Historical Map: Map of Glasgow Corporation Transport Services, c. 1934
A handsomely drawn map that does some sterling work with just three colours (a very modern combination of black, cyan and magenta!).
Of particular note is the clever way that a solid magenta line (bus service), can be combined with a dashed black line (trams) to indicate where both types of transportation share the same route without having to draw two separate lines. Interestingly, buses appear to have route numbers, while trams are designated by their final destination only.
Glasgow’s single circular subway line is shown in nicely contrasting cyan, as are neighbourhood labels and the River Clyde.
Proposed Map: Moscow Tram Network by nOne Digital & Branding Agency
Sent my way for comments by the agency, here’s a very slick proposal for a new map for Moscow’s tram network. As a westerner, I was only very dimly aware that Moscow even has a tram network (the Metro grabs the spotlight), but it’s actually the fourth most extensive such network in the world, with 181km of combined route length. The three larger networks are Berlin (190km), St. Petersburg (220km), and Melbourne, Australia (254km).
At first glance, the map looks a little spindly and hard to read, but the proposal makes it pretty clear that the full system map is meant to be printed BIG (see the second picture above), and will be supplemented by smaller, regional maps. The system is made up of two unconnected sub-networks, so this seems to make good sense.
With a staggering 48 routes to show, coming up with a colour palette that works is certainly a challenging task, but I think nOne has done a good job. They’ve basically run sequentially through the whole spectrum, but have cleverly modified the brightness of colours to provide the necessary contrast between adjacent routes. It does lead to some areas of the map taking on a more or less uniform colour — the second detail above is very pink/purple, for example — but the whole map passes the colour-blindness test surprisingly well, mainly because of that good contrast between adjacent routes.
Technically, the map is excellent, with smoothly drawn curves and consistently applied labels. There’s quite a few tight/unusual curves in the map, but they’re all handled very deftly, and the route lines flow really nicely from end to end. The treatment of terminus stops is lovely, with nice, big, easy to see route numbers and the direction of travel from that terminus indicated.
Interchanges with Metro stations are shown with both a bigger dot and the station’s name reversed out of the appropriate Metro Line colour. It might have been nice to also include the number of the Metro Line within the coloured box, just for that extra level of accessibility. Or would that cause confusion between Metro line numbers and tram line numbers? The decisions that designers have to make!
The Metro lines themselves are shown as a thinner line (lower down the information hierarchy), but I wonder if the map might be visually cleaner without them entirely: there’s a lot going on in this map! On such a schematic diagram, it might be enough to indicate where the tram routes interchange with the Metro without having to actually show the Metro’s path. Still, I can’t fault the technical execution!
Mention also of the proposed network logo, which is an even more stylised representation of the system combined with a bit of “heart” to make a distinctively colourful icon.
Our rating: More evidence that some of the best transit map design is coming out of Russia at the moment. Confident, technically excellent work that’s part of a larger, all-encompassing, rebranding proposal. Will be interested to see if this gets implemented. Four stars!
Historical Maps: Railroad Spiral Tunnels of the Gotthardbahn, 1914
In my previous post, I mentioned that the map of the Gotthardbahn showed the spiral tunnels that the track uses to quickly change elevation in areas with limited space. Here are some fantastic maps of those spirals, taken from a 1914 German encyclopaedia and found on Wikipedia.
The maps show the spirals from north to south, with the distance in kilometres from the northern end of the line clearly shown along the route. The Gotthard Tunnel lies between the first and second map. The spirals are superb examples of late 19th-century ingenuity and engineering skill, still in use on the line today. The double loop around Wassen is considered one of the most photogenic spots along the route, offering three different views of the town’s lovely church as the line loops around the town.
Historical Map: Gotthardbahn (Switzerland and Italy), 1898
Here’s a beautiful Art Nouveau railway poster promoting the Gotthardbahn that links northern Italy with Switzerland and points north through the famous Gotthard Tunnel. At the time of opening in 1882, the tunnel was the longest railway tunnel in the world at 15 kilometres (9.3 miles).
