It's Friday, so here's a 1935 map of some suburban London rail services

A detail of the 1935 LMS suburban rail network map. Image: Signage Design Society.

Oh, dear readers. I feel that recently we've let you – or at least, a significant minority of you – down of late. Not so long ago, CityMetric was over-flowing with tube map-y goodness. In February alone, we ran four different stories about the bloody thing.

Recently, though, between a mayoral election and Brexit and the gradual implosion of life as we know it, we've got distracted by other, less important subjects. As a result, we've published nothing on everyone’s favourite navigation-based design icon in weeks.

Rejoice, though, for the Sign Design Society is riding to the rescue. Last night it held a party/lecture/exhibition to show off some of its favourite tube maps. We couldn't make it, alas – but thanks to the wonder of the internet we can still enjoy some of our favourite metro maps and share them with you.

There's this display of experimental circle-based maps, for example:

 

There was a display of different takes on the tube map, using a range of different angles:

 

There were maps showing the evolution of Berlin's S-Bahn map...

 

...including that awkward phase when the city was divided and East Berlin decided to just pretend West Berlin wasn't there.

 

My favourite, though, because I'm a bit parochial, is this one.

 

It shows the suburban routes of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS) as they stood in 1935: a main line from Euston to Watford, an orbital route from the East End, around to the north London to the south western suburbs, the Bakerloo line (which it helped operate), and assorted branches.

Perhaps surprisingly, despite 80 years having passed, many of those lines are still associated with each other. Until 2007 they were bundled together as the London bit of the optimistically-named “Silverlink” franchise, before making up most of the first phase of the London Overground. (The Bakerloo still shares tracks with it between Queen's Park and Harrow & Wealdstone, though joint operation is long dead.)

Here's the whole thing. Click it expand:

So, what, I hear you cry (yes I do), does this map tell us about the history of London's rail networks?

Firstly, what is now the North London section of the Overground used to terminate at Broad Street, a long defunct station next door to Liverpool Street. In its early 20th century heyday, Broad Street was one of London's busiest stations, with a train arriving every minute.

After World War I, though, the growth of more direct Tube lines meant that it went into a steep decline, and it closed in 1986, to be replaced by the Broadgate office complex. Anyway, Paul McCartney made a film about it, so that's nice.

Another branch continued on through Hackney down to Poplar. That's mostly beeen swallowed by the Overground and DLR now.

There used to be branch lines from Watford to Croxley Green and Rickmansworth. (The former is coming back, sort of, as part of the Metropolitan line.) More excitingly, for a certain value of “excitement”, there was another branchline from Harrow & Wealdstone to Stanmore, which – I feel quite shamed by this – I had never heard of.

Apparently it opened in 1932 and ran to a different Stanmore station to the one now on the tube, but only last 20 years. The section to Belmont lasted a bit longer, but still, Stanmore Village must be pretty near the top of London's shortlist lived stations.

Kensington Addington Road is now Kensington Olympia. Uxbridge Road is now Shepherd's Bush. Chelsea & Fulham is not now Imperial Wharf, but was quite near it. S Quintin Park & Workword Scrubs is alas no longer with us - a strong candidate for London's best forgotten station name.

And Chalk Farm was later Primrose Hill, and later still a yoga studio.

That guy looks pretty bendy. Image: Google Streetview.

This map, incidentally, has been rescued from obscurity by metro map expert extraordinary Maxwell Roberts. By way of thanks, you should probably all buy his book.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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12 things we learned by reading every single National Rail timetable

Some departure boards, yesterday. Image: flickr.com/photos/joshtechfission/ CC-BY-SA

A couple of weeks ago, someone on Twitter asked CityMetric’s editor about the longest possible UK train journey where the stations are all in progressive alphabetical order. Various people made suggestions, but I was intrigued as to what that definitive answer was. Helpfully, National Rail provides a 3,717 page document containing every single timetable in the country, so I got reading!

(Well, actually I let my computer read the raw data in a file provided by ATOC, the Association of Train Operating Companies. Apparently this ‘requires a good level of computer skills’, so I guess I can put that on my CV now.)

Here’s what I learned:

1) The record for stops in progressive alphabetical order within a single journey is: 10

The winner is the weekday 7.42am Arriva Trains Wales service from Bridgend to Aberdare, which stops at the following stations in sequence:

  • Barry, Barry Docks, Cadoxton, Cardiff Central, Cardiff Queen Street, Cathays, Llandaf, Radyr, Taffs Well, Trefforest

The second longest sequence possible – 8 – overlaps with this. It’s the 22:46pm from Cardiff Central to Treherbert, although at present it’s only scheduled to run from 9-12 April, so you’d better book now to avoid the rush. 

