Stand clear of the closing doors
March 7, 2005 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Ever wonder what the London Underground Map [105 KiB PDF] would look like if it were geographically accurate [255 KiB GIF]? If you could morph [13.7 KiB Flash] between those two versions and Harry Beck's 1933 map [112 KiB JPG]? What it will look like in 2016 [218 KiB PDF]? What if you replaced all the stations, even ones that are no longer used, with well-known personalities [46 KiB JPG inset]? If you knew exactly which carriage to get on so you'd already be at the Way Out (never "exit" [23 MiB PDF]) when your train stops (or doesn't stop)? If you had a similar schematic for buses [245 KiB PDF] or river boats [50 KiB PDF]?

Pass your Oyster card over the reader and go on a tour of interesting, imaginative, and subversive maps and diagrams of London public transport. And as you leave, remember to Mind the Gap, Stand on the Right [671 KiB JPG], and Always Touch Out.
posted by grouse (65 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, god. I love this stuff!
posted by at 8:28 AM on March 7, 2005

too cool!
posted by shoepal at 8:33 AM on March 7, 2005

What an insanely great post. Thank you.
posted by loquacious at 8:34 AM on March 7, 2005

grouse you rule. This is brilliant stuff. The 2016 map is fascinating, I love the modification stickers but the geographically accurate map is simply wonderful. You've also just depressed the hell out of me for taking a job in Canary Wharf. Where the hell am I supposed to live?!?

On preview, just reminded me a of a piss take doing the rounds a few years ago. 'Is he all there?' 'End of the Hammersmith n City, mate.'
posted by dmt at 8:41 AM on March 7, 2005

This is great! That idea of route maps based on nodes rather than lines is pretty cool ...
posted by carter at 8:47 AM on March 7, 2005

whatta post!
posted by sklero at 8:49 AM on March 7, 2005

Wow, and wow again. Neat stuff.
posted by devbrain at 8:50 AM on March 7, 2005

I wonder ... was this intentional??

"Proff checking is now in progress and hopefully everything should be ready in the next few weeks." (emphasis mine)

(taken from
posted by devbrain at 8:52 AM on March 7, 2005

dmt: Well, after CrossRail is finished you'll have easy access to the Isle of Dogs from all over the place. Of course, I wouldn't hold my breath.

For the Docklands, trains in South London [428 KiB PDF] are getting easier and more convenient to use. Of course, adding them in makes the map really hairy [146 KiB PDF] and much less elegant.
posted by grouse at 8:53 AM on March 7, 2005

Dude. [this is not] just [good];

[this is fucking amazing]
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:06 AM on March 7, 2005

ah, reviving metafilter with a single post. love the subversive link. love all of the links.
posted by blendor at 9:14 AM on March 7, 2005

Great post. I have two of these maps framed on my living room wall.
posted by handee at 9:18 AM on March 7, 2005

Wow. Great old-skool post. [Emails to all the brits he knows.]
posted by louie at 9:21 AM on March 7, 2005

That system looks absolutely terrifying.

Is it as hard to navigate as the maps imply?

I fear I would never leave my flat if I lived in London.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:29 AM on March 7, 2005

Hah. 2016 and still Crouch End has no tube link. That'll teach those boho actor types. (well, it will teach them if they'd worked a bit harder they could have got a place in Primrose hill).

And Ynoxas, the tube is easy. I think it's one of the better sign posted underground systems I've come across (bar a couple of stations like Kings Cross which is a confusing rat run). There are much more terrifying reasons for not leaving your flat in London than tube travel.
posted by ciderwoman at 9:42 AM on March 7, 2005

I'm opening with a preemptive Grundy Gambit in the second quadrant:
Mornington Crescent!

(Oh shit. This post just made me lose.)
posted by Matching Mole at 9:52 AM on March 7, 2005

They have an "overground" map pinned up in a large number of the pubs here. It's basically an underground style aid to pub crawling. (For example, the Green Line will include the stops "Hughes", "The Ring 'o bells" and the "3 Pigeons" I'd post a picture, but rather annoyingly can't find one.
posted by seanyboy at 9:57 AM on March 7, 2005

Ynoxas: I actually think it is really, really easy. That's why people love the Tube Map [108 KiB PDF] so much--it makes a really complicated system very simple. I bet, looking at that map, you can easily tell me how to get from Heathrow Terminals 1, 2, 3 (bottom left of the map) to Westminster (very center of the map, right next to the river). The free pocket versions of the maps have grids and indexes as well. There are general maps on the wall all over every station, strip maps on the trains, and special strip maps at each station that show only the stations reachable from a particular platform. All organized according to a rigorous set of design standards. I was able to figure out where I was going on the first day here with no trouble whatsoever.

