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.
Delightful three-dimensional representation of daily passenger numbers on Frankfurt’s streetcar lines in the early 20th century. Each strip of wood represents 4,000 passengers: the higher the wood, the more passengers on that section of line!
The figure is from Willard C. Brinton’s Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts, first published in 1914 and widely regarded as the first book on data visualization best practices. You can read the book on archive.org
It’s not easy to show passenger numbers on a transit network. But in 1914 all you need to do is use wood, as above, or strips of metal!
Historical Map: SCRTD Tourist Bus Pass Brochure Map, 1980
When is a bus map not a bus map? When it doesn’t really show any routes at all, that’s when. While this cheerfully cartoonish map might show destinations and label some major roads with bus route numbers, I think that anyone — let alone tourists new to LA! — would find it very difficult to actually navigate their way anywhere using only this map. It just about works as an introduction to the region and the bargain tourist pass rates ($1 per day for unlimited bus rides — sweet!), but that’s about it.
Source: Metro Transportation Library and Archive/Flickr
A picture map of the Washington Metropolitan Region, created for the official bicentennial celebration of the American Revolution (1776-1976). Dated 1975.
Please view a full, high-resolution version of the map.
Image 2: This section of the map gives an overview of the District, as well as listing information about different Metrobus stops and the in-progress Metrorail (which opened in March 1976, just before the bicentennial).
Image 3: The map gives an up-close look at different sections of the city and inner-ring suburbs, including: Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Southwest, Capitol Hill, and Old Town Alexandria. These special sections point out landmarks such as Howard University, the Library of Congress, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and Rock Creek Park. It also provides information on famous buildings such as the Willard Hotel, the Old Post Office, and the British Embassy.
Image 4: The last section provides historical details about the District and the surrounding region, including facts about the National Mall, a graph that charts the city’s population growth, and the March on Washington in 1963.
Well, this is just gorgeous (and relevant, as it has a little map of the nascent Metrorail system in the second image).
Historical Map: 1985 “London Connections” Map Uncovered at Embankment Station
Great photos of this fantastic old map, discovered in place (presumably during the Bakerloo/Northern Line station refurbishment works) and now protected in situ by some rather ugly chicken wire. Note that the loop at the western end of the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow Terminal 4 is still under construction, which had been completed by the time this version of the map (May 2013, 3 stars) came out in 1988.
Historical Map: Montreal Metro Map, July 1979
From the days before the current colour-coding of the lines and the now-iconic black background. Here, we have dark blue (or black: it’s hard to tell from this picture) instead of green for Line 1, and red instead of orange for Line 2. Line 4 retains its yellow color, and the three colours combined also form part of the Metro’s branding at the base of the map.
The map itself is fairly blocky and primitive, and the stairstepping effect on Line 1 in the eastern portion of the map creates some problems with label placement. The shoreline is strangely detailed in comparison with the rest of the map.
The enormous “no smoking” icon is much larger than the agency logo, and apparently, way too many people interfere with the doors.
Our rating: An interesting look at the early days of Montreal’s map, although it’s not very memorable in itself. Two stars.
Submission - Historical Map: Greater London British Rail Map, 1969
Submitted by Peter Marshall, who says:
I’m currently trying to design a clearer diagrammatic representation of the maddening tangle of railway lines and services in the South London area. Just doing my initial research into historical versions online, I turned up this interesting map. It appears to have been published in 1969 by British Rail, for what purpose, I am not absolutely certain. It seems far too sparse in detail to be a map intended for use by the general public, as it gives so little information about lines and services, however it appears to have been published alongside a timetable.
I think it’s interesting mainly because the first thing I imagine anyone planning to map the railways around London doing is completely abandoning topography, however, topography plays such an important part of this map. The use of the BR typeface and stripped down use of only 3 shades (background, river and line) of the same BR red is beautiful in its simplicity. The strange angularity of the river seems to serve to instruct the user that this is a diagram using topography as its basic principle, but prepared to deviate from it as necessary, such as in the exaggerated separation of Lewisham from the Lewisham bypassing curves, or the large junctions at Selhurst and Streatham.
Perhaps I’m over-familiar with the region and therefore find it easier to use than an ordinary member of the public, but I think this is a really interesting approach.
Transit Maps says:
I think Peter has inadvertently provided the answer to his own question when he says that this map was published along with the British Rail timetable book. This is what I like to call a “boast map” — it serves no other purpose than to say, "Look how large and extensive our network is! Why, you can get just about anywhere on British Rail!"
Of course, to work out how you can actually get there from here, you have to consult the timetables in the accompanying book, or go and talk to a British Rail booking agent.
The map itself serves its purpose well and is another great example of how to make a compelling map with a limited colour palette. The major London terminals are nicely emphasised, and the restrained London Underground roundels to indicate stations with Tube interchanges are rather wonderful.
