Historical Map: The City of Los Angeles Showing Railway Systems, 1906
Another amazing old map from the awesome Big Map Blog, showing the already-booming rail transit network that was found in Los Angeles in the early days of the 20th Century. Electric trolleys first ran in LA in 1877, but the “Red Cars” of the Pacific Electric and the “Yellow Cars” of the narrow-gauge Los Angeles Railway had only appeared a mere five years before this map was produced. Their lines are represented on the map in appropriate colours, along with those of other, less-remembered, railway companies.
Technically, the map is beautifully drawn, although there’s some strange issues with route lines extending past the visible area of the map and spilling over the lists of street names, the map’s legend and even completely bleeding off the edge of the page (see the detail view of the legend above for an example). It could be intentionally done, but it certainly looks a little messy.
From a production viewpoint, it seems as though the map was printed with five different inks: black for the street name legend and Los Angeles Pacific RR routes, yellow for the Los Angeles RR, red for the Pacific Electric, green for the Los Angeles Inter-Urban RR, and a dark blue for the Los Angeles & Redondo RR and the underlying linework of the map itself. Understandably, given the fairly primitive printing technology of the day, the registration of these colours is a little bit off in places.
Our rating: A beautiful look at the early days of mass transit in LA. Four stars!
(Source: the Big Map Blog)
Historical Fantasy Map: St. Paul in the Year 1900 (Map c. 1871)
Definitely one of the stranger maps I’ve seen, and obviously meant to be read in a satirical light. It shows the city of St. Paul, Minnesota as an enormous METROPOLIS with Roman Road-straight railroad connections to all points (except to the “village” of New York, which is served by a “tri-weekly horse railroad”), a tunnel to “Peek-in” and a “railroad-balloonic route” to the North Pole and thence to the Moon. From America’s east coast, a gargantuan suspension bridge implausibly crosses the Atlantic to London — double-tracked the whole way, at that.
The explanatory text is quite hilarious at times. “Duluth,” it states, “is to be wiped out entirely, as it deserves for having the temerity to exist” while “Chicago is to be a signal station on the horse railroad to New York, which is deemed to be all the conveniences required for those insignificant villages.”
The text even pokes fun at the absurdity of the map itself, noting that “It may strike a stranger that some of these parallel roads [railway lines] may have a hard time of it to earn dividends, particularly as they have no way stations”.
Historical Map: Railways in Cornwall, 1936
An absolutely gorgeous hand-drawn map from a “Little Guide” to Cornwall published by Methuen in 1936. Drawn by B.C. Boulter, who also illustrated the guide book.
Historical Map: Plans for New York Subway Expansion, 1920
I found out about this awesome map from a tweet from Vanshnookenraggen (otherwise known as Andrew Lynch) just the other day.
Originally, I was just going to post the black and white map from the 1920 New York Times article that the original blog post references, but then I realised that the image on the blog linked to a super high resolution PDF of the map. As I found the map in the newspaper article a bit difficult to decipher (lots and lots of intersecting black lines!), I decided to colour it up in Photoshop myself, just to make everything a bit easier to see and understand.
Not everything is perfect: the source material looks like it’s been (understandably) scanned from an actual copy of the newspaper, so a lot of finer detail has been lost. It looks like some of the proposed lines are actually improvements of the existing track and really should be a thick red line superimposed on a thin black line (look closely, and you can see that some red dashed lines are joined together by a thinner line). However, especially in the tangled web of downtown Manhattan, I really couldn’t make things out, so all thicker lines are red.
The map itself details the almost outrageous plans for expansion that the New York Subway had way back in 1920 — everything you see in red was planned to be built in the next twenty-five years (by 1945!). Of course, not everything seen here has come to fruition, but you can’t accuse the planners of not thinking big!
Head on over to Flickr to look at the map in high resolution — and let me know what you think of my handiwork!
Historical Map: Kroll’s Standard Map of Seattle, 1914
As Seattle continues with its expansion of light rail (East Link, University Link) and streetcar (Capitol Hill streetcar), here’s a look back at the city 99 years ago. This isn’t a transit map per se — rather, it’s a map of the city that also happens to show the transit network in no uncertain terms. The thick dark lines that traverse the city like veins are all streetcars, cable cars and interurban trains. Main line trains are shown by more conventional “railway line” ticked strokes — these travel to King Street Station (still in use by Amtrak and Sounder trains today) and the adjacent Union Station, which now houses the offices for Sound Transit. View a full-size version of the map here.
(Source: Rob Ketcherside/Flickr)
Big Project — Work In Progress Screen Shot
Some people have asked how I’m going on my new big project — a simplified map of all U.S. Highways and Interstates on the one map. Well, here’s where I’m at currently.
Everything in the western half of the map is pretty much finished: the east coast needs to be revisited for consistency and there’s still a whole heap of work to do in the south east. I actually feel that I’ve left the hardest bit until last… which probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, in retrospect. Although I now have a really good feel for how things should work in the grand scheme of things, so it’s actually getting easier as I go. The rules have been set, now I’m just applying them, like solving a logic puzzle.
