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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Philly Solari board may stay put afterall NEWSWIRE

Philly Solari board may stay put afterall NEWSWIRE

By Wayne Laepple | December 13, 2018

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PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia congressman may have persuaded Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson to keep the iconic Solari train annunciator board in place at 30th Street Station, according to reports in local media. It had been reported that the device would be retired and donated to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

Rep. Brendan Boyle said he had discussed the sign with Anderson during a phone call earlier this week. Boyle said Anderson told him the donation to the museum “wasn’t a done deal.” Boyle’s call to Anderson may have been influenced by an on-line petition to keep the sign in place that received more than 1600 signatures.

According to Boyle, Anderson was receptive to keeping the sign at 30th Street and even suggested it could be refurbished for continued use or replaced by a newer version that would be compatible with Amtrak’s computer system. The current machine, installed in the 1970s requires obsolete Windows 95 technology to operate.

Boyle said that in spite of Amtrak’s November announcement that the Solari board would be replaced in January 2019, it has not yet released bid documents for a new digital. If that’s true, he said, perhaps the specifications could be revised to allow for flip-board manufacturers to bid.

A news release last month said the retired Solari board had been promised to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania at Strasburg. The museum is currently in the midst of a $4.5 million upgrade of its exhibits, and the Solari board was to be part of that upgrade.

4 thoughts on “Philly Solari board may stay put afterall NEWSWIRE

  1. I don’t believe the comment “It requires obsolete Windows 95 technology to operate”, though of course I could be talking out my fundamental orifice. What I do believe is that it (likely) has an RS-232 port and of course modern machines rarely if ever come with serial ports installed.

    On that assumption, you can, for about twenty dollars, buy an add-on combo card with RS-232 and parallel, but then you need the driver (comes with the card) and a GUI based programming package with serial capabilities – such as the National Instruments CVI compiler. This compiler, by the way, works quite nicely under Windows 10.

    Then you need two more things. The first thing is geek-of-the-week who likes trains and is up for either a nice challenge or some pocket money; and (and much more important and probably the real reason it won’t happen) the political will inside AMTRAK to allow someone like geek-of-the-week to do the job.

    I would be willing to bet that the geek could pull it off for under ten thousand dollars – it shouldn’t be that difficult to do, and I say this having had considerable experience with this sort of thing. But to a corporate mentality (and I also have considerable experience dealing with the corporate mentality on such things) if they can’t put it out for three competitive bids at a quarter mil apiece then they just don’t know what to do.

    It would be really nice if it were something like a 19.2 8n1 serial link with modbus. I could (assuming I had nothing else to do) probably whip that out in a couple of weeks. If the protocol is proprietary I would have to write a driver but that actually isn’t that hard.

    But don’t expect it without a lot of screaming and yelling about how hard it is.

    The above comments are general in nature and do not form the basis for an attorney/client relationship. They do not constitute legal advice. I am not your attorney. Find your own damn lawyer.

  2. Along with Annas comment if they are concerned with security on a Windows 95 machine couldn’t they use a VM environment or Windows Embedded to run the controller?

  3. The overriding specification is IEEE Std. 1012-2012 “IEEE Standard for System and Software Verification and Validation”, but where you start, if you really want to be formal about such things, is with IEEE Std 830-1998 “Software Requirements Specification”.

    They can get hidebound in two places here. They can overdesign the SRS (function creep always seems to happen), or they can overspecify the integrity level (see page 23 of IEEE Std. 1012-2004). But if they are halfway sane about either it is still not too difficult to do this sort of thing. Not for a half-decent geek.

    The above comments are general in nature and do not form the basis for an attorney/client relationship. They do not constitute legal advice. I am not your attorney. Find your own damn lawyer.

  4. Add my name, Congressman Boyle. When I come to Philly by Amtrak of course. One of the first things I do is take pictures of the Solari

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