Where the system breaks down is the fact that it is non-geographic. Look at that same map and tell me how to get from St. Paul's (on the Central (Red) Line to Mansion House (on the District/Circle (Green/Yellow) Lines). The easy thing seems to be to take the Central Line east to Bank, and then the District back from there. That will take you about 25 minutes. It's only a seven minute walk though [PDF], according to the Journey Planner.
posted by grouse at 9:57 AM on March 7, 2005

seanyboy: We have something like that here in Cambridge too.
posted by grouse at 10:00 AM on March 7, 2005

Wonderful post. One thing: as a Yank, I never quite got the "Way Out" business. Isn't "Exit" considered an English word nowadays?
posted by QuietDesperation at 10:21 AM on March 7, 2005

This is a truly superb post. However, non-London living people should not feel too jealous. For some reason, the ticketing systems, Jubilee Line stations and LUL website are state-of-the-art – yet the rest of the network is usually less punctual than it was in 1920 due to the ‘British disease’ of under-investment. It is painfully unreliable, especially at rush hour – even on the newer lines you find yourself inexplicably stuck in a tunnel or your train judders uncomfortably between two speeds: slow and stop. Big chunks of the city are served by ‘overground’ train lines that come at odd 20-40 minute intervals and are generally even worse. Crossrail should have been built 25 years ago. The East London Line (a relatively straightforward conversion of mainline rail to light rail) should have been done by 1990.

The Tube is iconic, sometimes romantic, but is a truly awful – stuck together with chewing gum and plywood old transport system that will get much more expensive but not much better in the next decade. Most Londoners would give their eye teeth to swap it for the plain, useful NYC system. Or even the Budapest one…
posted by The Salaryman at 10:27 AM on March 7, 2005

Great post. I love Tube maps.

I have about 4 or 5 different ones as desktops on my computer. A nice scan of Mr. Becks original. But two of my favourites: one is a geographically-accurate map superimposed over a satellite image, and another with all the station names in German, which I have no idea where I found it. It is like it is out of a Alternative History novel or something, I love it.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 10:31 AM on March 7, 2005

Salaryman: the East London Line Extension will not be light rail. In fact when the extension is done, the whole line will run on rolling stock much more similar to National Rail surface trains than to the current tube stock.
posted by grouse at 10:36 AM on March 7, 2005

Great post, but I just thought I'd point out I've posted one of the links before. Now if only they'd build a station where I live...
posted by Orange Goblin at 10:51 AM on March 7, 2005

Ciderwoman and Grouse: I think maybe it looks different at "eye level". The complexity just took me somewhat by surprise when I saw the map, and the enormity of it made it baffling in the abstract.

Note also I am an American from the South... so my experience with tubes has been limited to the Washington DC Metro... which seemed rather serviceable to me, and to my untrained eye looks several orders of magnitude less... intimidating.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:06 AM on March 7, 2005

great stuff--what's weird tho, is that there'll still be big gaps in areas covered even in 2016--why nothing along the south thames in the west? (like kingston, putney, clapham, vauxhall to waterloo, etc)? or along the other bank? (like heathrow, gunnersbury, parsons green, imperial wharf, pimlico to westminster, etc)?

Why does the east get most of the new lines?
posted by amberglow at 11:13 AM on March 7, 2005

this is post is so good I'm almost peeing myself -- I can't wait to check all the links!
posted by matteo at 11:41 AM on March 7, 2005

amberglow: Well mainly cause Sarf London always gets the shaft. But also because there is already a fairly extensive rail network [PDF again] in the south. Although 4 trains per hour from Kingston hardly compares to the usual Tube standards (I think the trains come every 90 seconds on the Piccadilly line in peak hours), multimodal transportation is much easier here than in NYC. A MetroCard won't let you take the Metro-North Railroad to the Bronx, but a Travelcard here is good on all modes of transportation. I don't think people in the west north of the river have a lot to complain about.

The east gets a lot of new lines because that's all the new development is, especially the Docklands (including Canary Wharf) which is an ever-growing commercial center.
posted by grouse at 11:42 AM on March 7, 2005

Top-quality post, grouse. I'll be revisiting all the links later when time permits.

Ynoxas: Just visited London for the first time in November. I'd heard tales of frustration surrounding the Underground from other people who'd visited, but I didn't find it that daunting. But it is a vast system, and very crowded at rush hour.
posted by 27 at 11:50 AM on March 7, 2005

Outstanding post! The tube map with walklines seems potentially useful, I'll try it out next time I'm visiting London.
posted by teleskiving at 11:59 AM on March 7, 2005

Ynoxas -- the biggest difference between DC's system (where I grew up) and systems like London, New York, Paris, and others is sheer station density. It's hard to go 3-4 blocks in Manhattan and not hit a train entrance. The distance between say, Friendship Heights and Bethesda in DC is quite further..

(and yeah, great post.)

For New York transit nerds, HopStop is useful as well -- shows combinations of bus/train required to get from destination to destination within the city. Good stuff. Loves me some mass transit.
posted by fet at 12:08 PM on March 7, 2005

Don't forget the sort of unfinished Tube Map in 3D, grouse.
posted by armoured-ant at 12:13 PM on March 7, 2005

Sorry for my ignorance about the true nature of the ELL, grouse and thanks again for such a great post! One question I still have is if the ELL is as as ludicrously simple an engineering project compared to most of the other rail related stuff (Thameslink 2000, CrossRail, Jubilee Line etc) as an LUL-affiliated person in the know once told me, why is it taking so long and been broken into 2 phases even after the scope of the project was reduced? As someone about to move Sarf, yes I am bitter it has been neglected Tube wise. In terms of network priorities I still think you need to have fewer phantom 'signal failures' gumming things up before you put in bleeding edge PAYG fare cards.
posted by The Salaryman at 12:22 PM on March 7, 2005

wow! the winner is you!
posted by absalom at 12:28 PM on March 7, 2005

armoured-ant: I've seen that but didn't think of putting it in, it's fantastic! :)

Salaryman: It was mainly just a technical nit--as you say the ELLX does not compare to CrossRail. CrossRail would be the biggest project ever completed in the United Kingdom (uh oh, that's what they said about the Big Dig). It involves a massive tunnel through a densely utilized area, and tons of new and enormous stations. Remember it is a mainline project, so everything will be on a scale much bigger than the typical Tube stuff.

Thameslink 20003000, if it ever happens, will require rebuilding some highly used mainline stations, and some junction work. The ELLX will just require some connections and new stations, so it doesn't compare to anything that requires new tunnel or even the major reconstructions of Thameslink 2000.

Sadly, updating the signals to a modern standard is MUCH harder than deploying even a complex whiz-bang fare system like Oyster. Since signals are a safety-critical system, they have to really make sure things go right. And if there is any kind of fault, you get stopped trains along a whole line until things get figured out or fixed. A single broken barrier can be taken out of service without screwing up anything else.

Some lines will have their signals upgraded over the next 10-15 years. *groan*
posted by grouse at 12:44 PM on March 7, 2005

Now that's what I call a front page post. Looks like I'm going to be lost in the Underground for the next while. Thank you.
posted by jokeefe at 1:06 PM on March 7, 2005

Awesome post, grouse - especially as it's your first! Have you been composing it since you joined up? :-)

I love stuff like this; the difference between the stylised diagram and the geographical map is incredible, and the thought of hidden, officially abandoned stations (that may still be used secretly gives) me a nice little shiver!
posted by Chunder at 1:09 PM on March 7, 2005

Chunder: Thanks! And thanks to everyone else who had kind words, as well. I came across the morph Flash today which was the impetus for the whole post. I didn't post earlier because I wanted to wait until I had something good.
posted by grouse at 1:15 PM on March 7, 2005

Thanks for the info, Grouse! If its not to selfish of me to ask - do you know why the ELLX is taking so long and was scaled back? I know there was a legal case over a listed viaduct that delayed it, but other than that, is it the same old money/planning/procuring/poor project management stuff? Or is that an unfair assumption on my part? I have longed looked at the tube map and have fastasised about putting coloured lines on the 'blank' bits...
posted by The Salaryman at 1:22 PM on March 7, 2005 you know why the ELLX is taking so long and was scaled back?... is it the same old money/planning/procuring/poor project management stuff?

