Those Mechanical Displays In Airports

You know those big boards that display flights, times, etc.? They are made of rotating segments, which are electrically driven…anybody know who makes these displays? I’d like to use them to make a clok.

Like this?

Most of the ones I have seen for several years have been LCD or LED or otherwise electronic rather than mechanical.

You might contact Infax to see whether they or anyone they know are still buiding mechanical devices. (Or, if you can remember an actual airport where you saw a mechanical display, call their maintenance department and ask who their supplier might be.)

(Or you could look at this site for a virtual mechanical display on your computer. :wink: )

I believe that Boston’s South Station (Amtrak) still has one. I seem to remember the Amtrak station in Philadelphia having one too. Maybe train stations would be a better place to look, because airports tend to have too many gates and destinations.

That would be correct. 30th Street Station has a large mechanical display for train arrivals and departures. The Trenton station for Amtrak, SEPTA and NJTransit has one too, but it’s smaller than 30th Street’s.

30th Street Station is the only place I’ve ever personally seen one of those in the US. The first time I ran into one of those at all was in the Frankfurt airport.

There used to be old electric clocks for home based on the same principle and you can still see them ocassionally in the Goodwill stores. It is a fairly simple design, sort of similar to a rollodex.

The flip-disk display boards at my old job (Chicago Mercantile Exchage) were manufactured by a Canadian company called Ferranti Packard. They had a huge chunk of the display market. It is left as an exersize for the reader to find out if they are still in business.

I, too, was first exposed to them at the Frankfurt Airport in 1975. They were still in use there when I visited again in 2002. I love them. All that clapping noise as they update and people stare at the marvel of it all. In fact, I found Germany in 2002 rather shunning the digital age at transportation centers. Train station platforms were still using a rolling sheet of plastipaper with destinations and departure times rolled to the appropriate information much like a Greyhound bus. Is it budget constraints or something in the German psyche? No disrespect meant to Germany. Technology-wise they must be in the top 5. Many tech systems in place there that I wish we had in good ole USA. High speed trains, credit card swipe telephones for a call anywhere on the planet, the SMART car, an nary a Walmart to be seen. Ich vermisse Deutschland so.

One of them featured prominently in the movie Groundhog Day.

As noted above there are a lot of mechanical-type indicators to be found in Germany, in rail stations as well as in airports, and I have noticed that when I saw a new multiplatform-type display in a German train station those last years it has invariably been of the mechanical flap-type. They experimented with CRTs in the 80s but text readability was dismal.

It seems that this mechanical type of display can be pretty reliable. On large displays in railway station, with say the next 20 departures shown, I only rarely see an error (e.g. STUTTGARS instead of STUTTGART), and that disappears when the display is updated next.

I can only speculate that the advantage in readability and the possibility to include service-type logos and often needed texts (‘2nd class only’, ‘Delayed by ca. 10 minutes’) can outweigh the more onerous maintenance requirement.

Newly platform indicators are mostly also of the flap type, with frequent destinations and routes printed on large flaps. Much more readable than a pixel display of the same size IMO.

The rolling-sheet indicators seem to be replaced mostly with flap-type indicators (on train platforms) and mechanical pixel displays (on buses).

They still exist in French train stations (well, Gare Montparnasse in Paris, anyway). It’s been awhile since I was at Penn Station in NYC, but I remember them there.

I used to have an alarm clock with flapper wheels like that, too, but they’ve been gone from the stores for quite a long time.