Photo: Tube Map Livery on GB Railfreight Engine 66721
A couple of great photos showing the unique Underground Map-themed livery on a GB Railfreight engine. The left side of the engine shows a portion of the original 1933 H.C. Beck design, while the right side shows the corresponding part of the 2013 Tube map. I believe that this engine is used to perform maintenance work on sections of the Underground, so the theme is certainly appropriate, as is the engine’s name plaque, seen in the lower image — “Harry Beck”
Historical Poster: London Transport Jubilee Line Opening, 1979
Okay, here’s just one more Tube-map themed poster (for now). This one’s a little more contemporary than the others I’ve featured recently, dating from early 1979. The cheerful little Tube train — which looks like a model that’s been photographed, rather than an illustration — is actually a pretty reasonable stand-in for the geographical layout of the new line, which then ran from Stanmore to a new Charing Cross station (later extensions mean that the Jubilee Line now bypasses Charing Cross entirely on its way to Stratford).
However, it does seem to be a bit of a cheat to say “And you don’t have to go on the Bakerloo (Line)”, when — prior to the Jubilee Line’s opening — every station between Stanmore and Baker Street was on that line (see this map from 1974).
Aesthetically, there is a bit of dissonance between the tightly-spaced 1970s-era type (looks like Franklin Gothic for the headings) and the classic look of the Johnston Sans used for the station names, but that’s just the way things often looked back then.
Quick trivia fact of the day: The Jubilee Line was originally going to be called the Fleet Line — after the River Fleet that now runs underneath London — until Conservative Party promises during the Greater London Council elections of 1977 caused it to be renamed after the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, even though the line opened two years after the actual event. The Fleet Line’s proposed battleship grey colour (from the naval definition of “fleet”) was modified to a lighter silver/grey to fit the “Silver Jubilee” theme.
(Source: TimeOut’s London Blog — Top 5 Novelty Tube Maps)
Historical Poster: “Be Map Conscious”, London Transport, 1945
Here’s another beautiful old London Underground poster that features the Tube map, apparently produced to help servicemen unfamiliar with London get around. The poster, which basically acts as a Tube Map for Dummies guide, was placed next to the map in stations, with the abstract guard pointing towards it. The “tear-away” section at the bottom right shows a slightly modified version (angles aren’t at 45 degrees, the Aldwych spur is missing) of the central part of the map, which would have been this 1943 edition.
The artist was Polish-born Jan de Witt (1907-1991), signed as “Lewitt-Him” on the poster.
(Source: Creative Review)
Design for Shopping poster for London Transport, 1935
Design by O’Keeffe
via Mikey Ashworth
You just can’t beat 1930s London Underground posters - a superb mix of art, design and branding. This one’s a real beauty! Of interest is that it playfully echoes the look of Beck’s Tube Diagram, then only two years old.
Cute title. Made back in 2007, so the Circle Line is actually a loop, rather than the… ahh.. paperclip… it is now. Nicely done piece of whimsy.
Historical Map: Diagram of Tube Services, 7:00am, September 28, 1940
Here’s a fantastic historical document — a tube map used by engineers in London to mark out the status of services on the Underground during World War II. By the look of it, this map was updated at least daily, if not even more often, as this date falls squarely within the Blitz — a period where London was bombed for 57 consecutive nights by the Luftwaffe.
The map itself looks like a modified hand-drawn version of H.C. Beck’s 1936 Tube Diagram, with all stations shown as circles and some main line track added as well. The use of the map is simple: a red line along track shows that there is no service along that segment, while a blue circle (seen between Belsize Park and Chalk Farm, for example) indicates the location of an exploded bomb. It would also seem that the circle for a station is also coloured red if it is substantially damaged or destroyed. Most horrifying of all, a red cross marks the location of an unexploded bomb. Notes written in a beautiful, precise hand add detail to these symbols where necessary — “unsafe buildings”, “single tunnel only available for traffic: SB tunnel damaged by bomb”.
