing.  He started by decrying what he called 'smokestack jewels' on watches ... things like cap jewels on the gear-train arbors, or jewels on the mainspring barrel ... but wound up touting 23jewel specials right up with the 'best' of the watch-porn makers.  He was no manufacturer's bigot, either: he had nearly-identical-looking 21 and 23 jewel movements from Waltham, Illinois, and Hamilton (minutiae like the shape of the fixing stud at the end of the hairspring being the only way you can tell).

Interestingly enough, there were still highly accurate Balls made into the Swiss era, first as pocket watches and then as both hand and self-winding wristwatches.  I keep waiting for the current "Ball Watch Company" (which I believe is in Hong Kong) to make modern interpretations of actual Ball railroad watches ... but that isn't where the market seems to be.

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • 950 posts
Posted by NKP guy on Monday, August 19, 2019 8:44 PM

   A tour de force, Overmod!

   But the GCT clock still doesn't look like a ball clock to me.  Frankly, with four sides, it rather more resembles a dreidel, does it not?  

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 8,261 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, August 19, 2019 9:05 PM

NKP guy
Frankly, with four sides, it rather more resembles a dreidel, does it not?

You know, I think I agree.  It would need more 'bulge' to the crystal and perhaps the dials too to get closer to spherical.  I should probably note that before Mike found that picture I had no ideal the thing was formally called the 'Ball Clock.'

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,943 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 12:25 AM

Returning to the signs (with much appreciation for the clock discussion and picture), note that the type face used is identical to that used for the ticket office signs directly below.  So, yes, MN did know what they were doing with the new signs, and they are a drastic improvement over the old, including reasons stated already for objections --- actually regarding the old signs.

Yes, the radio station show was Grand Central Station.

But Grand Central Station is either a 5-route subway station, all A Division or old IRT, even if the 7 has been maintained as part of the B Division since 1942, and a Post Office.   The clock and signs are in Grand Central Terminal, not Grand Central Station.

  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 11,457 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 6:44 AM

I beleive that Grand Central Station is also a Postal Service branch office.

Also, in other places it may be called the "el", but in Chicago it's the "L", even when it's in a median strip or underground.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    January, 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 1,904 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 9:46 AM

NKP guy

   You horologists have a language all your own....

 

 

 

I collected pocket watches for a while, but never lucked into a Hamilton railroad watch, "The Watch Of Railroad Accuracy" as the old ads said.

did  luck into one of these Hamiltons at a gun / militaria show around 1980 or so.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhWaCjvI2kQ  

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 8,261 posts
Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 10:37 AM

Flintlock76
I did  luck into one of these Hamiltons at a gun / militaria show around 1980 or so.

You should be aware that this is a full Hamilton railroad watch under that fancy Zulu dial.  Here's some of the background:

In the 1890s, Hamilton (as part of its line of world-class accurate watches produced in Lancaster, PA) introduced a 16s (pronounced 'sixteen-size'; Lancashire gauge) family of railroad-grade movements.  Hamilton movements each had a three-digit number (initially all beginning with "9" for pocket watches) that identified them, and the most cost-effective full railroad watch model was the 21j 992, which became almost the default 'standard' quality railroad watch for normal railroaders.  This was manufactured with a variety of damaskeen patterns, and the appearance was modernized through the 1930s by going to straight-line Geneva striping.

Following the work on the truly excellent Model 21 ship chronometer movement, Hamilton redesigned the 992 (and more expensive 23j model 950) with all the wonders of manufacturing and metallurgy used there.  This produced the model 992B, which isn't as pretty, but is a whole lot more robust, accurate, and convenient to work on -- it's as much the 'standard movement' for the '40s and after as the 992E (Elinvar hairspring, a topic by itself) was immediately before.