I like how, even at this scale, the main “hub” cities can be seen clearly — Denver, Minneapolis/St Paul and Chicago have been the hardest to work out so far.
Submission — Unofficial Historical Map: Los Angeles Pacific Electric Railway Diagram, 1917
Drawn and submitted by Sam Huddy, who says:
Pacific Electric: Challenge Accepted!
When I read your disappointment on the uselessness of that beautiful map of the Pacific Electric at its peak in 1917 (not 1920), I wondered if it was possible to create a simplified London Underground-style map. With over a hundred routes it seemed impossible, but after several attempts, this was my end result. Any further information is on the map itself.
Transit Maps says:
Basically, this is incredible. An absolute model of simplicity and clarity of information, and it’s all drawn by hand onto some graph paper!
Breaking the multitude of routes up simply by their final downtown destination — either 6th and Main or 4th and Hill — works very well, and the “local services” insets are perfect for a map of this colossal scale: local route information can be easily found by those who need it, but those routes don’t clog the main map up with tiny detail, either. Perhaps the location of the inset boxes could be called out on the main map to aid those unfamiliar with the area, but that’s a very minor quibble.
As an added bonus, Sam has even dated the original map more precisely than any other source that I’ve seen. “Circa 1920” is now definitively dated to 1917, because his research found that some of the shuttle lines shown on this map and the original were abandoned after then.
Our rating: I feel like I could take this sketch and turn it into final computer-generated artwork in less than a day, it’s that good. Astounding work! Four-and-a-half stars!
(Source: Sam Huddy — Check the map out BIG on Flickr to see all the details!)
Beautifully minimalist line-drawing postcards of London Underground train depots. Complement with a pictorial history of how the Underground shaped London.
Starkly beautiful and quite excellently done. Matching the background colour to the Underground line each depot serves is a masterstroke.
Here’s the designer’s rationale behind these great cards.
NY Subway Map and Tokens, 1990
Great little slice of history here. The photographer on Flickr seems to recall the cost of a token as being 60 cents at the time; Wikipedia prices it at $1.15.
As a graphic designer, all I can see is the terrible registration in the (cheap) printing — look at the huge yellow halo bleeding out to the right of the green and red printed areas. (In four-colour printing, green is made from combining cyan and yellow inks, red is made from magenta and yellow. When the plates are poorly aligned with each other, the presses run too fast, or cheap paper stretches or moves during the printing process, you get misalignment of the inks, leading to poor registration like this.)
EDIT: As has been pointed out to me, the tokens and the map shown in the photo aren’t contemporaneous. The “solid brass” token shown here was used from 1980 to 1985; during that time, the cost of a subway ride rose from 60 cents to 90 cents. (Source: nycsubway.org’s comprehensive page on subway tokens)
Future Map: Washington, DC “Silver Line” Draft Map
Long time readers will be aware of my low opinion of the Washington DC Metro Rail map — here’s a fairly scathing review of the “Rush+” map (March 2012, 2.5 stars) to refresh your memory.
It looks like WMATA is preparing for the opening of the Silver Line and has put a draft version of a new map up on MindMixer for comments. According to the blurb there, the route lines are now thinner and station names are now treated more consistently. The other obvious visual change is the introduction of a new station symbol (one with thin “whisker” extensions) to accommodate the three routes that will now run across the middle of the map. Let’s discuss all of these in turn.
The route lines may be thinner, but only barely. Probably not enough to make any useful difference to the map. While the playful thickness of the route lines are very much an identifying feauture of the WMATA map, it’s now becoming a liability to its usefulness. The extra space required to accommodate the Silver Line through Foggy Bottom and Farragut West means that the six stations on the northwest leg of the Red Line inside the District have to be crammed into a ridiculously tight space — far tighter than anywhere else on the map. I always feel that a diagrammatic map like this has to strive for even and harmonious spacing across the entire map… and this map simply doesn’t do that well any more.
The new treatment of station names includes “consistent street abbreviations across the map”, which should be a good thing: it’s always better to choose either “Avenue” or “Ave” and stick with that choice across the whole map. However, “Hgts” is a visually awful abbreviation for “Heights” and is included for the sole purpose of making “Columbia Hgts” fit on one line without conflicting with the “Van Ness-UDC” label. “Ctr” is an equally terrible abbreviation for “Center”, and doesn’t actually seem to bring any real space-saving benefits to the map.
The new “whiskered” station symbol just feels forced and unnecessary to me. It introduces a third station symbol, even though hierarchically, it means exactly the same as the plain station circle that already exists. An elongated “pill” symbol with the same cap radius as the normal circle would work a lot better in my opinion. Or — narrow down the route lines until the normal circle symbol can touch all three.
At the moment, this map is only a work in progress, but I’m not exactly impressed by any of the new design decisions.