Submission - Historical Map: Greater London British Rail Map, 1969
Submitted by Peter Marshall, who says:
I’m currently trying to design a clearer diagrammatic representation of the maddening tangle of railway lines and services in the South London area. Just doing my initial research into historical versions online, I turned up this interesting map. It appears to have been published in 1969 by British Rail, for what purpose, I am not absolutely certain. It seems far too sparse in detail to be a map intended for use by the general public, as it gives so little information about lines and services, however it appears to have been published alongside a timetable.
I think it’s interesting mainly because the first thing I imagine anyone planning to map the railways around London doing is completely abandoning topography, however, topography plays such an important part of this map. The use of the BR typeface and stripped down use of only 3 shades (background, river and line) of the same BR red is beautiful in its simplicity. The strange angularity of the river seems to serve to instruct the user that this is a diagram using topography as its basic principle, but prepared to deviate from it as necessary, such as in the exaggerated separation of Lewisham from the Lewisham bypassing curves, or the large junctions at Selhurst and Streatham.
Perhaps I’m over-familiar with the region and therefore find it easier to use than an ordinary member of the public, but I think this is a really interesting approach.
Transit Maps says:
I think Peter has inadvertently provided the answer to his own question when he says that this map was published along with the British Rail timetable book. This is what I like to call a “boast map” — it serves no other purpose than to say, "Look how large and extensive our network is! Why, you can get just about anywhere on British Rail!"
Of course, to work out how you can actually get there from here, you have to consult the timetables in the accompanying book, or go and talk to a British Rail booking agent.
The map itself serves its purpose well and is another great example of how to make a compelling map with a limited colour palette. The major London terminals are nicely emphasised, and the restrained London Underground roundels to indicate stations with Tube interchanges are rather wonderful.
BR certainly used diagrammatic maps of their Greater London network at the time for use by the general public, as this superb poster from 1965 shows.
Historical Map: “Explore the Yorkshire Coast” Poster, c. 1950s
Simply gorgeous mid-century poster designed for British Rail’s North Eastern Division by the prolific graphic artist, E. Lander. Yorkshire has never looked better, or so warm… look at all those people in bathing suits frolicking in the hot sun!
The simplified map suits the angular design of the underlying painted scene perfectly, a real synthesis of design and art coming together as a cohesive whole.
The section of line between Pickering and Whitby via Grosmont is today preserved as the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, with the beautiful station at Goathland the highlight. Depending on your age, you might recognise it from Simply Red’s video clip for “Holding Back the Years” in 1985, as Aidensfield station in the long-running British TV series Heatbeat, or even as Hogsmeade station from the Harry Potter movies.
Our rating: Simply stunning. They don’t make ‘em like this any more. 5 stars!
(Source: National Railway Museum/Flickr)
Historical Map: British Rail Network SouthEast, 1988
Network SouthEast was an operating division of British Rail that was formed in 1982 (although it was known as London & South Eastern until 1986). It was responsible for inter-city and commuter rail for the densely-populated south east of England, including London. Of course, beginning in 1994, Network SouthEast was privatised along with the rest of British Rail, leading to the convoluted network of private rail companies we see today.
But what we have here is a very handsome network map, which obviously owes a great deal to the London Underground map, but has enough of its own identity to stand alone. This is mainly achieved by the removal of the Underground’s distinctive Johnston Sans typeface, replaced with what looks like a condensed Helvetica or similar Gothic face.
The map is broken down into six regions, which are cleverly shown by only using three repeating colours (red, blue and grey): this prevents the map from looking too rainbow-like and gives it a more corporate feeling. A fourth colour — orange — is used to show the brand-new ThamesLink service running north-south through London.
The London region itself only shows main terminals and connecting stations: a more detailed map of this area is shown on the reverse of this map: this keeps the map clean and uncluttered.
About the only real problem I have with this map is the colour of the water, which is almost exactly the same as the blue type that is used to denote connecting ferry services and ports. For example, there’s a ferry to France from Newhaven Harbour, but it’s very difficult to make that out.
Our rating: An excellent example of mid-1980s map design (remember: this is still before computers entered the design field, so a map of this complexity was quite an undertaking). Four stars.
Following on from yesterday’s post, here’s an amazing resource for those of you interested in trains or 1960s corporate design. The Doublearrow website showcases almost the entire British Rail Corporate Identity Manual… not just its original 1965 release, but also additions and amendments released throughout the years, all the way up to 1985. This comprehensive document covers just about every aspect of the BR identity, from the symbol and typefaces through station signage, vehicle livery and staff uniforms. Definitely worth checking out!
British Rail Eastern In-Car Map
Lovely example of British Rail’s house style of the 1960s and 70s, now residing at the East Anglian Railway Museum. This map is from between 1965 (the introduction of the “double-arrow” British Rail identity), and 1978 (when the “Eastern” component of the logo changed from sitting in an outlined box to a solid box like the British Rail text). Can anyone date it more definitively?
(Source: Deptford Draylons/Flickr)
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.