Question: Differentiating Local/Express Services

An anon asks:

What is the best way to display two different lines that share a section if one acts as a local service and the other as an express service? I wanted to use ticks to represent the stations on this map, is there any approach to this problem that allows me to use it?


Transit Maps says:

The solution here is best summed up by the words of the great Massimo Vignelli, who distilled the very essence of transit diagram design down to one little quote:

“A different color for each line, a dot for every station. No dot, no station. Very simple,” 

And if you’re using dots as your station markers, it really is that easy, as shown by Vignelli’s own New York Subway map (the 2008 version is shown above), where the express patterns of the 2 and 3 compared to the 1, for example, are easily distinguishable.

Using ticks as station markers does make things a little trickier. You’ll note that the London Underground map separates routes that run along the same track but have different stopping patterns, so there’s absolutely no chance of confusion. I show the section of the Metropolitan Line and Jubilee Line above, but it also occurs on the Picadilly/District Lines west of Earl’s Court. If the route lines touched each other, a tick could be interpreted as belonging to all the lines at that station, so the London approach really is for the best, I feel.

Submission – Unofficial Map: “Hyper Japan” Directory London Underground Map

Submitted by chiguire, who says:

Found this London Tube map in the Hyper Japan directory magazine. Hyper Japan is some sort of convention about the country [of Japan, held in London – Cam], but I couldn’t stop staring at this map. It’s like a car wreck, it’s horrible but you just can’t stop looking :-P


Transit Maps says:

A great example how you can use all the elements of a successful transit map and still end up with a complete mess. Obviously, the organisers of Hyper Japan didn’t want to pay a licensing fee to TfL for the actual Tube map, so they either made one of their own or paid someone substantially less than the licensing fee to make one for them.

The central part of the map actually looks eerily similar in shape to the real deal, with the (in)famous “thermos flask” shape described by the Circle Line remaining almost intact. However, things go rapidly downhill after that, and much of the system south of the Thames just looks horrible: the DLR and Overground suffering the worst. I’m also pretty certain that the southern part of the Northern Line is at a non-standard angle just so the legend can be squeezed in underneath it.

The square interchange symbols aren’t a patch on the superb interconnected circles of the actual Tube map, and the typography is lacklustre at best. If you need connecting lines between labels and the station they name, then you’re doing it wrong.

Our rating: A poor imitation that really makes you realise how balanced and aesthetically pleasing the Tube map is by comparison, and how difficult it is to make a truly excellent transit map. One-and-a-half stars.

1.5 Stars

Historical Map: Pocket Diary with London Tube Map, 1948

A lovely little black and white version of the Tube map at the front of a 1948 year diary. Drawn by H.C. Beck (see his name at the bottom left), it shows the central area of London only and is based off the 1946 version of the full map. By 1949, interchanges were being drawn with a white connector line between adjacent circles, rather than the separate circles seen here.

Source: hollandfamilyarchives/Flickr

Historical Map: Unpublished Proof of H.C. Beck’s London Underground Diagram, 1932

A printer’s proof of the first card folder (pocket) edition of Beck’s famous diagram, with edits and corrections marked in his own hand.

Of note is the use of quite ugly and overpowering “blobs” instead of the now-ubiquitous “ticks” for station markers, and the fact that the map has been entirely hand-lettered by Beck, using what he called “Johnston-style” characters. He’s cheated quite a bit with his letterforms and spacing on some of the longer station names.

The Piccadilly line is also shown in what seems to us a very odd light blue, although Beck was simply following established colour conventions from earlier geographical maps. The now-familiar dark blue was in place by the time the diagram was officially released in January of 1933.

Source: Scanned from my personal copy of “Mr. Beck’s Underground Map" by Ken Garland

  1. Camera: CanoScan LiDE 600F

Fantasy Map: 2014 Tour de France as a London Tube Map by Joe McNamara

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve got nothing against the “… as a subway/tube map” design trope. Having created more than a few of this type of map myself, I’d be a pretty sad hypocrite if I said otherwise.

However, it does bug me when a map in this style fails to live up to the fundamental underlying design principles of the piece that inspired it, and that’s what’s happened here. Obviously drawing inspiration from H.C. Beck's famous Tube Diagram (the oversized LU roundel really driving the point home with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer), this map was created to commemorate the first few stages of this year's Tour de France being held in England. It’s a fun idea, and not without merit as a concept, but there’s far more to making a tube map than just putting some coloured route lines down on a page and calling it done.

Beck himself, ever in search of more simplification and rectilinearity in his Diagram, would simply not have approved of the twisty, torturous paths that these stage routes take. In his hands, Epernay to Nancy would have been represented by a simple straight segment (instead of needing three angle changes): Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Etienne by a clean diagonal line. Yes, there’s a desire to indicate the relative lengths of each stage here (making this a map/diagram hybrid of sorts), but there has to be a simpler, cleaner, more Beck-like way to do it.

In my opinion, if you’re going to make such a big deal about the source of your homage, then a better adherence to the design principles espoused by that source can only make for a better end product. And I’m not talking about making a map that’s slavishly identical in every detail to the source: I have no problem with the substitution of what looks like Gotham for Johnston Sans, or the non-rounded corners where the routes change direction: that’s just window dressing on top of what really makes the Tube Map what it is — Beck’s never-ending quest for design clarity.

