Historical Map: Railway Clearing House Junction Diagram of Buckinghamshire, 1911

Not a true map, but what the Railway Clearing House (RCH) called a “Railway Junction Diagram”. Note that while railway lines, stations and junctions are faithfully and accurately depicted, not a single other detail is shown. That’s because these diagrams were created to assist the RCH in its primary task — the equitable apportionment of fares and receipts when trains from one railway company used the track of another.

Obviously, if a train from one company used its own track for an entire journey, the company was entitled to the full fare or fee. However, if that train had to use the track of other companies on its trip, then those companies would be entitled to a portion of the fare, usually based on pro-rated mileage. Before nationalisation of rail in Great Britain, there were many, many competing railways — both large and small — all entangled in a complex web of wholly owned and shared track.

The RCH was formed (and later enshrined by an Act of Parliament) to act as a broker between the railway companies to fairly settle any matters of trackage payment. Hence these highly accurate maps, with distances between stations and junctions marked prominently upon them to make computation of mileage easier. The measurements, by the way, are in miles and chains (a chain being 22 yards or 66 feet long: also the distance between the two sets of stumps on a cricket pitch). As befits the convoluted Imperial measurement system, the chain is also made up of 100 links or four rods, and there are 10 chains to a furlong, and 80 chains to a mile.


Railway Clearing House map of Buckinghamshire, 1911. The green spur is the Brill Tramway, which became the end of the Metropolitan Line of the London Underground until its closure in 1932. The multicoloured line up to Verney Junction at the top was the other end of the Metropolitan; the red east-west line that it meets there was the Oxford to Cambridge route, known as the Varsity Line, which was shut in 1968. There are currently plans to reopen at least the western part of it, from Oxford to Bedford.


The Tyne and Wear Metro system map peeks out from between two carriages at the St. James station in this great old photo from 1982.

(Source: jp4712/Flickr)