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.

 Source: Wikipedia — Map 1 | Map 2 | Map 3

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.

4 Stars!

(Source: Strange Maps website)

Official Map: TILO Commuter Rail – Ticino, Switzerland and Lombardy, Italy

The emergence of a unified Europe has led to a gradual but noticeable blurring of borders between countries in Europe, which now seem to often exist only on maps. With free and easy travel between the European countries that are bound by the Schengen Agreement, it’s not impossible for people to live in one country and work in another, especially when they live close to a border.

This map shows transit services in such an area, the border between Italy and Switzerland north of Milan. Here, Italian Lombardy (shown with a grey background) borders the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino (white background). Transit between the two areas is becoming more intertwined and reliable, as this map illustrates. The services offered by the issuer of the map — TILO — are the two-digit “S-number” lines: S10, S20, S30 and the narrow-gauge S-60. However, the map also shows the lines of Milan’s own commuter rail network that interact with these services: the S4, S5, S9 and S11 routes, as well as indicating a (slower) regional service that runs between the two provinces. Even the extent of Milan’s Metro is indicated, as are its interchanges with these commuter rail services.

The map itself is quite handsomely produced, and has a distinctive look of its own. The typeface used – Syntax – has a friendly, slightly quirky look to it that helps lift the map up from that typically efficient but clinical Swiss design. The “subway map” stylings definitely help to convey a sense of modernity and speed, even though the main centres shown on the map would take quite a while to travel between (1.5 hours from Milan to Bellinzona; almost three hours from Milan to Airolo).

If there’s a weakness to the map, it’s probably the multitudes of blue bus routes shown on the Swiss side of the border: they clutter that part of the map with a lot of visual noise and probably don’t contain enough routing information to be that useful past an initial confirmation that a town is serviced by a bus route.

Our rating: An attractive and modern-looking map that combines information from different transit agencies to benefit its customers: always a good thing! Three-and-a-half stars!

3.5 Stars

(Source: Official TILO website)

Official Map: Rhätische Bahn, Switzerland

The Rhätishe Bahn (or Rhaetian Railway) is a publically-owned Swiss railway*, serving the huge and mountainous canton of Graübunden. The Swiss Federal Railways extend only a few kilometres over the cantonal border to the capital at Chur, as seen at the top of this interesting little map. Placed underneath the window on trains, between facing rows of seats, this map features something I’ve never seen on a diagrammatic map before: elevation contours.

Four colours — green, brown, blue and white — signify four bands of elevation, all the way up to 4,000 metres (13,000 feet) above sea level! Because of this, it’s quite easy (and very interesting!) to see how the railway mainly runs along valleys at lower elevations, and where tunnels are needed to cross from one valley to the next.

(Source: lloydshep/Flickr)

* Corrected a previous version, which stated that the railway was privately-owned, which it is not. This is why you shouldn’t always believe everything you read on Wikipedia, kids!

Official Map: Jungfraubahnen, Switzerland

Another stunning panoramic painted rail map from the Alps of Switzerland — its very similar to this one of the Zentralbahn (Nov 2012, 4 stars), which can actually be seen on this map entering from the lower left and terminating at Interlaken.

The map shows the railways around the Jungfrau mountain, operated by different companies, but marketed together as “Jungfrau — the Top of Europe”. The Jungfraujoch station sits almost three vertical kilometres higher than Interlaken, and is the highest railway station in Europe. The last 7 km of the trip is all within a tunnel through the massive mountain range (shown as a dashed line on the map above): two intermediary stations have panoramic windows to observe the spectacular scenery.

The map is quite beautiful, making the absolute most out of the spectacular landscape, although the sheer lushness of the illustration can make some of the text a little hard to make out. As an added bonus, other connecting services outside the Jungbahn network — be it rail or aerial cable car — are also shown in black.

Just in case this map has inspired you to head off to Switzerland to catch the next train, be warned that this trip is not cheap. The trip from Kleine Scheidegg station (the start of the actual Jungfraubahn to the summit) costs 120 Swiss Francs (roughly €100, or $US130). If you want to come from Interlaken Ost, that’s a mere 196 CHF (€160/$US211). Ouch!