Source: via Gizmodo

Photo: The Underground Map – Then and Now

A nicely executed little montage of Underground maps through the years. From left to right: what looks like the 1932 version of the F.H Stingemore map, the original 1933 H.C. Beck diagram, and a modern day Tube Map. I have to say, the Underground uniforms in the 1930s were a lot nicer than their modern counterparts!

Poster: Helping London Grow for the Future, Transport for London

London’s certainly come a long way since the Metropolitan Line first opened in 1863 with wooden carriages and steam engines. I wonder what a Victorian Londoner would think of this modern skyline, all soaring, glimmering, curving glass? 


Helping London grow for the future. We’ve been serving London since 1863 and our continuing improvements will help you get around for the next 150 years.

Photo: We are Transforming Your Tube

Rather clever and well-executed “under construction” signage seen in Tottenham Court station back in 2010.

Source: Luigi Rosa/Flickr

  1. Camera: Konica Corporation Konica Digital Camera KD-500Z
  2. Aperture: f/2.8
  3. Exposure: 1/14th
  4. Focal Length: 8mm

Historical Map: “Visitor’s London” Tourist Map and Guide, 1959

The inset central zone London Underground map is a black and white version of Beck’s diagram from the same year, but really, this is all about the fantastic illustrations (by Peter Roberson) and groovy mid-century graphic design. There’s only two colours used here – black and pink – but they’ve been used in a very striking and eye-catching way.

I wonder what was on the reverse of this?

Source: smallritual/Flickr

Historical Map: Austrian Edition of Airey’s Railway Map of London, 1876

Simply beautiful rail line and junction map from the earliest days of what would become the London Underground. Extremely notable for its use of colour-coding to differentiate between the lines of all the different operating companies. In the days of chromolithographic printing, using this many different colours would have been an expensive, highly technical and time-consuming task.

The following text is taken from the description of this map:

Extremely rare early Austrian edition of John Airey’s famous Railway Junction Diagram of London (not in the British Library!).

The present map is an early Austrian edition of Airey’s most important single map, Airey’s Railway Map of London and its Suburbs, illustrating the innumerable railway lines leading out of London, and importantly depicting the earliest two lines of the new London Underground System, along with at least one proposed line which was never constructed. Airey published his first edition of the map under that title in 1875, which subsequently ran into several editions. It, in turn, was based on a map that appeared in Airey’s book, Railway Map Diagrams (London, 1867).

The map’s fascinating an innovative visual composition was originally conceived as part of a series of diagrams illustrating the rapidly expanding routes of the various railways throughout Britain. With its carefully placed and labeled colored lines, it is the true precursor to Henry Beck’s celebrated London Underground Map of 1933. In this sense, Airey’s maps were the first truly modern rail transport maps, and they set the gold standard for such publications throughout Europe and America.

London was the first major city to be served by railways (a technology invented in 1830), with the first line connecting London Bridge and Greenwich being completed in 1836. During the ‘Railway Boom’ of the 1840s, eight new lines were added connecting London with the countryside in virtually every direction.  Since that time, two new major lines had been added and new spurs had been built to access different parts of the city. Airey was commissioned to produce his diagrams by the Railway Clearing House (RHC), founded in 1842, it acted as an umbrella organization to collect and manage revenue from the various independent railway lines.

Perhaps the most important aspects of the map are the inclusion of the World’s first two Underground (or Subway Lines), the Metropolitan Line and the Metropolitan District Line (the original components of today’s District and Circle Lines). The Metropolitan Line was first opened in January 1863, while the District Metropolitan was completed in December 1868. Airey’s diagram shows how the new medium of the Underground integrated with the established railways. 

The map also records the proposed location for one of the early underground lines which was never constructed, the London Central Railway. The London Central Railway was formed in late 1871 for an unsuccessful north-south promotion sponsored by the Midland Railway and the South Eastern Railway, for a link between St Pancras and Charing Cross Stations. The name again surfaced In 1884, when a London Central Railway Company sought unsuccessfully for authority to build an electrically operated line from Trafalgar Square to St Martins-le-Grand via Oxford Circus and Oxford Street. This was intended to be an extension of the Charing Cross & Waterloo Electric Railway (now part of the Bakerloo line). This was authorized in 1882 but never built. 

The present, apparently unrecorded, edition of the map, may have been first published in 1876 in Vienna by the publishing firm of R. v. Waldheim, a leading house specializing in newspapers, music books and lithographic prints. From the inscription in the upper-right corner, it seems that the present map was originally issued within a book. While it is not clear which publication it is, it is possible that the map was associated with a later edition of the rare work Die Concurrenz im Eisenbahnwesen, a railway book first published by Waldheim in 1873. In any event, it is a fascinating testament to the contemporary pan-European fascination with Airey’s groundbreaking cartography.

Our rating: Simply beautiful: detailed in scope, but amazingly clear and simple in execution. Five stars.

5 Stars!

Image source: Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc.