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Reviving ‘the sound of the station’ | Morning Newsletter

And mysterious Schuylkill Notes

Gif of split-flap board made by Oat Foundry in Philadelphia.
Gif of split-flap board made by Oat Foundry in Philadelphia.Read moreLauren Schneiderman

    The Morning Newsletter

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It’s Sunday. Some snow might still be blowing around with the wind, but it’s sunny with a high near 29.

Oat Foundry, a Philadelphia-founded company, has made split-flap boards for Netflix and Starbucks. But a decade into the business, its CEO’s biggest hope is homegrown: rebuilding the beloved split-flap board at 30th Street Station.

Our lead story looks into how they make the boards and hope to revive the station’s signature sound.

— Paola Pérez (@pdesiperez,

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The iconic clickety-clack sound of the flip board that used to herald train arrivals, departures, and delays at William H. Gray III 30th Street Station has been absent since 2019. A former 30th Street manager called it “the sound of the station.”

Philadelphians mourned the loss of a beloved piece of history when the 1970s-era electromechanical board was replaced with a digital display.

Mark Kuhn, CEO of Oat Foundry, thinks Philadelphia can do better, though.

His company, dedicated to innovative ideas and known for making split-flap boards like the one removed from the train station, has produced hundreds of boards that can be found at different places in Philly and around the world.

These days, they’re trying to figure out what makes a button satisfying to press, and how to make the satisfying “click” sound happen at the right moment. “That’s a detail that really matters for something like this,” Kuhn said.

Watch how Oat Foundry assembles its split-flap boards and learn how it hopes to bring one back to 30th Street Station.

Authorities including the FBI are aware that they exist. But no one knows who’s actually planting them.

Someone has been illegally tucking neatly folded notes inside cereal boxes or pinning them to pine trees in state and local parks in rural Pennsylvania.

They’ve been dubbed the “Schuylkill Notes” by amateur web sleuths because many were initially found in Schuylkill and surrounding counties. There’s an entire Reddit subforum, r/schuylkillnotes, dedicated to decoding the bizarre messages.

Their contents are mostly indecipherable. They’re full of run-on sentences with coded language about secret societies, sci-fi movies, and names of powerful people like “Bill Gates.”

Something similarly strange happened in Philly in the 1990s and 2000s. There were Toynbee tiles found embedded into city streets with messages about Jupiter and famed movie director Stanley Kubrick.

But the Schuylkill Notes feel darker with mentions of hate groups, international conflicts, and often have misspelled words and out-of-place apostrophes.

Read on for what’s inside the conspiracy-laden notes and what officials are asking the public to do if they find one.

What you should know today

  1. Schools were closed across the region Friday. But whether you were free to go sledding or had to do virtual assignments depended on where you live.

  2. A man died early Saturday morning after running a red light and crashing his car into a SEPTA bus at Frankford and Allegheny Avenues in Kensington, police said.

  3. Delays and cancellations are still present at Philadelphia International Airport, but it’s not as bad as Friday.

  4. Philadelphia police on Friday identified the man who was fatally shot by SWAT officers during a standoff near Roosevelt Boulevard earlier this week as 73-year-old Lawrence Packard of Jenkintown.

  5. Three would-be shoplifters left a 3-month-old baby at a Walmart in Northeast Philadelphia Thursday night after security interrupted the theft and the group fled the store without the child, police said.

  6. A 33-year-old man who authorities say stabbed a man in the back multiple times in the 15th Street SEPTA subway station Thursday morning has been charged with aggravated assault and related crimes.

  7. The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office faces a federal lawsuit after raiding a home in search of Travys Taylor, who had been dead for months.

  8. Federal authorities accused the deputy mayor of Willingboro Township with lying to banks and setting up a phony short sale of his home — the latest in a series of scandals to plague the Burlington County municipality’s fractious local government.

❓Pop quiz

It’s been awhile since Philadelphia has seen an all-time biggest snowstorm.

What year did a massive winter storm drop nearly 31 inches of snow on Philly over a two-day period?

A) 1899

B) 1915

C) 1996

D) 2003

Think you know? Check your answer.

🧩 Unscramble the anagram

Hint: Timeless, terrifying, and written and directed by a Chester County resident 👻


Email us if you know the answer. We’ll select a reader at random to shout out here. Cheers to Stacy Stone who correctly guessed Friday’s answer: Tierra Whack. The hint was “Grammy-nominated rapper from North Philly.”

Photo of the day

🎶 For today’s Sunday track, we’re listening to: “I remember when you said to me / Only love could ever set you free / Now those words are coming back to me.”

👋🏽 That’s all for now. Thanks for starting your morning with The Inquirer, and have a great day.