Grand Central’s Retro-Style ‘Big Board’ Being Replaced with High-Tech Departure Display

By Anna Breuer on 30 April 2019
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Big Board at Grand Central Terminal

Big Board at Grand Central Terminal

Installation of a new departures board as well as gate information displays is underway at Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

The new primary departure display, colloquially known as the “big board” and located on the south side of the concourse directly atop the ticket windows, replaces a board that, despite its retro appearance, is only two decades old. The board displays a train’s destination, departure time, and status messages such as boarding.

The updated signage is part of a $124million Metropolitan Transportation Authority capital project that is updating signage along the Metro-North train lines.

When the terminal first opened in 1913, train arrival and departure information was hand-chalked on a blackboard.  This was replaced in 1967 by a Solari flip-panel board whose panels made a distinctive flapping sound as information was updated.

Grand Central Terminal is the world’s largest train station based on the number of platforms.  Once known as the “Gateway to a Continent,” it is spread over 48 acres (19.5 hectares), and replaced Grand Central Station, although, one hundred years later, people still call the new structure by that name, which is shared by the nearby U.S. Post Office facility.  It is one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions, drawing over 21 million visitors per year, and features numerous restaurants, food shops, and retail establishments.

The terminal is largely used by commuters on New York City’s Metro-North Railroad, which carries passengers to and from the city’s northern suburbs going as far as New Haven, Connecticut, and Wassaic in Dutchess County, New York.  The MTA is currently constructing an extension of the Long Island Rail Road’s Main Line to Grand Central, a project that, while it is 15 years behind schedule, is currently slated to open in 2022.

The restoration of Grand Central Terminal, which had deteriorated greatly by the time Amtrak moved its long-distance service to Penn Station, began in 1995 and was completed in 1998.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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