The real underground (and subway)

London's Transport Museum commissioned a gorgeous interactive map called The Real Underground which lets you see two of the many versions of the world-famous London Underground Map, as well as a street map, and switch among them to see how the two schematics agree with actual geography. I wasted way too much time playing with the Real Underground. Now it's your turn. (Looking at the evolution of transit maps, you can see that it was Harry Beck's breakthrough map from 1933 that changed the face of tube maps forever.)

There appears to be a similar effort to do the same to the New York Subway map, published by the brilliant folks at Urban Mapping. I visit New York only once every other year or so, but this map is so cool I'm tempted to get it anyway, even though I'll probably misplace it by the time I next travel there.

Comments (10)
  1. A Finn from Finland says:

    If you’re interested in an excellent in-depth history of Beck’s diagram, check out the book Mr. Beck’s Underground Map, by Ken Garland. (Hardcover, 80 pages, Capital Transport Publishing 1994.)

  2. Tyler says:

    There’s a great website on the history of the Underground, with a lot of focus on the closed stations and other such odd little things (like the WW2 era shelters).

  3. Daev says:

    I remember visiting the Transport Museum and studying its really interesting exhibit on the history of the Map.

    They showed a lot of other cities’ subway maps, usually based on the London map, but none of them were as clear and comprehensible.

    I wonder what there is about the topology of the London Underground that makes Harry Beck’s map so ideal?  Why does the same approach in New York or Paris look cluttered?

  4. Dean Harding says:

    Why does the same approach in New York or Paris look cluttered?

    Iknow that, in Sydney, our train map is based off the London map, but our train lines actually share a lot of physical tracks.

    One of the cool things about the London underground is that, if you get on the right platform, then you simply hop on the next train that comes along.

    In Sydney, you’ve also got to study the computer screens, which tell you which stations the next train will be stopping at.

    I found navigating London by underground an absolute pleasure, compared to catching trains in Sydney.

  5. Maniac says:

    welcome to Srerbian on line unterground!

  6. Ben Hutchings says:

    Dean: In general this is not true. When they get to outer London, some services only stop at major stations. There are also branches in some lines, and lines that share tracks/platforms.

  7. Randall says:

    Heh, thanks for replying; sorry to waste your time.

    [If you aren’t yourself an advanced programmer, you can ask your local advanced-level programmer for an explanation. (Actually, an intermediate-level programmer should be able to answer that too. Or a beginner-level programmer that has worked through all the exercises in Petzold.) -Raymond]
  8. Randall says:

    I’m sure Raymond loves nothing more than offtopic questions that aren’t related to his work, but regardless:

    In the Networking tab of the Task Manager, if you have more than two network adapters and click on the scrollbar, the scrollbar thumb blinks.  You can also make the thumb blink by tabbing through the window.  What *is* that?  An exotic combination of WS_ styles, etc., or did the Task Manager author(s) code the blinking behavior themselves?  (And if the latter, why?)  

    I think it has something to do with the Networking lacking a real scrollable view (humor my imprecise terms): you can change which adapters’ graphs are displayed, but you can’t scroll so that (say) you see the bottom half of graph #1, all of #2, and the top half of #3.  Maybe this is a rare case where the scroll bar is focusable, rather than only being attached to a view that’s focusable.

    I’m sure my total lack of Win32 programming skills is showing — curious all the same, though.

    [I have a general policy of ignoring off-topic questions. Use the Suggestion Box if you want to submit a future topic. But this is the sort of thing I expect my readers to know already. If I spend all my time covering basic topics, I’ll never get to the advanced topics. -Raymond]
  9. Daniel says:

    The map morph does a good job of hilighting the fact that the schematics have nothing to do with the geography of the real world. If you live entirely in the underground system and have infinite time then maybe that doesn’t really matter, but if you’d like to know things like what sort of distances are involved on a particular leg of the journey, how to effectively workaround the regular failures and rush-hour congestion, then the official maps are completely useless.

    I wrote about this at length last April.

  10. Michael J. says:

    Moscow subway borrowed this approach 30 years later, in 1960-ies.

    Here are some classic examples of Moscow subway schemes: The website is in Russian only and is not an official representation of Moscow subway, it is a personal project. But pictures do not require translation.

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