You've got it. Lots of other news links on the Always Touch Out page on the ELLX.
posted by grouse at 1:34 PM on March 7, 2005

Excellent follow-up links, too; loved the 'design standards' pdfs. Mmm, New Johnston ...
posted by carter at 1:35 PM on March 7, 2005

Before I set off to live in London, I looked at the tube map and reacted with Ynoxas' quivery-lipped concern. My dad had regular meetings there, so I asked him to explain it, and he said:

"Well, they're all northbound or southbound, except the District and Circle which is eastbound or westbound. Actually, so is the Central, and bits of the Piccadilly, but you'll figure it out. And change lines at the circles. And if a line crosses over into another one on the map, then whatever line you're on with the same colour, you can get off at that station."

It all became crystal-clear within 30 minutes of actually boarding the tube. So don't worry, Ynoxas. And make sure you visit before all vestiges of the Tube's elderly nature are soullessly stripped away!

When I lived in London, you used to be able to glimpse older, dark, disused stations from the present-day platforms and nobody gave a damn. But for me, it was like... well, I guess like it would be to live in New York and glimpse City Hall station every day.

I really loved Mornington Crescent (the superbly restored station (from this equally superb site)) for that reason - and being jostled along inside Covent Garden on a Saturday afternoon has a lot of hurried, old world charm. I sometimes think. ;o)

Oh, and while surfing a little further down memory lane, I came across this - the results of the 2003 Camden Town derailment. Scary stuff.
posted by paperpete at 1:50 PM on March 7, 2005

And ps. Thanks so much, grouse. Newly resolved to live in London again... some day.
posted by paperpete at 1:52 PM on March 7, 2005

er hum this should have been my post considering I work for LU and work directly with Oyster card (now shuffles to the nearest dark corner to wait for all the tube and Oyster bashing). Good post tho and now have some extra handy links to dish out to our customers :D
posted by floanna at 2:15 PM on March 7, 2005

Wow. This is the best. Post. Ever. THIS is why i love Metafilter and all MeFites. MUCH LOVE, y'all!
posted by indiebass at 2:20 PM on March 7, 2005

I live just outside London, so get the thrill of being a semi-regular user of the LU and always really enjoy it. Even last week when signal problems took every other train out of the Victoria line between Oxford Circus and Kings Cross. People were defying the laws of physics to get onto the trains that day and I felt quite violated when I got off at the Cross.

Great fun.
posted by Mr Bismarck at 2:40 PM on March 7, 2005

work directly with Oyster card

My Oyster card stopped working in the rush hour at Victoria today, mere hours after buying a week's pass, and the 'helpful' LUL numpty at the gates just told me to buy a ticket. Oyster = the second worst idea LT/TfL has ever had (the first being the accursed bendy buses).

Why does the east get most of the new lines?


Try asking that of the residents of Hackney.
posted by influx at 2:59 PM on March 7, 2005

Also, 'Stratford International for the Olympics' is immensely amusing.
posted by influx at 3:04 PM on March 7, 2005

I work for LU and work directly with Oyster car

Fi, fi, fo, fum! I smell the blood of, er, a management consultant!
posted by dmt at 3:43 PM on March 7, 2005

Oyster = the second worst idea LT/TfL has ever had

Influx, I will agree to disagree with you on that one ;) I've personally never had a problem with my Oyster in the two years I've had it. Don't forget that magnetic tickets are/were still prone to failing (about 4 times more) and everyone seems to forget that as soon as something new is introduced.
posted by floanna at 4:10 PM on March 7, 2005

Fi, fi, fo, fum! I smell the blood of, er, a management consultant!

ha ha not quite, just a lowly minion.
posted by floanna at 4:13 PM on March 7, 2005

I didn't post earlier because I wanted to wait until I had something good.
posted by grouse at 1:15 PM PST on March 7

Those words should be emblazoned on the new users signup page as an example to all who enter there.
posted by jokeefe at 4:41 PM on March 7, 2005

Nice post grouse. A few links in there I've not seen before, and will be sure to revisit.