Our rating: An incredible historical document that vividly recalls the dangers and horrors faced by Londoners during the Blitz. 5 stars!
"Stitched Subways - London" by Susan Stockwell, 2007
One of the loveliest reinventions of the London Tube Map I’ve seen so far — simply red thread stitched onto rice paper. It’s bigger than it looks: 100cm wide by 30cm deep, so it would certainly look impressive on a wall!
(Source: Susan’s website)
Unofficial Map: Montreal Métro in the style of the London Tube Map
Here’s a fun little piece sent my way by Montreal-based designer Corey Landel: the Métro de Montréal redesigned in the style of the iconic London Underground map.
While it’s definitely a fun little homage, I do feel that Corey could have pushed a little harder to match the designs more closely and demonstrate a better understanding of the “Beckian” principles at play behind the design of the Tube map (in short, absolute simplification of route lines, even spacing of stations and eradication of any angles other than multiples of 45).
Because, if you’re going to create something “in the style of”, why not go the whole way?
A few thoughts, based on the concept that the idea is to get this map as close to the style of the Underground Map as possible:
Gill Sans as used here is an acceptable alternative to Johnston Sans, but there are also pretty decent free versions of Johnston to be found on the Internet. Worth it for the distinctive diamond-shaped tittles alone.
The zig-zagging route at each end of the Green Line on Corey’s map would never be present on the Underground Map. The jog between Verdun and Joilcoeur would be eliminated, while the whole eastern end would follow one straight path, with perhaps one change in direction to a vertical line for the last few stations if space restraints demanded it (as it looks like it might here).
On a similar note, the non-standard angles on the Yellow Line would also be verboten on the Underground Map. There’s really no reason why it just can’t be a straight horizontal line, except to conform to the underlying geography. Which brings me to my next point…
Treatment of rivers: On the Tube Map, the Thames is treated diagrammatically, the same as the route lines. The approach on Corey’s map pretty much mirrors that of the official Montreal map, with stylised/simplified geography underlying a diagrammatic representation of the lines.
The suburban trains shown on this map are analogous to the London Overground, so perhaps they could be treated in a similar way. However, this does create a colour clash with the Orange Line that doesn’t exist on the Tube map. A compromise could be to use the white-stroked line from the Underground map, but a different colour, like the lovely purple the official STM map used to have before the recent redesign.
Other general aesthetic differences include the lack of curves in the route lines as they change direction, the look of the standard station tick (there’s no curved cap on the Tube Map’s symbol) and the thickness of the black keyline around the interchange station symbols.
Pro Tip: The official London Tube Map PDF is not protected in any way and is fully openable and editable in Adobe Illustrator. Any aspiring transit map designer should really download a copy, open it up and see what makes it tick. I know that doing this aided my understanding of transit map design principles immensely.
Unofficial Map: Three-Dimensional Real-Time Map of the London Underground
A stunning visualisation of the London Underground by visual developer Bruno Imbrizi. There’s certainly a lot of fun to be had zooming, rotating and panning the view around and turning each line on and off.
It’s another great example of what can be done with publicly-available data: in this case, train arrival times, the location of each station and its depth below the surface.
Historical Map: Bank-Monument Tube Stations Cutaway (1990s?)
Not a traditional transit map per se, but a stunningly beautiful technical illustration of the interlinking tubes and tunnels that form the connected Bank-Monument tube station complex in London. Built as separate stations, but linked by escalators in the 1930s (the depiction of which proved a permanent puzzle for H.C. Beck on his Tube Map), the complex is the ninth-busiest London Underground station,
What I love here is that we’re looking at over 100 years of infrastructure development: the original Monument station (first called “Eastcheap” and then “The Monument”) opened in 1884; the “City” end of the Waterloo and City Line in 1898; Bank station (named after the Bank of London) opened in 1900. Over 100 years after the first part of the complex was opened, the deep station for the DLR was completed in 1991.
Compare to a similar cutaway of the Hudson River Tubes from 1909.
(Source: Original source unknown, image from skyscrapercity.com forum post)