Historical Map: National Railways of Zimbabwe, c. 1985
A pretty basic two-colour map of the (then newly-independent) Zimbabwe’s rail network produced by the government’s Land Survey Office. Once you look past the eye-searing red ink and “transportation” clip art, there’s a couple of interesting things on the map.
Firstly, the map actually does a pretty good job of showing how Zimbabwe’s rail network fits in with other connecting rail services in southern Africa. Secondly, it shows an interesting colonial oddity: the Zimbabwe National Railway actually runs all the way through Botswana to Mafeking, South Africa (the bottom left quarter of the map). This dates back to 1911, when Rhodesia Railways was granted a special agreement to preserve its rights of access under the Tati Concessions Land Act — basically a huge mineral rights land grab by a private company.
Much of the network shown here is still in use today, but due to the high price of imported diesel fuel in the impoverished nation, Zimbabwe has been forced to utilise old steam trains: coal is plentiful and much cheaper.
Historical Map: Indicateur d’Itinéraires, Paris, c. 2003
An old-school interactive Metro map in Paris. Simply press one of the 360 or so buttons underneath the map, and a path lights up from your current location to your chosen destination. Who needs a fancy touch screen kiosk? I particularly like the way that the furtherest reaches of the RER lines are compressed into diagrammatic form to allow the centre of Paris to be shown as large as possible.
This particular example is still in use, despite it being around ten years out of date: the extension of Ligne 14 from Madeleine to St. Lazare (which opened in December 2003) is shown as being under construction.
(Source: Hervé Platteaux/Flickr)
Historical Map: Mornington Peninsula Road and Bus Lines Map, c. 1940s
Here’s a beautifully drawn old map created for the Peninsula Bus Lines in Victoria, Australia by Robert J. Amor. There’s no date, but the general aesthetics and the presence of “Military Camps” near Mount Martha leads me to believe the map is from around 1940-1947, after which Balcombe Camp became the Army Apprentice School.
Elements to really look out for: the beautiful ornate compass rose, the olde-time scrolls enclosing town names, and the cameo pictures of David Collins, the lieutenant governor of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) who founded the first colony in modern-day Victoria on the peninsula in 1803; Matthew Flinders, the great naval explorer; and the “wild man” William Buckley. There’s even a nubile mermaid combing her hair at the bottom left!
(Source: Frankston City Libraries/Flickr)
Historical Maps: Evolution of the Stockholm Metro Map, c.1958-1971
Here’s a fantastic photo showing three versions of the map for the Stockholms tunnelbana, probably taken at the Stockholm Transit Museum. By comparing the three maps and the looking at the stations shown on each of them, I’ve roughly dated each as follows.
The top map is from between November 19, 1958 (when the Farsta station opened), and November 14,1959, when Rågsved station (shown on the middle map, but not on the top one) opened.
The middle map is from around late 1964- early 1965, as it shows Fruangen and Ornsberg stations (1964), but only shows Ostermalmstorg (1965) as being under construction.
The final map is from between 1967 and 1971, as it’s after Ropsten and Vårberg have opened, but before the extension to Farsta Strand has been built. Interestingly, this extension is shown as being “under construction” on the middle map, but makes no appearance at all on the final map.
What’s truly fascinating about this trio of maps is the rapid transition from geographical map, through a more stylised map (note that it retains some semblance of a coastline where the tracks cross water), to a severe rectilinear diagram in just 13 years or so. Each map is also quite beautiful in their own way.
Route numbers on the second and third maps allow service patterns and short run lines to be shown very effectively. I think the treatment on the final map is one of the best I have ever seen: it’s clear to see exactly which stations Line 13 runs between, for example.
Compare to the current Stockholm transit map (Nov. 2011, 3.5 stars)
Historical Map: Tyne and Wear Metro, England, c. 2000
Showing the then-proposed extension to Sunderland, which opened in 2002.
Interestingly, the 60-degree angled section running through Newcastle is flipped the other way compared to the current map (Nov. 2011, 3.5 stars). I’d say the change was mainly made to accommodate the Calvert typeface used on the modern day map: it’s far more attractive than the Futura Condensed on display here, but a lot wider. Without the flip, the labels for South Gosforth and Four Lane Ends stations on the current version would almost certainly clash.
Historical Map: Abandoned Bus Station, Pripyat, Ukraine
A harrowing image from the Ukrainian city of Pripyat, built in the 1970s to house workers for the ill-fated Chernobyl nuclear plant. Pripyat lies just a few scant kilometres from the plant, and was permanently evacuated within two days of the disaster in 1986.
Within the ruins of the city’s bus station is this surprisingly intact map of services offered within the local region. Pripyat is the fourth station from the top along the right edge of the map, just above the horizontal line that runs through the map. The town of Chernobyl (which is further from the plant than Pripyat) is the next stop to the south along the red route line.
(Source: Matt. Create. (Roads Less Traveled)/Flickr)
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 Map: London Connections, 1988
The reverse side of the British Rail Network SouthEast map, showing the detailed view of the area surrounding London. While this map is designed in a very similar style (at the same time, by the same people) to the regional map, I feel it’s slightly less successful for a few reasons.
The inclusion of the London Underground introduces many more colors to the map, which instantly makes it feel much busier. After using all these familiar and well-established colours for the Underground, there really aren’t many colours left to use for the main line/Network SouthEast routes. So they get saddled with orange, a very vivid, powerful colour that visually dominates the map, especially south of the Thames.
Interestingly, the London Overground — a service which has largely been formed from parts of these old main line routes — also uses orange as its route colour: is this map the origin of that designation?
Other points of interest: The Docklands Light Railway, opened the previous year, is shown but has not yet acquired its distinctive teal route colour. The Waterloo & City Line (a very short line between Waterloo and Bank stations) is still part of British Rail, not the Underground.
See also this British Rail map from 1965 (May 2012, 4.5 stars) that covers a very similar area but omits the Underground.
Our rating: A fine piece of work that skillfully incorporates a lot of information, but not as excellent as its sibling. Three stars.
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: British Rail Network SouthEast, 1988
Network SouthEast was an operating division of British Rail that was formed in 1982 (although it was known as London & South Eastern until 1986). It was responsible for inter-city and commuter rail for the densely-populated south east of England, including London. Of course, beginning in 1994, Network SouthEast was privatised along with the rest of British Rail, leading to the convoluted network of private rail companies we see today.
But what we have here is a very handsome network map, which obviously owes a great deal to the London Underground map, but has enough of its own identity to stand alone. This is mainly achieved by the removal of the Underground’s distinctive Johnston Sans typeface, replaced with what looks like a condensed Helvetica or similar Gothic face.
The map is broken down into six regions, which are cleverly shown by only using three repeating colours (red, blue and grey): this prevents the map from looking too rainbow-like and gives it a more corporate feeling. A fourth colour — orange — is used to show the brand-new ThamesLink service running north-south through London.
The London region itself only shows main terminals and connecting stations: a more detailed map of this area is shown on the reverse of this map: this keeps the map clean and uncluttered.
About the only real problem I have with this map is the colour of the water, which is almost exactly the same as the blue type that is used to denote connecting ferry services and ports. For example, there’s a ferry to France from Newhaven Harbour, but it’s very difficult to make that out.
Our rating: An excellent example of mid-1980s map design (remember: this is still before computers entered the design field, so a map of this complexity was quite an undertaking). Four stars.