Official Map: Sydney CityRail Network Map
Here’s a map that has been requested quite a few times, but I’ve held off on until now. Having lived in Sydney most of my life, I think it’s difficult to be dispassionate about something I’m so familiar with… but here goes!
Have we been there? You know it!
What we like: Clear and easy to understand. Different types of services are denoted well, but in a nicely understated way: grey lines with coloured ticks that relate to the suburban lines they share track with for intercity routes works very well. Thinner, subordinate lines for country bus routes also share their colour with their related train route, carrying a nice “colour equals compass direction” theme through the whole map.
Comprehensive legend and a well-considered set of explanatory icons. The grid and corresponding list of stations is a nice usability touch for those less familiar with the system.
What we don’t like: Some terribly cramped station names, especially on the Illawarra Line between Arncliffe and Jannali. In fact, the unevenness of station name spacing throughout the whole map is one of its biggest flaws.
Part of this comes from having to show all CityRail services, all the way out to far-distant destinations. Goulburn (at the bottom left) is almost 200km (125 miles) from the centre of Sydney! Older CityRail maps concentrated solely on the suburban area of Sydney, with arrows and text indicating service to distant points, which gave the map more room to breathe. I’m not saying that a map like this one isn’t important, but it could be supplemented by a second map that deals with just the city.
The other main failing of the map is its attempt to place a diagrammatic representation of the network onto a “geographical” background. I’ll tell you now - Sydney’s coastline looks nothing like this. Everything is horribly distorted and the difference in style between angled diagram and “naturalistic” coast is jarring to my eye.
Our rating: Despite a couple of major problems, this map still manages to take a large, sprawling commuter and interurban rail system (plus buses and light rail!) and make it clearly understood. Clean design and nice colour choices help a lot (the Bankstown Line looks much better in orange than its old brown). Three-and-a-half stars.
(Source: CityRail website)
Sydney Buses CBD Map, 2000
From the back of a Gregory’s Street Directory by the look of things, and very much in their house style. I’m not sure this map is actually helping things that much: Sydney’s labyrinthine network of streets is partially to blame, but the flow of arrows and lines could also be much clearer.
The strange decision to make the background black for the second half of the suburb list (to the right of the map) has the unfortunate side effect of making that half look like a list of night time services.
The other thing to note is that there is a ridiculous number of bus routes serving downtown Sydney.
(Source: Nick (kypros1992)/Flickr)
Historical Map: Sydney Rail Transport System, c. 1970-1976
Here’s another interesting planning map from Sydney, Australia, showing a vision for the future that never quite got there.
If you look to the far centre right of the map, you can see the planned Eastern Suburbs line… including a never-built extension from the (now current) end of the line at Bondi Junction to Kingsford. There’s also an extra station at Woollahra in the section that did finally get built.
It’s these details that allow me to date the map fairly accurately: it’s post-1970, as the distances are in kilometres, not miles, but before 1976, which is when the extension to Kingsford was scrapped.
Have we been there? A little early for my time in Sydney (we moved there from Armidale in 1979).
What we like: A fascinating glimpse of what might have been. Although I’m not sure it’s intended, the thickness of the route lines throughout the system seem to act as an indicator of service frequency - something that is being seen more on modern transit maps. The old NSW Rail “arrow of indecision” is a pretty awesome 1970s logo.
What we don’t like: Pretty rough and ready, with distances being pasted on wherever they would fit. Not really for general consumption.
Our rating: Of historical interest for the vision of the Eastern Suburbs line alone, but doesn’t look great. Two-and-a-half stars.
Historical Map: Sydney Suburban Rail Network, 1969
Here’s an interesting map from my hometown of Sydney, Australia from around 1969. Unusually, it doesn’t display different services as separate coloured route lines: everything is shown as one uniform orange line. It also displays the distance from Sydney Central station (in miles), and the elevation (in feet) of each station. Non-electrified lines are shown as dashed lines. These odd features lead me to believe that this is a map for internal NSW Railways use, and was never intended for use by the general public.
