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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What’s the constitutional status of the Isle of Man, then?

...what? Image: Google Maps/CityMetric.

Amidst the tumult of Brexit negotiations, away from questions about the integrity of the Union itself being asked by wearied bureaucrats in Edinburgh, Belfast, Brussels and London, the constitutional uncertainty of our times has washed up on the shores of the Isle of Man. Now it threatens the slumber of policymakers in Douglas, too.

The ten-by-forty mile island in the Irish Sea is best known internationally for its annual TT motorcycle races and tax haven status. If you haven’t been you should go: the variety of scenery is breath taking, as are the economics. Lamborghinis emerge from the back of slate cottages, a seaside dwelling can set you back more than an Edinburgh duplex, and the gilet prevalence index is off the charts in certain localities.

The reason for the disconnect is the constitutional relationship between the Isle of Man and the UK. For centuries the island supplemented threadbare revenue streams from subsistence farming and fishing with a robust smuggling sector. The IoM government homepage clearly, maybe even proudly, states that it has never been part of the UK: in the 1700s plans to buy it out and make it part of England were shelved after local unrest, while the current arrangement of Home Rule dates to the early 1800s.

Today the IoM government is based in Douglas, the island’s largest town. Its funding comes through a revenue sharing agreement, the “common purse”, with tax gathered locally on behalf of London and returned to the island according to an unpublicised formula. The agreement has been a source of contention for about as long as it’s existed, but ire has grown proportionally with the island’s pre-eminence as a tax haven. Its detractors point out that the UK consistently gives back to the IoM government more than it gathers, effectively subsidising the island’s status as a tax haven; while its supporters are wealthy.

A map of the Isle of Man. Image: Eric Gaba/Wikimedia Commons.

In a world gripped by economic injustice, the IoM drives social change with a programme of support to welcome the huddled masses of oligarchs yearning for freedom from autocratic tax regimes. Income tax tops out at 20 per cent but, fear not, it’s capped at £150,000. Corporation tax is nil, until your firm earns £500,000 a year; then it has to pay 10 per cent on everything over that. For mega-wealthy émigrés forced to flee odious obligations like capital gains, inheritance or wealth tax, there are opportunities to invest in local property, to get back on your feet: proceeds are taxed at 20 per cent.

The Isle of Man enjoys the same constitutional status as the Channel Islands: the UK handles its accountancy and defence, but aside from the constant vigilance required to keep Dublin at bay the only international hassle comes from Brexit. In the same way as the IoM has never been part of the UK, it’s never been part of the EU – it enjoys all the benefits (or unconscionable infringements) of membership by virtue of a legal protocol which doesn’t bestow membership. Crucially, the IoM doesn’t have any representation with the EU – it can’t, being the kind of Schrödinger jurisdiction which is neither part of the UK nor its own recognised area.


That distinction brings other problems. Regardless of how Brexit pans out, the EU has shown signs of going to war on tax avoidance – a rare political argument which unites populists and progressives. The EU now maintains lists of high risk money-laundering and tax compliance jurisdictions, and the IoM’s prominence in the international sector was part of the reason some MEPs have pushed for including the UK as a whole.

The IoM experiences the paradox of autonomy without representation. Its relationship with the UK has often been hamstrung, too, such as in 2009 when the Treasury slashed common purse funding in an attempt to nudge Douglas away from its tax avoidance platform.

Domestically, the distance between the plutocracy and everyday islanders is stark. Most people on the island are not wealthy: they rely on public services and work jobs like anywhere else. After the IoM’s funding was cut by London at the height of the financial crisis, lower and middle income earners were worst hit. Now the island has to maintain a favourable tax code for plutocrats while supporting public services used by the people who need them. It’s a difficult balance to strike, and likely to become more so if the EU pursues its anti-tax avoidance agenda post-Brexit.

Simon Jones is a writer based in Glasgow.