One of the immediate products of WWII was a version of the 992 optimized for military use, with a sweep second hand in place of the usual little subdial at 6:00.  This was done by putting a special hollow pinion in for the minute hand, with the second-hand arbor driven by gearing on the back side of the movement from the same gear that would normally drive the small second hand.  This was given special number 4992B (note there were other subseries like 2974 comparing watches for Navy service) and one amusing thing you find if you follow Hamiltons on eBay is that many 4992s were converted back to 'standard' after the war to be sold or used as regular watches -- regular full railroad-approved watches -- after the back conversion.

Now, your 4992B is special because it's a Master Navigation Watch -- but you have a bit of a problem.  The difference between a Master and a regular navigation watch is that 24-hour 'observatory' dial: there's no physical difference in the accuracy or most of the construction of the movement; it's just that the gears under the dial between the minute and hour hands are revised in ratio by 2:1 so the hour hand that formerly revolved once in 12 hours now does so in 24.

Where the 'catch' comes in is that there would be one Master Navigation Watch on the aircraft (corresponding to a ship's chronometer) which would be used to 'hack' or set the other watches on the aircraft, including the 'regular' navigation 4992s that had 12-hour dials.  Because it was the critical time reference, it was always kept in a special padded box, suspended by springs, and was probably kept in as close to stable dial-up position all the time as possible.  For proper display you need to find, or at least 'gin up, one of these boxes and keep yours inside.

Hamilton was not the only company that made these.  One of my most prized possessions is one that is an Elgin 21j B.W.Raymond, another storied 'railroad' watch name (in this case by the Elgin company).  It uses the same pattern dial and looks just the same, probably to conform to the same military standard (which on mine was etched on the back of the case, and I suspect yours is too.)

I'm tempted to note that if you have one of these, you need to browse the Bay and find you a good Model 23 chronograph to keep it company.  And while you're at it, a good A-8 jitterbug Elgin timer for your bombardier...

  • Member since
    January, 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 1,904 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 11:46 AM

That's OK, I'd settle for a B-17 or a B-25, or maybe a PBY as an accessory for the watch!

Thanks for all that great information!  I did find a 1943 Hamilton Watch ad in a National Geographic of the same year showing the watch in the hand of a young Air Force navigator and with the caption "Beautiful Jimmy, we're right on top of it!" but had no idea of the full history. 

I copied the ad and keep it in a box with the watch.  And I do un-box the watch and use it every once in a while. 

And yes, the army/navy milspec info is on the back of the watch. 

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,943 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Friday, August 23, 2019 5:47 AM

Gates on the Lower Level display general departure information until used for specific trains at their platforms.

 
 
     
 

 
 

 
 

 

  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 11,457 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Friday, August 23, 2019 6:45 AM

Chicago Union Station follows the usual practice of separate monitors for departure information with the gates showing specific train information only.  However, if there has been a track change, the gate for the usual departure track will also indicate that the regular departure is now on Track XX.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,943 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, August 28, 2019 12:46 PM

Randy Glucksnab photos of two departire gates on the Lower Level

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 8,261 posts
Posted by Overmod on Thursday, August 29, 2019 9:17 AM

Does Randy have one for Gate 117 when a train was scheduled to depart from it?  

That damn Helvetica is the WRONG solution.  And I see they still have the silly gradient fill making the Hudson Line-heading bar difficult to read, and you can't tell me there's any orange in that fuchsia New Haven listing.

I might add that the shiny display is NOT helpful in making the display legible; is it that much of a maintenance issue not to have an antiglare finish?

Note the ex-cutting-edge technology represented by that upper sign.  I happen to love those green plasma-tube displays, whether or not they're clear to read, and once again we see the dot-matrix replacements for flap or roll displays (and how readable they are by contrast with the 'new' setup)

  • Member since
    December, 2007
  • From: Georgia USA SW of Atlanta
  • 9,347 posts
Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, August 31, 2019 8:02 PM

It is still years away but wonder if LIRR trains track numbers will be in the 200s ?

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,943 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, September 01, 2019 4:58 AM

If 117 announces a specific train departure, it would look like that at 111, also new, not old.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy