Pictorial Railway Maps

Vilelms Griķis, “Apcelo savu Dzimto Zemi!,” 1938.

At Retours, a digital magazine about railway history and design, Arjan den Boer looks at pictorial railway maps.

In the mid-20th century pictorial maps in cartoonish styles were a popular way of promoting travel and tourism. In contrast to objective, realistic maps they appeal to emotions such as romance, fantasy and humor. They are used to tell anecdotes about a region’s history, culture and landscape in a way attractive to old and young. These illustrated maps are meant to inspire, not to provide travel information.

Pictorial maps or Bildkarten seem to be the opposite of the schematic metro-like maps of railway networks from the same period, composed of straight lines and without any details. Schematic and pictorial maps share one thing though: they are only loosely bound to geographic reality. Their common goal is to convey a message—either the straightforwardness of a journey or the attractiveness of a region.

Lots of maps featured here, mostly from European rail services. Since much of the study of pictorial maps focuses on the United States, as well as Britain (especially in re MacDonald Gill), this is a refreshing filling in of the gaps.

Colour Differences in Metro Maps

Scientific American reprints a 2016 article from The Mathematical Intelligencer on an obscure, but important, corner of transit map design: how to choose a colour for a metro line. The discussion is rather math heavy (and therefore above my pay grade), but the gist is that for ease of use lines’ colours should look as different from one another as possible, and it gets more complicated as you add more lines. “Not only must the new colors be unlike the old ones, but also they must differ from each other as much as possible.” The article discusses the math involved in choosing new colours. [WMS]

Previously: The Transit Line Colour Palette.

Transport for London’s Historical Archive of Car Line Diagrams

Bakerloo Line CLDs (Transport for London)

IanVisits has stumbled across Transport for London’s cache of car line diagrams (CLDs)—the linear maps that appear inside each train car. The TfL page includes CLDs ands CLD stickers for all lines going back to 1996; each line has its own PDF file that contains every iteration of its diagram, one per page. “No one will care about this whatsoever,” says IanVisits. IanVisits is, I suspect, wrong. [WMS]

London Underground Architecture and Design Map

Blue Crow Media’s latest map of urban architecture is the London Underground Architecture and Design Map, a collaboration between transit system guru (and friend of The Map Room) Mark Ovenden and photographer Will Scott. “The guide includes a geographical Underground map with featured stations marked, with corresponding photography and details on the reverse along with tips for where to find unique and unusual signage, roundels, clocks, murals and more. The map is protected by a slipcover featuring a distinctive die cut roundel.” Costs £9. More at Mapping London.

Previously: Architectural Maps of London.

James Clark’s Revised Map of Current and Proposed Railways in Southeast Asia

James Clark

James Clark has updated his map of current and proposed railways in southeast Asia (see previous entry). The new version clearly delineates between current and proposed lines. “The black lines on the map represent railways that are currently operating, while the red lines are proposed lines. As with the subway map, proposed can mean anything from lines currently under construction, in feasibility study stage, or an on-the-record election promise from a pork-barrelling politician.”

Future and Alternate Melbourne Transit Networks

Adam Mattison

Geospatial scientist Adam Mattison also dabbles in maps of a more speculative bent, including maps imagining Melbourne’s future transit network, including a tram network map of 2048, a metro map of 2070, and the above train network map of 2070. There’s some alternate history as well: maps of transit systems that might have been, but weren’t. For some reason this was picked up by the news section of Australian property and real estate portal Domain. [WMS]

A Map of the Entire French Rail Network

I love track network maps. I’ve told you about Franklin Jarrier’s rail maps, Transport for London’s track network map, and Andrew Lynch’s network map of the New York subway. Now for something grander: the SNCF’s map of the entire French rail network (28 MB PDF). It shows TGV lines, freight-only lines, number of tracks, and electrification. It even numbers the lines. In print, it measures 121 × 101 cm—I’d totally put this on my wall. Que c’est magnifique! [Transit Maps]


Will Geary’s TransitFlow project is an experimental set of tools to build animated transit flow visualizations, built from Transitland’s open-source transit schedule data. More than a dozen visualizations are available in video form here; each shows the flow of trains, buses and other forms of transport over the course of a day. Very high visual appeal. More at the Guardian. [Metrocosm]

Trafimage: Interactive Swiss Railway Map

Trafimage (screenshot)

I’ve seen real-time maps of Swiss trains before; this one, Trafimage, comes courtesy of the Swiss Federal Railways, and includes all kinds of information about the network: rail and bus lines, stations, fare networks, as well as real-time train data. Clicking on “Train tracker” makes the trains appear as circles moving along the rail lines; it’s apparently timetable-based rather than tracking actual trains, but remember: these are Swiss trains. [Maps Mania]

Between Stations

In Nicholas Rougeux’s latest project, Between Stations, subway maps “were broken down into the segments between each station and rearranged to fill a common simple shape: a circle. Each diagram shows every segment in a subway system while maintaining geographic orientation (no segments were rotated).” The project page is full of hypnotic animations in which the maps undergo their transformations. Nicholas’s blog post explains the data, code and design behind the project. [Transit Maps]

We last saw Nicholas in August 2016, when I told you about his Interchange Choreography project.

Project Subway NYC’s X-Ray Area Maps

As part of her Project Subway NYC, architect Candy Chan has created a series of X-Ray Area Maps of various New York subway stations. These maps show the subway stations—their platforms, their passages, their staircases—relative to the surrounding streets and buildings. Absolutely engrossing. Chan explains her methodology in this blog post. She’s also selling posters. [Kottke]

Baltimore’s Radi(c)al New Transit Map

Maryland Transit Administration

Baltimore gets a radical new transit map (direct PDF link) to go along with its redesigned bus network, which goes into service on Sunday. The map, which Greater Greater Washington reports was designed by Marc Szarkowski, adopts a diagrammatic radial style—essentially, a diagrammatic map based on concentric circles rather than a grid.

For those who find such a map just a little too out there, the Maryland Transit Administration also has a system map with a more familiar design (PDF).

Maryland Transit Administration

They call it a geographic system map, only it isn’t: it’s still a schematic, just less radical—or, if you like, less radial. [Planetizen]