The map shows the then privately-operated Gotthardbahn and its branch routes in thick black lines (the Swiss Railways incorporated the line into its national network in 1907). The tunnel is indicated by a dashed section, while the railroad spirals that the trains needed to quickly gain or lose elevation when space was limited are also indicated, although certainly not to scale!
The importance of this route to opening up European trade and passenger travel cannot be underestimated, and is well represented by the beautiful allegorical woman, standing atop a winged wheel — a symbol often used by European railway companies of the time — seemingly welcoming travellers from Italy to Switzerland, Germany and France.
Our rating: I’m an absolute sucker for Art Nouveau posters, and one that adds a railway map to the mix is always a winner in my eyes! Four stars.
(Source: Strange Maps website)
Reflected Berlin U- and S-Bahn map. I like this photo a lot.
You are here.
Fantasy Map: Highways of the Netherlands Diagram by AS Veen
Inspired by (but not derivative of) my own Interstates as Subway Map, here’s a nice diagrammatic take on the “A-Road” highway network of the Netherlands. It’s a relatively simple system, so the one-colour approach used here works quite well. It also illustrates the European tendency for major highways to bypass or loop around a city, rather than putting an Interstate right through the middle of downtown, as so often happens here in the U.S.
Design-wise, the map is nice and clean and easy to follow: the longer highways have reassurance markers placed along their length to keep you on track. The urban areas are called out with a minimum of fuss, but help to give valuable context to the road network — however, maybe Maastricht could be included as the obvious “final” major destination of the A2 before it exits the country?
Another interesting excercise here — if up for a challenge! — might be to overlay the European E-Road network on these highways to give a broader pan-European context to the network as well. For example, the E-19 route starts in Amsterdam, follows the A4 through The Hague, onto the A13 and A20 past Rotterdam, before heading south on the A16 into Belgium. The other two-digit E-Roads in the Netherlands are the E-22, E-25, E-30, E-31, E-34 and the E-35.
Overall, this is a lovely effort that simplifies the highways of the Netherlands down to their simplest elements, and looks good while doing it.
Historical Map: Hamburg Hoch- und Untergrundbahn, c. 1912
A beautiful old map showing Hamburg’s Ringbahn and spur lines. I believe that this map is from no later than January 1912, and it may be from even earlier, as the legend denotes that all the routes shown in red (the beginnings of today’s U-Bahn system) are “intended for execution” — that is, planned or under construction, not actually built.
Construction of the Ringbahn began in 1906, and the first section between Rathaus and Barmbek stations was opened on February 15, 1912. The ring was completed by the end of June that year. The spur lines as shown on this map opened in stages between 1913 and 1915.
See also this amazing Hamburg train carriage ceiling map from 1915.
The Hamburg subway in 1912.
Official Map: Integrated Transit of Südtirol (Alto Adige), Italy
Sent my way by a reader known only as “mmmaps”, here’s a map of the transit system of the northern autonomous Italian province of Südtirol (South Tyrol in English, or Alto Adige in Italian). The system is mainly made up of buses (dark blue), but there’s also a backbone of rail services between the major cities (shown in light blue) and aerial cable-cars as well.
While the restrained colour palette (just blues and greys) looks quite nifty, the map’s usability is seriously hampered by this simplistic approach. Without coloured route lines, the map designers have had to denote separate routes by putting numbered boxes across each line to indicate where they go. And that makes actually using the map to work out how to get places a lot of really, really hard work.
For starters, the termini of routes aren’t indicated at all. A reader has to follow a desired route number along, checking at every bifurcation which way it goes (sometimes it goes more than one direction!). Eventually, there’s no more numbers to follow — so you have to assume that the service ended at the last town? Maybe. You have to work it out by yourself, hopefully with the aid of the individual route timetables and schedules that are available. However, this map gives a rotten overview of destinations, interchanges and routes for someone unfamiliar with the network. A user should always be able to trace any given route from one end to the other without having to make guesses!
If you think I’m being hard on the map, answer this simple question: which two cities does the 314 bus run between?