  • Cardiff Central, Cardiff Queen Street, Cathays, Llandaf, Radyr, Taffs Well, Trefforest, Trehafod

Not quite sure what you’ll actually be able to do when you get to Trehafod at half eleven. Maybe the Welsh Mining Experience at Rhondda Heritage Park could arrange a special late night event to celebrate.

Just one of the things that you probably won't be able to see in Trehafod. Image: Wikimedia/FruitMonkey.

There are 15 possible runs of 7 stations. They include:

  • Berwick Upon Tweed, Dunbar, Edinburgh, Haymarket, Inverkeithing, Kirkcaldy, Leuchars
  • Bidston, Birkenhead North, Birkenhead Park, Conway Park, Hamilton Square, James Street, Moorfields
  • Bedford, Flitwick, Harlington, Leagrave, Luton, St Albans City, St Pancras International

There is a chance for a bit of CONTROVERSY with the last one, as you could argue that the final station is actually called London St Pancras. But St Pancras International the ATOC data calls it, so if you disagree you should ring them up and shout very loudly about it, I bet they love it when stuff like that happens.

Alphabetical train journeys not exciting enough for you?

2) The longest sequence of stations with alliterative names: 5

There are two ways to do this:

  • Ladywell, Lewisham, London Bridge, London Waterloo (East), London Charing Cross – a sequence which is the end/beginning of a couple of routes in South East London.
  • Mills Hill, Moston, Manchester Victoria, Manchester Oxford Road, Manchester Piccadilly – from the middle of the Leeds-Manchester Airport route.

There are 20 ways to get a sequence of 4, and 117 for a sequence of 3, but there are no train stations in the UK beginning with Z so shut up you at the back there.

3) The longest sequence of stations with names of increasing length: 7

Two of these:

  • York, Leeds, Batley, Dewsbury, Huddersfield, Manchester Victoria, Manchester Oxford Road
  • Lewes, Glynde, Berwick, Polegate, Eastbourne, Hampden Park, Pevensey & Westham

4) The greatest number of stations you can stop at without changing trains: 50

On a veeeeery slow service that calls at every stop between Crewe and Cardiff Central over the course of 6hr20. Faster, albeit less comprehensive, trains are available.

But if you’re looking for a really long journey, that’s got nothing on:

5) The longest journey you can take on a single National Rail service: 13 hours and 58 minutes.

A sleeper service that leaves Inverness at 7.17pm, and arrives at London Euston at 9.15am the next morning. Curiously, the ATOC data appears to claim that it stops at Wembley European Freight Operations Centre, though sadly the National Rail website makes no mention of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

6) The shortest journey you can take on a National Rail service without getting off en route: 2 minutes.

Starting at Wrexham Central, and taking you all the way to Wrexham General, this service is in place for a few days in the last week of March.

7) The shortest complete journey as the crow flies: 0 miles

Because the origin station is the same as the terminating station, i.e. the journey is on a loop.

8) The longest unbroken journey as the crow flies: 505 miles

Taking you all the way from Aberdeen to Penzance – although opportunities to make it have become rarer. The only direct service in the current timetable departs at 8.20am on Saturday 24 March. It stops at 46 stations and takes 13 hours 20 minutes. Thankfully, a trolley service is available.

9) The shortest station names on the network have just 3 letters

Ash, Ayr, Ely, Lee, Lye, Ore, Par, Rye, Wem, and Wye.

There’s also I.B.M., serving an industrial site formerly owned by the tech firm, but the ATOC data includes those full stops so it's not quite as short. Compute that, Deep Blue, you chess twat.

10) The longest station name has 33 letters excluding spaces

Okay, I cheated on this and Googled it – the ATOC data only has space for 26 characters. But for completeness’ sake: it’s Rhoose Cardiff International Airport, with 33 letters.

No, I’m not counting that other, more infamous Welsh one, because it’s listed in the database as Llanfairpwll, which is what it is actually called.

 

This sign is a lie. Image: Cyberinsekt.

11) The highest platform number on the National Rail network is 22

Well, the highest platform number at which anything is currently scheduled to stop at, at least.

12) if yoU gAze lOng into an abYss the abySs alSo gazEs into yOu

Image: author's own.

“For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved”, said Thomas.

Ed Jefferson works for the internet and tweets as @edjeff.

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