ORLANDO — In what Brightline is billing as a “rendering reveal video,” the company snappily mixes images of its now-under construction station in Terminal C at Orlando International Airport with video photography of current operations both onboard and at its MiamiCentral terminal.
The interior build-out was just beginning last February when Trains News Wire visited the facility. Station trackwork and platforms had been completed in 2021, and the 125-mph route from a junction with Florida East Coast’s north-south main line will soon be hosting test trains [see “Brightline update: PTC plans outlined for 125-mph operation,” News Wire Jan. 3, 2023]. Revenue service won’t begin until extensive Federal Railroad Administration testing requirements are met; Brightline will only say that it expects that long list will be checked off in 2023.
The 37,500 square-foot station is an integral part of an 80,000 square-foot complex at the south end of the airport with gates for Jet Blue and foreign carriers, food and gift shop concessions, and Parking Deck C, which will have 350 spaces reserved for rail travelers.
Part of Brightline’s upstairs welcoming area will feature the Mary Mary Bar, serving “craft cocktails and lite bites,” which overlooks arriving and departing trains on the platforms below.
The setup harks back to the windowed waiting room on the second floor of Chicago’s Dearborn Station, where passengers could watch over Santa Fe, Wabash, Chicago & Eastern Illinois, and Erie Lackawanna trains loading and unloading below. Trains exited after Amtrak entered the picture in 1971, but the building still stands.
Another nod to the past will be what the company’s press release characterizes as a “flip-flap message board that can rotate alphanumeric text and/or graphics (to) provide updated train schedules, boarding times, news of the day and other announcements complete with the flip-flap sound reminiscent of the first passenger train stations in America.”
Veteran rail travelers know these as Solari departure boards, named after their Italian manufacturer, which Amtrak has been decommissioning around the country for more than a decade. Philadelphia’s William H. Gray III 30th Street Station and New York’s Penn Station were the last major stations to lose the “flappers” several years ago.
The boards pictured over the Mary Mary Bar are narrow versions tucked under a video screen. One of their unsung advantages, as passengers anxiously waiting for tracks to be posted know, is that the sound means new departure information is available. That will get the attention of preoccupied bar patrons, who might otherwise miss their train to West Palm Beach or Miami.
7 thoughts on “Brightline unveils “first look” of its Orlando Airport station interior”
There is so much to like about this article. The Solari boards are pretty neat, although I don’t recall them at the Milwaukee depots of my youth. Windowed waiting rooms are great. The idea of being able to watch the action from the waiting room is an idea that needs to used more in future stations. And a snack bar right there as well. Lots of good thinking here.
There is nothing wrong with bringing back some of the good things about train stations of yesteryear. Too much of railroading today is sterile and impersonal.
Train-watching at the depot is how many railfans get started as youngsters. Keep in mind that future rail industry jobs may well be filled by today’s youngsters who get introduced to the industry by childhood train-watching. In my family, it was a great father-and-son activity that left lasting good memories. Smaller town C&NW depots were fun, but visiting Milwaukee and seeing the MILW passenger trains as well was a special treat.
I remember the live announcements from the gateman and ticket clerks. At the 1965 Union depot, these included “heads-up” announcements for platform staff such as “No. 58 is by Grand Avenue” or “No. 209 by Washington Street.” The passengers seated in the waiting room usually took their cue from these announcements and were often arriving at the gate as the actual boarding announcement was made.
Keep up the good work, Brightline.
One advantage of Solari boards is that the noise of the flapping display alerts passengers to the fact that something has changed. Love them. Even in places where the railroad does not want to spend the money to build and maintain one, they can make digital displays with sound that look and sound like Solari boards.
Bob, you surely realize that you omitted GTW and Monon in your list of railroads that used Chicago’s Dearborn Station.
There’s an article in Wikipedia about how the things work. I never had them figured out. I’m with J Robert, I loved them!
The layout of the tracks and platforms beneath the shed is very similar to the southeast view of the tracks and platforms from the concourse at the main floor above beneath the shed at Union Station in Nashville. The major differences in Nashville were the tracks curving from the left on the approach with stub tracks forming between the paired through tracks running either side of the head house.
Who ever thought that railroad preservation efforts would ever include active Solari boards. Nice touch.
Yea! Solari departure boards live. So many memories of watching them.