Historical Map: Beck-style Greater London Tube/Rail Map (c. 1940s?)

Here’s something via Chris Applegate on Flickr, where Chris says:

Finally put up and framed the gorgeous vintage Tube map I won in a competition yonks ago.

It is gorgeous, but it’s not just a Tube map, nor is it anything I’ve ever actually seen before. 

It appears to be a Greater London Tube Map/main line railway diagram produced in a Beck-like style — a precursor to this 1988 “London Connections” map (May 2013, 3 stars) if you will — although I have no way of knowing whether or not is was actually produced by Beck’s hand. I’ve certainly never heard mention of him producing such a map in addition to his tireless and all-consuming work on the Tube Map itself.

Interestingly, the map shows a number of stations and lines that were never actually built, mostly on the Northern Line — the branch out to Alexandra Palace and the “Mill Hill” line being obvious examples. These lines were shown as planned future extensions on Tube Maps in the mid-1940s, so perhaps this map is of a proposed “future” system map from around then? The style of the map certainly fits that time period, as does the fact that it shows a single green “District and Metropolitan Line” — the Metropolitan Line wouldn’t be split off from the District Line and shown in its own distinctive magenta until 1949. 

Also interesting: Addison Road station is still connected to the District and Metropolitan Line at Latimer Road, but doesn’t go through to Earls Court to the south, as it actually did in the mid-1940s. These days, the station is better known as Kensington (Olympia) and only connects to Earls Court as an infrequent District Line service.

Design-wise, I love the little swoop beneath the District & Metropolitan Line that the Bakerloo Line makes just east of Paddington, almost certainly introduced to account for the extra complexity of the interchange once the mainline station was added to the mix.

In all, it’s a lovely, fascinating piece, but I’d love to know more. Does anyone know its provenance, or have a link to the full map? Let me know!

UPDATE: Mystery solved: it’s actually a modern digital map by Maxwell Roberts, based on – but not identical to – an unsolicited map produced by Beck in 1938.

Source: qwghlm/Flickr


The world’s first underground railway, the London Underground, opened on the 10th of January, 1863.

The first 3.75-mile (6 km) track ran steam locomotives pulling wooden carriages, and ran between London Paddington station and Farringdon station.


#1 Fowler’s Ghost Locomotive, 1865.

#2 A London tube station circa 1900

Historical Map: ACTUAL H.C. Beck Greater London Tube/Rail Map, 1938

Thanks to Robert McConnell, who let me know that the map I featured in my last post is actually a modern digital map made by none other than Maxwell Roberts. Roberts has more details about his version of the map here, which is certainly worth reading.

Roberts states that he based his version of the map off one that Beck produced, unsolicited, in 1938 and that a copy of this version is in Ken Garland’s excellent book, “Mr. Beck’s Underground Map”. I own a copy of this book, so was a little stunned that I couldn’t remember ever having seen it before. It turns out that it’s on the page opposite to the quite astounding map of the Paris Metro that Beck produced in 1946, so I guess that got most of my attention!

So, from that book, here’s a scan of Beck’s original London rail transport map: reproduced from a photocopy, unfortunately, as the whereabouts of the original drawing is unknown. Being from 1938, it uses Beck’s iconography of that time: diamonds for interchanges instead of circles. Roberts updates these to circles with white centres for his version of the map, and also thickens up the main line routes to place them on a more even visual footing with the Underground Lines, along with a host of factual, technical and aesthetic changes.

Source: Scan from my personal copy of “Mr. Beck’s Underground Map” by Ken Garland.