Our rating: Of historical interest, but pretty bland and bare-bones. 2 stars.
Metro Light Rail Network Map, Sydney
Can you call it a network map when it consists of one line and a soon-to-be defunct (and despised) monorail? A north pointer would really help here as well… West is at the bottom of the map.
(Source: Michael “Comeng301M” Coley/Flickr)
Historical Map: Sydney Rail Map, 1939
Just how influential was the original Harry Beck London Underground diagram of 1933? Certainly enough for Sydney, Australia to issue this nearly identical vision of its own suburban rail system in 1939, right down to its own version of the London Underground roundel. I’ve never been able to find out whether this map was authorised or licensed from the London Underground, or whether Sydney just thought, “that looks like a good idea, let’s do that!”
The prominent usage of the Underground icon is actually somewhat deceptive, as Sydney at the time had a grand total of four underground stations, all in the city - Town Hall, Wynyard, St James and Museum. Service levels in Sydney have also never matched those of a true Metro/Underground/Subway system, preferring to run large capacity trains with longer headways (commuter rail). However, it’s certainly clever to evoke images of the Mother Country’s glorious train system when you’re promoting your own, right?
Have we been there? Yes, just not in 1939.
What we like: Great early example of how Beck’s principles could be applied to other rail systems. Interesting view of the older Sydney system, with some stations shown that no longer exist (the ANZAC Rifle Range), and others that have changed their name (the lovely “Herne Bay” is now just boring old “Riverwood”, while the spectacularly named “Dumbleton” is now just “Beverly Hills”). Nice indication of the ongoing electrification of the system: the electrified lines are shown in bright, new colours, while the steam powered lines are plain black.
What we don’t like: Some confusing labelling of the stations between Central and Strathfield. I’m not entirely sure whether the colouring of the route lines actually matches up to service patterns of the day, making me wonder whether the map designer truly understood how diagrammatic maps are actually meant to work. A strange need to indicate long-distance train services on a suburban rail network map. Broken Hill? Albury? Brisbane?!
Our rating: Fascinating example of an early adopter of the Back style of transit map, even if it’s not quite up to the same standard of draftsmanship. Three-and-a-half stars.
Historical Map: Sydney CityRail Network Map, 1992
Now this is the transit map of my youth. Sydney’s CityRail map went through a few different looks in the mid-80s and early-90s, but this is the one that sticks in my memory the most.
This map shows both the first growth in the system for a number of years with the extension of the East Hills line to Glenfield, but also the last remnants of the old with the vestigial Pippita branch still in existence. The Carlingford line has also yet to be assigned its now-distinctive navy blue colour, the Cumberland line doesn’t exist yet, the Airport line is still in early planning, and the Epping-Chatswood line hasn’t even begun to be thought of.
Have we been there? Home from age 5 to 35!
What we like: Ridiculous amounts of nostalgia. Clear and easy to follow - although the simplistic radial nature of the system (with all lines passing through Central station) also has something to do with this.
What we don’t like: Some uneven spacing of station names - the stations along the Richmond line in particular seem unnecessarily cramped, while the station names along the Carlingford line are oddly placed at a 45-degree angle when there’s plenty of room to fit them in horizontally.
There’s also some weird design idiosyncrasies that don’t reflect the service patterns offered at the time. The Richmond, Carlingford and Cronulla Lines are all shown as if they are spur lines, terminating where they join onto their respective main lines. In reality, all of these lines offered service that continued all the way into the city.
Strangest of all is the right-angle split of the Northern Line (Red) just south of Hornsby which gives absolutely no indication of which direction trains go in if they’re coming from Epping. North? South? Into a brick wall?
Our rating: Pleasantly nostalgic, but not as brilliant as I remember it when viewed in the cold light of day. Three stars.
(Source: NSWrail.webs.net Map Archive)