Historical Map: The Burlington Route (Chicago to San Francisco), 1879
Here’s a beautiful map from the glory days of American railroading, showing the route from Chicago to San Francisco via Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California. Amtrak’s modern-day California Zephyr still calls at many of the same locations between Chicago and Omaha to the east and from Elko to Oakland in the west, but takes a different route through the middle, using Colorado instead of Wyoming.
Although presented as one continuous route, the journey is actually made up of smaller sections owned by multiple railroad companies: the section from Chicago to Omaha is the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, then Union Pacific to Sacramento and the Western Pacific the rest of the way. Many other railroads have track that connects to and branches off this main trunk route — Southern Pacific, Central Pacific, Utah Central & Southern, Utah & Northern, Central Railroad of Iowa… the list seems endless!
The map itself is packed full of information: the population of towns, connecting rail and stagecoach services, the distance from either Chicago or San Francisco, the elevation of the railroad (cleverly shown as a green profile line below the map), and even the terrain type and major industries and land uses along the way — “heavy timber”, “gold and silver mines”, “elegant farms”, etc. Poor Stockton, CA is noted for its “insane asylum” (see detail image above). As the blurb at the bottom of the map proclaims, “Armed with this Guide, the passenger needs no further information.”
About the only thing that lets this map down is the low quality printing. There’s a lot of poorly registered colours, which slightly spoil the flamboyant and stylish look of the map. The design certainly asks a lot of a late-19th century (pre-offset lithography) printing press!
Our rating: A superb piece of American railroading ephemera, only slightly spoiled by poor printing. Four-and-a-half stars!
(Source: The Big Map Blog)
Submission — Unofficial Historical Map: Los Angeles Pacific Electric Railway Diagram, 1917
Drawn and submitted by Sam Huddy, who says:
Pacific Electric: Challenge Accepted!
When I read your disappointment on the uselessness of that beautiful map of the Pacific Electric at its peak in 1917 (not 1920), I wondered if it was possible to create a simplified London Underground-style map. With over a hundred routes it seemed impossible, but after several attempts, this was my end result. Any further information is on the map itself.
Transit Maps says:
Basically, this is incredible. An absolute model of simplicity and clarity of information, and it’s all drawn by hand onto some graph paper!
Breaking the multitude of routes up simply by their final downtown destination — either 6th and Main or 4th and Hill — works very well, and the “local services” insets are perfect for a map of this colossal scale: local route information can be easily found by those who need it, but those routes don’t clog the main map up with tiny detail, either. Perhaps the location of the inset boxes could be called out on the main map to aid those unfamiliar with the area, but that’s a very minor quibble.
As an added bonus, Sam has even dated the original map more precisely than any other source that I’ve seen. “Circa 1920” is now definitively dated to 1917, because his research found that some of the shuttle lines shown on this map and the original were abandoned after then.
Our rating: I feel like I could take this sketch and turn it into final computer-generated artwork in less than a day, it’s that good. Astounding work! Four-and-a-half stars!
(Source: Sam Huddy — Check the map out BIG on Flickr to see all the details!)
Unofficial Map: Boston MBTA Commuter Rail Time-Scale Map
We’ve previously featured Stonebrown Design’s time-scale Boston Subway Map (Aug. 2012, 3.5 stars) — now they’ve produced a map for Boston’s extensive commuter rail network along the same lines.
To my mind, this map is even more successful for a couple of reasons: firstly, the time rings are completely concentric, which makes the map easier to read and looks more aesthetically pleasing. It’s interesting to see how fare zones don’t necessarily correspond to the amount of time it takes to get to central Boston.
Secondly, the addition of service frequency to this map (simply put: the thicker the line, the more trains per day) is quite fascinating and is handled very deftly. The legend regarding this is perhaps a little confusing, but all you have to remember is that a station dot that is smaller than the line is wide indicates that not all trains that pass the station stop there. The sheer number of trains that funnel through Back Bay station is quite astounding.
Our rating: Building and improving upon previous work, this is a fantastic piece of work. 4.5 stars.
(Source: Stonebrown Design)
Unofficial Map: Metro-North Railroad, New York by Robert O’Connell
Transit maps on Wikipedia can be a bit of a mixed bag. Anyone can contribute, so the quality can range from mediocre to awesome. However, Robert McConnell —also known as “the Port of Authority” — consistently produces some fantastic work. We’ve previously featured his Boston MBTA Commuter Rail map (October 2011, 5 stars), and here’s another fantastic piece.