There is probably some arcane rule about not self-posting on a first post (if at all), but I'll throw caution to the wind. A while ago I overlaid the geographically accurate map on a NASA satellite image and came up with this.
posted by polaroid at 4:42 PM on March 7, 2005

I'm an American who moved by himself to London about 5 months ago, was shocked by the ease to get from Gatwick Airport to Wood Green station with no prior planning or preparation.

It is just when you come back to the surface that you realise that this city is not as simple or convenient as that map would have you believe.

I emerged from the Underground carrying four big bags and knowing the basic direction of where it was I was supposed to go to find my house. Not knowing how inaccurate the Underground map is in regard to actual world placement let me believe that I could manage the trek using that map as a guide of where to go.

Needless to say, I spent the next 3 hours walking in concentric circles as my hands evolved from relatively capable of delicate gestures, to blistered talons, to bloodied ropes that refused to let go of my bags when I finally collapsed in the car park of my housing.

Really, I can only blame myself. I assumed that accuracy in topography would not be sacrificed for convenience; but those lines should have struck me as having been too straight to have captured reality within them.

BTB: an additional "thank you" to the submitter, I had been at a loss of subject matter for a composition I am to have completed by tomorrow, but it is clear to me now that I should write about the Underground.

If any readers think they know something particularly remarkable about the Underground that I should know for a non-fiction work on the Underground that I am about to begin, my email is:
posted by herting at 5:11 PM on March 7, 2005

Fantastic post, grouse! (that should take care of Stavros's blue ennui)
posted by dhruva at 9:20 PM on March 7, 2005

Apparently the reason that London's public transport has so many woes is due to it having been the first system of its kind, and having made the mistakes that everybody else learned from (i.e., making the tunnels small, having only one tunnel in each direction (which necessitates the Tube stopping for maintenance overnight; by contrast, New York has doubled tunnels, allowing for 24-hour service)).
posted by acb at 4:49 AM on March 8, 2005

The London Underground Song. Grab it from a random one of these to keep them alive longer: 1 2 3 4.
(originally from
posted by quiet at 6:40 AM on March 8, 2005

Grouse, (what a great post!), how did you get to that pdf tube local area map? I pick up the paper versions of these maps wherever I go, but I just can't find them off the main website. Where is my tfl-fu?
posted by suleikacasilda at 8:36 AM on March 8, 2005

suleikacasilda: There are links to them from Journey Planner routes. I don't know any other way to get to them, other than guessing the URL. Which isn't usually that difficult.
posted by grouse at 8:59 AM on March 8, 2005

Great post. I especially liked the Disused Stations link...I love that stuff for some reason.

Man, I want to go back to London!
posted by SisterHavana at 9:12 AM on March 8, 2005

Try asking that of the residents of Hackney.

Oh yeah. Sticking 'too bloody far from nearest Tube' on ads is always fun. Worth mentioning that the bus is less scary for visitors and newcomers since the Tube-ified the route maps appeared. Less chance of getting the wrong bus, or missing your stop and ending up in Dalston.

One thing: a lot of the new lines are actually planned for trams, not underground trains. Whether that happens...
posted by riviera at 9:13 AM on March 8, 2005

applauds. thanks grouse.
posted by rxreed at 7:30 PM on March 8, 2005

Also, 'Stratford International for the Olympics' is immensely amusing.

I travel through Stratford every day to pick up the DLR (great service, btw).

A couple of weeks ago, I got off the Central Line in Stratford at 6.45am and thought I'd stumbled into a parallel universe. There were hanging baskets and floral displays everywhere, the waiting rooms weren't padlocked, there were no Stella Artois cans or KFC boxes lying around, the staff were all in uniform with smiles on their faces ...

Then I remembered - that was the day the Olympic bods were visiting for the 2012 London bid.

The following day it was back to its normal filthy state, nowhere to sit, litter everywhere, junkies harassing people for their used travelcards, no staff around ...
posted by essexjan at 3:09 AM on March 9, 2005

This is a great post! The site about abandoned stations will keep me busy for hours.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:03 AM on March 9, 2005

now, will they be beefing up the nightbuses, hopefully? (especially with 24hour bar hours or whatever it is?)
posted by amberglow at 2:40 PM on March 9, 2005

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