Our rating: Using a transit map really shouldn’t be this hard. One-and-a-half stars, and that’s because I like the Südtirol logo at the bottom left.
(Source: Official SII website)
Unofficial Map: Transit of Riga, Latvia by Viteks Bariševs
Transit Maps has been keeping an eye on this project for quite some time now: I reviewed an earlier version of this map way back in January 2012, noting that it held a lot of promise for the future.
At the time, Viteks was hopeful that he could get his map adopted as Riga’s official transit map. While that hasn’t quite happened yet, he’s definitely set himself up as an excellent alternative to the (pretty terrible) official maps. That’s right, the official website has to use three maps – one for each mode (bus, trolleybus, tram) – to show what Viteks has expertly put into one.
Having just had his map professionally printed, Viteks was kind enough to send me some samples for review. First off, this map reminds me why I will always love a map on paper… there’s just something about the way you can pore over it and absorb all the details fully that you just can’t replicate on a computer screen. A PDF of a complex network like this is all well and good, but you either have to view the whole map at a size which makes reading text hard, or you have to zoom in and lose the ability to relate the section you’re looking at to the system as a whole.
The print quality of the map is excellent, with good colour fidelity and registration throughout. The map folds down to a very compact size of just 8.5 x 17.5cm (3.3 x 6.9 inches) – a pocket map which can actually fit in a pocket without having to be folded over again! It unfolds to be around 51 x 35 cm (20 x 13.8 inches), which is big without being too big or unwieldy. The folds for the map also concertina nicely, so you could easily unfold it to just the portion that you need without opening it entirely.
The map itself has made great strides in legibility and information hierarchy since the 2012 version: the three transit modes are differentiated much better than before, and terminus stations are now clearly shown in white text in a black box (rather than with underlined text as before). While obviously a diagram, I think Viteks has done a good job of retaining spatial relationships between the different parts of the city, which an be helpful for orientation. The map also has an excellent city centre inset on the reverse of the main map (with some nifty little illustrations of the main points of interest), and a night bus map as well. Truly useful, well-considered information for all travellers!
A few thoughts for improvement: the map is probably at the absolute smallest size that it can be reproduced. While I can read the labels on it just fine, others with poorer eyesight may not fare so well.
Because the route lines are all so thin, the system that Viteks uses to distinguish between the three transportation modes – a solid coloured line for buses, a coloured line overlaid with a thinner white line for trolleybuses, and a coloured line overlaid with a thinner black line for trams – can be a little difficult to make out. The trolleybus lines effectively become two very thin coloured lines separated by an equally thin white one: depending on the colour of the line, this can be very difficult to discern. Similarly, if the route line colour for a tram service is relatively dark, the overlaid black line can be quite difficult to see. In the end, this doesn’t matter a huge amount, because Viteks has cleverly added a letter to the beginning of each route number that corresponds to the mode: A for autobus, E for trolleybus, and T for tram. The legend does point out that these prefixes aren’t actually shown on the vehicles, but perhaps this information could be made a little more prominent to prevent some poor tourist from standing around all day waiting for an “E15” to come.
In short, this is a fantastic effort to create something better than what’s officially available. This is obviously a labour of love and it shows in the attention to detail and quality of the work. Looking at the project website, it seems that lots of locations around Riga are now selling the map, so it would seem that Viteks’ hard work and perseverance is paying off.
Historical Map: Old Paris Metro Map Uncovered at Les Halles Station
A fantastic photo from Jean-Luc Raymond on Instagram of an old Metro map that’s just been revealed behind multiple layers of billboard advertising at Les Halles station. Definitely looks like it used to have a street grid layer which has faded away with age.
I’m not entirely sure of the vintage, although I’d say it can’t be from before 1979, as that’s when the RER C opened. It’s the thicker yellow line across the top of the photo with stations at Quai d’Orsay and St. Michel. The map’s typographical treatment — with names for interchange stations set in all caps Futura Bold — would also seem to point to that general era. Any further ideas on dating this?