Historical Map: “Future Growth and Improvement” Map for Lansing, Michigan, 1921

Here’s a simply beautiful map from the 1920s, showing a comprehensive proposed future plan for the city. Along with the extensive and fastidious plans for the extension of the city’s street grid (the web of red extending outwards from the core), the map also shows existing and proposed streetcars with solid and dashed thicker red lines, respectively.

The map also audaciously proposes that the main line railroads be placed onto an elevated viaduct through downtown, something that never actually happened.

Finally, I absolutely love the graceful hand-drawn typography on this — stunning!

(Source: NewCityOne/Flickr)

Historical Photo: Detroit Department of Street Railways (DSR) Coach and Car Stop Locator, c. 1955

An interesting twist on the old push-button interactive transit map. Instead of pressing a button to map out your route, here you press a button to find out where in Detroit’s downtown area to board your bus or streetcar. Although difficult to make out, the text along the bottom of the map seems to read: “To locate your loading zone, press button on your line.” I’m not entirely sure how successful this innovation was, as everyone in the photo seems to have an air of confusion about them.

(Source: WSU Virtual Motor City Collection)

Fantasy Map: Freshwater Railway, Detroit and Southeast Michigan

This map has to be part of the most convincing fantasy transit system I have ever seen. As well as this stylish and distinctive map, there’s an entire website, complete with additional bus maps, timetables and more. I’ll also note here that the website design puts most transit agencies to shame…

If you weren’t familiar with Detroit, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was real (I kind of wonder how many tourists have been tricked into thinking this system exists). It’s only when you realise that the trains “depart” from the derelict Michigan Central Station (which is also Freshwater Rail’s business address), that the elaborate hoax is revealed.

Have we been there? Yes, to visit my father-in-law. He lives in South Lyon and works at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, so he’d still have to drive to work unless the connections were remarkably good…

What we like: Attractive and distinctive map, based on 30-degree angles instead of the usual 45. It’s nice to see a map that forges its own identity and is not afraid to look different, even if it’s not real. The pastel route lines with their thick black borders are surprisingly effective, and together with the typeface chosen (Brandon Grotesque), create a lovely Art Deco feel to the whole map. Part of a greater, entirely cohesive whole - this is seriously impressive work.

What we don’t like: Not entirely in favour of the type angled up at 60 degrees, as I feel it makes the map harder to read, but acknowledge that it suits the design aesthetic of the map quite well.

Our rating: Astounding. 5 stars!

5 Stars!

(Source: Freshwater Railway website - WARNING: EXTREMELY CONVINCING!)