We’ve also featured unofficial maps that show all commuter and regional rail out of New York before (Carter Green, Oct. 2012, 4.5 stars and Jake Berman, Oct. 2012, 4 stars), so it’s nice to see a map that concentrates solely on one “brand” of commuter rail, and does such a good job of it.
The map definitely wears its influences on its sleeve — the beige background, tightly-spaced Helvetica, and the severe angular diagrammatic form of the map itself are all highly reminiscent of Massimo Vignelli’s 1970s New York Subway map — but it’s still excellently executed. The addition of curves instead of sharp angles where the tracks change direction help to soften the angularity and provide a nice flow to the routes.
Some nice lateral thought has gone into this as well: almost uniquely, Robert has angled Manhattan Island at 45 degrees to the right of vertical, which works very nicely in simplifying the routes to the north and east.
He also neatly shows Harlem and New Haven line game day services to Yankee Stadium, and the (NJ Transit) Meadowlands shuttle, but curiously omits the New Haven Line “Train to the Game” Meadowlands game day service which runs from New Haven to Seacaucus Junction via Penn Station.
Overall, quite beautifully done. 4.5 stars.
Unofficial Map: Frequent Transport of Wellington, NZ
Submitted and created by Brent Palmer.
This is one I conjured up this weekend, dealing with Wellington, NZ. Only four local bus routes (and the Airport Flyer) turned out to meet any half-reasonable “frequent service” criteria.
Transit Maps says: A gorgeous looking map from long-time follower, Brent Palmer, that unfortunately serves to highlight the paucity of frequent transit services in New Zealand’s capital. Another striking dark background, and some unusual but highly effective colours for the routes themselves. Brent makes good use of the extra space afforded by the lack of routes, with nice big numbers for the routes, clear type, and a very handy inset diagram of commuter rail services. Top notch work indeed. Four-and-a-half stars!
Unofficial Map: New York Regional Rail by Carter Green
To say I’m excited to share this map with you would be an understatement.
In August, I was contacted by Carter Green, a high school student who had been inspired by my maps (especially my map of French TGV routes) and had created his own of regional rail services in and around New York City. He asked whether I would mind taking a look at it, which I did. Immediately, I was impressed with the amazing quality of the cartography, but had a few suggestions which I thought Carter could implement. He took my ideas on board, and has now got back to me with the final version - and it’s beautiful.
Have we been there? My only experience with regional rail in the New York area is a NJ Transit train from Newark Airport to Penn Station.
What we like: A nicely unified design - the whole map gives off an elegant Art Deco feel (very appropriate for New York!), courtesy of the distinctive Neutraface type family and some nice little flourishes in arrowheads and the map’s north pointer.
The use of increasingly large circles for hub stations is something that could have looked terrible, but I think Carter has actually pulled it off very well - your eye is definitely drawn to them, and it quickly gives an idea of a station’s importance.
I absolutely adore the circular treatment of routes around Philadelphia, which is new to this version of the map.
Neat integration of New York Subway interchanges.
I wish I’d thought of Carter’s solution for stations where not every train stops - white dots linked by connecting lines, as seen on the red Metro-North routes into Connecticut.
What we don’t like: Some minor, minor things. The symbols for connecting services that aren’t the Subway aren’t as effective (just three-letter abbreviations and teeny tiny airport symbols for the AirTrain services).
The curves where a route line has to “step down” to remain next to other routes on the same corridor (on the Metro-North Waterbury branch, for example) could be smoother to fit better with the graceful curves seen throughout the rest of the map.
A couple of errors that can easily be fixed: the LIRR Belmont seasonal service is shown in the legend, but not its parent Greenport branch. “AirTrain” is misspelled as “AirTran” in the legend.
Our rating: Incredibly impressive work that shows a very complex network of services from many different agencies and makes it visually compelling and informative. Did I mention Carter is still in high school? Four-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Email correspondence with Carter Green)
Unofficial Map: Transportation of Walt Disney World Resort, Florida
Here’s a seriously impressive piece of work by Arthur de Wolf that I came across while trawling Flickr. This map shows transportation options at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida - monorail, bus, water transportation, parking lot trams, even walking routes between transportation hubs. Walt Disney World Resort is the size of a small city and has a transportation system that puts many of them to shame. Bringing order and sense to this system is no easy feat, and I think that Arthur has done a fantastic-looking job (although I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the map’s contents).
Have we been there? No. Maybe when my son is old enough to appreciate it.
What we like: Beautifully executed map that obviously has a lot of research and thought behind it (despite Arthur’s statements regarding potential errors). Takes a system that’s as complex as many large cities, and creates order and simplicity out of it. The Mickey Mouse/London Underground Roundel mashup in the top right corner is hilarious.
What we don’t like: Could use a little more visual differentiation between the monorail and bus services. The “M” at stations is a little hard to find when you’re first scanning the map. Map is maybe a little too sterile for what is an enormous theme park.
Our rating: Fantastic work that shows a complex system with remarkable clarity. Four-and-a-half-stars! Be sure to click through to the image on Flickr where you can view it large!
Historical Map: British Rail Greater London Network, 1965
Here’s a fantastic map out of England in the mid-60s, showing British Rail service in the Greater London area. It’s almost staggering to think that a map this well drawn was created without the use of computers. I definitely recommend clicking through to the large image on Flickr to savour all the beautiful, crisp linework: this map is technically excellent.
Have we been there? Yes, and I’ve used many of the great London terminus stations, especially Victoria.
What we like: Fantastic mid-century design work. There’s an amazing consistency in design throughout, which makes the map flow beautifully. The icons for Underground connections (a red roundel) and station parking (a small blue square) are simple and understated, yet easily understood. Peak hour routes are grey, and local train services are thinner black lines, giving nice hierarchy to the information shown. Final destination information for each of the routes is nicely integrated around the edges of the map.
What we don’t like: The thin black tick mark used for stations has the unfortunate looking (although strangely appropriate) effect of making the route lines look like railway tracks. The dashed routes make the map look a little busy, especially towards the southwest, where there’s a huge profusion of blue-and-white routes out of Waterloo station.
Our rating: Superb example of great transit map design from the UK in the ’60s. Four-and-a-half stars.
Official Map: Maryland Transit Administration Regional Transit Map
Here’s a large-format multi-modal map from the Maryland Transit Authority, centered on Baltimore. Contrast it against this previously reviewed map of similar scope from the Los Angeles Metro, and it can be seen that the MTA map has got a far better balance of design and usability, and is actually a quite superb and comprehensive map.
Have we been there? No.
What we like: Incredibly legible for such a dense map. It shows light rail, Metro, commuter rail (MARC services) and varying levels of bus service from multiple transit agencies, all overlaid on a nicely stylised street grid. Unlike the LA map, colors are used effectively to differentiate bus routes, meaning the routes themselves are much easier to follow. Bus route termini are also clearly marked, which helps immensely.
What we don’t like: CMRT Transit seems to get short-changed, with all nine of its routes sharing the same magenta colour, making the south-west corner of the map very pink, and those routes harder to make sense of.
Our rating: Shows how important the use of colour is to help people differentate between different routes of a similar service, especially in densely served areas. The palette used is fairly limited, but is used judiciously. Not a map for casual use, but provides a comprehensive and visually appealing guide to services in and around Baltimore. Four-and-a-half stars.
(Source: MTA website)
Historical Map: East Berlin U-Bahn and S-Bahn, date unknown
As a direct contrast to my previous post, here’s the East Berlin perspective of transit in that divided city.
West Berlin has almost been entirely excised from the map: a small, empty, featureless area totally encircled by extensive East German rail lines as well as the Berlin Wall: here referred to as the “state border”. A powerful statement of East German superiority if there ever was one.
Have we been there? Yes.
What we like: As before, the historical and political snapshot of a map like this is astounding.
What we don’t like: Not actually hugely useful as a route map - all the S-Bahn tracks are the same shade of neon green, making it impossible to tell where trains begin and end their journey. Eye-jarring colours: I think there’s actually two different neon greens, but it’s very difficult to tell!
Our rating: Mapping as propaganda. An amazing piece of history. Four-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Frank Jacobs’ awesome Strange Maps blog - check it out for more mappy goodness!)