Our rating: Stunningly beautiful illustrated map. Four stars.

4 Stars!

(Source: guywong/Flickr)

Official Map: Zentralbahn, Switzerland

Here’s another unusual transit map - this one for the narrow-gauge, rack-assisted Zentralbahn railway in central Switzerland, serving the cities of Lucerne, Interlaken, Engelberg and points inbetween. Before a tunnel was built in 2010, the grade between Grafenort and Engelberg reached a staggering 25 percent — hard work even for a rack-assisted engine!

Totally appropriately for a system that serves an alpine area, the map looks as if it would be completely at home in a Swiss ski resort, with a detailed painting of the majestic Alps that’s reminiscent of the the famed James Niehues. Over this, the route lines are simply overlaid in red. Stations are labelled in blue boxes, while other destinations — many accessible through other alpine cog railways — are labelled in white ones.

The map has been rotated to show the best view of the valleys that the trains travel along, but the icon in the bottom right corner shows the true relation of the lines, with north properly towards the top of the page.

Our rating: Unusual, but appropriate and highly effective design that definitely evokes as sense of place. Four stars.

4 Stars!

(Source: Official Zentralbahn website)

Official Map: City of Zurich Night S-Bahn and Bus Network, Switzerland
One type of map we haven’t covered yet here at Transit Maps is the night services map, often considered a very poor relation to the main map. However, there are some excellent examples out there, especially this black and yellow beauty from the city of Zurich in Switzerland.
Have we been there? No.
What we like: Graphically very striking with its black and yellow colour scheme. Good differentiation between bus and train services accomplished by use of thick and thin route lines, and some subtle work at stations: train stations are white, major bus interchanges are a light tint of yellow, and minor bus stations are a darker tint of yellow. Fits seamlessly into the next map up in the series, showing night services in the Canton of Zurich (PDF).
What we don’t like: The way the S-Bahn tracks disappear between the Hauptbahnhof and Bellevue (re-emerging only to cross the river on a bridge) may be logical - the tracks are in a tunnel - but it breaks the flow of the route badly.
Our rating: A great example of the night services map genre. 4 stars!

(Source: Official ZVV website) Official Map: City of Zurich Night S-Bahn and Bus Network, Switzerland
One type of map we haven’t covered yet here at Transit Maps is the night services map, often considered a very poor relation to the main map. However, there are some excellent examples out there, especially this black and yellow beauty from the city of Zurich in Switzerland.
Have we been there? No.
What we like: Graphically very striking with its black and yellow colour scheme. Good differentiation between bus and train services accomplished by use of thick and thin route lines, and some subtle work at stations: train stations are white, major bus interchanges are a light tint of yellow, and minor bus stations are a darker tint of yellow. Fits seamlessly into the next map up in the series, showing night services in the Canton of Zurich (PDF).
What we don’t like: The way the S-Bahn tracks disappear between the Hauptbahnhof and Bellevue (re-emerging only to cross the river on a bridge) may be logical - the tracks are in a tunnel - but it breaks the flow of the route badly.
Our rating: A great example of the night services map genre. 4 stars!

(Source: Official ZVV website)

Official Map: City of Zurich Night S-Bahn and Bus Network, Switzerland

One type of map we haven’t covered yet here at Transit Maps is the night services map, often considered a very poor relation to the main map. However, there are some excellent examples out there, especially this black and yellow beauty from the city of Zurich in Switzerland.

Have we been there? No.

What we like: Graphically very striking with its black and yellow colour scheme. Good differentiation between bus and train services accomplished by use of thick and thin route lines, and some subtle work at stations: train stations are white, major bus interchanges are a light tint of yellow, and minor bus stations are a darker tint of yellow. Fits seamlessly into the next map up in the series, showing night services in the Canton of Zurich (PDF).

What we don’t like: The way the S-Bahn tracks disappear between the Hauptbahnhof and Bellevue (re-emerging only to cross the river on a bridge) may be logical - the tracks are in a tunnel - but it breaks the flow of the route badly.

Our rating: A great example of the night services map genre. 4 stars!

4 Stars!

(Source: Official ZVV website)