Dennis McClendon

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Historical Maps: Rail Transit in North America, 1984 by Dennis McClendon

I thought I was all done with “to scale” maps of North American rail systems, but then Dennis McClendon (see previous posts from him) sent in this beautiful series of maps that he produced for Planning magazine back in 1984. I’ve split his double-page spread up into two separate images so that they can be viewed in better detail on Tumblr. Dennis himself says:

Given this week’s Tumblr theme, I thought you might be interested in these maps that I did in 1984, when I worked for Planning magazine. The “new wave” of modern light rail systems was just getting started. My initial idea was to do them all at the same scale, but integrating them with the text into a two-page magazine layout eventually required a compromise of doing them at two distinctive scales.

No GIS or even Illustrator in those days: I created these using Rubylith and Chartpak flexible line tape.

Of note is the large number of systems that were either brand new or still under construction: Portland’s “Banfield” line – now the main section of line between downtown and Gateway – being especially noticeable to me. Also – massive extensions under construction for the Washington DC Metro, and the parlous state of streetcars in New Orleans, with service on the historical St. Charles line only.

And just to throw further fuel onto the fire regarding the categorization of certain systems as either light rail or streetcar, which many commenters on Matt Johnson’s map brought up. In 1984 at least: Pittsburgh and Boston’s Green Line were classified as “light rail” while Philadelphia and the San Francisco Muni were seen as “streetcar”. Make of that what you will.

Source: Dennis McClendon via email.

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Video: Making Vitreous Enamel Wayfinding Signage

As an aside to the last post about the 1983 Chicago CTA map, Dennis also sent along this fun little “How It’s Made” video about the process used to create signs such as this.

In the case of the CTA signs, the background blue would be the second layer applied to the steel signboard, and white and black would be the two screen printed colours that are then fired and fused permanently to the backing. It’s a time- and labour-intensive way of making signs (largely replaced by full-colour digital printing today) but it’s absolutely fascinating to see the process involved.