BR certainly used diagrammatic maps of their Greater London network at the time for use by the general public, as this superb poster from 1965 shows.
Submission - Historical Map: Chicago CTA Rapid Transit Map, 1983
Submitted by our resident repository of Chicago transit map knowledge, Dennis McClendon, who says:
This map of Chicago’s rapid transit network originated in the 1970s (this one is from June 1983), and this style was used until routes received color names in 1993. Happily, by that time digital printing in fiberglass-embedded signs made full-color maps easier to place in graffiti-prone environments.
These maps were silk-screened onto [blue] color blanks, and every color of ink added cost. So the CTA’s six lines are represented by using only two colors. Simple black is used for three “extension” lines that never overlap. A simple white line is used for the north-south line those connect with. For the two other through routes: black with white casing and white with black casing.
The side ticks for stations work fine, but a box for the places where transfers are possible is not altogether intuitive. The CTA of that era employed skip-stop spacing, so alternate trains stopped at A or B stations only. Another graphic decision that might have deserved more thought: the names of various suburbs—only a few of which can be reached by rapid transit—floating in their vague geographic positions, but no indication of Chicago city limits or Lake Michigan.
Transit Maps says:
I have to say that I actually really like the forced graphic simplicity of this map. There’s only two colours to work with, so every element has to be very carefully considered and balanced against others for the map to work at all. That it manages to keep the route lines recognisable and separated in the downtown Loop area without the use of an inset map is quite an achievement.
The famous “A-B” stopping patterns are shown pretty deftly as well, being mostly placed on the opposite side of the route line from the station name. The few stations where this doesn’t happen (due to crowding or space limitations) stand out like a sore thumb – Jarvis on the North-South line, and many of the stations on the Ravenswood line. There are also two stations with their labels set at an angle: Merchandise Mart is almost completely unavoidable, but Harvard on the Englewood Line could easily have been fitted in horizontally.
I think the “boxed” interchanges work well enough, having seen similar devices on quite a few maps (the Paris Metro included) now. I also like the extra detail included on the map: station closures on weekends and nights, direction of travel around the Loop, inbound boarding only on the last three stations on the Jackson Park North-South Line, and more.
I would agree with Dennis on the locality names, that just seem to float in space. The biggest offender is “Evergreen Park”, right at the very bottom of the map, below the legend!
As for depicting Lake Michigan, that seems like a good idea, but I struggle to think of a way of doing it without upsetting the delicate balance of the map. You can’t really use a white line, as that could be confused with all the white route lines, and you can’t have a large white area as that would be visually way too heavy. In the end, the lake isn’t that important for such a graphically stylised map (it really just delineates the eastern side of the map), so I’m not too upset by its absence.
Our rating: A fine historical example of how to use a limited colour palette effectively. Minimalist but still effective. Three-and-a-half stars.
1914 Hoch und Untergrundbahn Map, Sophie-Charlotte-Platz, Berlin
One of 26 panels on the walls of the platforms of this U-Bahn station that show the history of the subway before the First World War.
Submission – Historical Map: Proposed Underground Mass Transit, Jakarta, Indonesia, c. 1993
Submitted by Josh Brandt, who says:
I used to work at a university, and one day while poking through some dumpsters I found a big hardbound book full of architectural drawings and tables and things, a final report on developing a mass transit system for Jakarta.
I don’t know if that sort of thing interests you, but here are some pictures of pages from it.
They planned for 2 lines, NS and EW, and mapped them out in detail— I only have pictures of 2 of the street plans since about 2/3 of the book is made up of drawings of the streets with the proposed rail lines overlaid. They came up with 3 or 4 potential plans, including one full-underground line and a couple of mixed underground and elevated rail lines. They also sketched out a couple of stations.
I haven’t gone through and compared in detail to what they’re building now, but it looks pretty similar at a quick glance…
Transit Maps says:
What an amazing find, Josh! This is a real old-school proposal document, with beautiful hand-drawn architectural renderings and plans. I’ll note here that one of the proposing companies is Parsons Brinckerhoff, the firm that I work for as a senior graphic designer – essentially producing the same type of proposal documents, but with the benefit of modern computer software and technology.
Josh has posted a great set on Flickr of pages from the proposal, but I’ve posted one of my favourites here: a plan view of what looks like the north-eastern quadrant of the two-line system, including landmarks and other proposed works along the way. The linework is simply beautiful, and I wish more proposals had hand-drawn maps in them these days.
By the way, the 1993 date comes solely from the artist’s signature on some of the other drawings, which are dated March 1993. More than 20 years later, construction on the Jakarta MRT has only just started…
Our rating: Super yummy old style architectural renderings and maps make me happy. Four stars!