Simply beautiful rail line and junction map from the earliest days of what would become the London Underground. Extremely notable for its use of colour-coding to differentiate between the lines of all the different operating companies. In the days of chromolithographic printing, using this many different colours would have been an expensive, highly technical and time-consuming task.
Extremely rare early Austrian edition of John Airey’s famous Railway Junction Diagram of London (not in the British Library!).
The present map is an early Austrian edition of Airey’s most important single map, Airey’s Railway Map of London and its Suburbs, illustrating the innumerable railway lines leading out of London, and importantly depicting the earliest two lines of the new London Underground System, along with at least one proposed line which was never constructed. Airey published his first edition of the map under that title in 1875, which subsequently ran into several editions. It, in turn, was based on a map that appeared in Airey’s book, Railway Map Diagrams (London, 1867).
The map’s fascinating an innovative visual composition was originally conceived as part of a series of diagrams illustrating the rapidly expanding routes of the various railways throughout Britain. With its carefully placed and labeled colored lines, it is the true precursor to Henry Beck’s celebrated London Underground Map of 1933. In this sense, Airey’s maps were the first truly modern rail transport maps, and they set the gold standard for such publications throughout Europe and America.
London was the first major city to be served by railways (a technology invented in 1830), with the first line connecting London Bridge and Greenwich being completed in 1836. During the ‘Railway Boom’ of the 1840s, eight new lines were added connecting London with the countryside in virtually every direction. Since that time, two new major lines had been added and new spurs had been built to access different parts of the city. Airey was commissioned to produce his diagrams by the Railway Clearing House (RHC), founded in 1842, it acted as an umbrella organization to collect and manage revenue from the various independent railway lines.
Perhaps the most important aspects of the map are the inclusion of the World’s first two Underground (or Subway Lines), the Metropolitan Line and the Metropolitan District Line (the original components of today’s District and Circle Lines). The Metropolitan Line was first opened in January 1863, while the District Metropolitan was completed in December 1868. Airey’s diagram shows how the new medium of the Underground integrated with the established railways.
The map also records the proposed location for one of the early underground lines which was never constructed, the London Central Railway. The London Central Railway was formed in late 1871 for an unsuccessful north-south promotion sponsored by the Midland Railway and the South Eastern Railway, for a link between St Pancras and Charing Cross Stations. The name again surfaced In 1884, when a London Central Railway Company sought unsuccessfully for authority to build an electrically operated line from Trafalgar Square to St Martins-le-Grand via Oxford Circus and Oxford Street. This was intended to be an extension of the Charing Cross & Waterloo Electric Railway (now part of the Bakerloo line). This was authorized in 1882 but never built.
The present, apparently unrecorded, edition of the map, may have been first published in 1876 in Vienna by the publishing firm of R. v. Waldheim, a leading house specializing in newspapers, music books and lithographic prints. From the inscription in the upper-right corner, it seems that the present map was originally issued within a book. While it is not clear which publication it is, it is possible that the map was associated with a later edition of the rare work Die Concurrenz im Eisenbahnwesen, a railway book first published by Waldheim in 1873. In any event, it is a fascinating testament to the contemporary pan-European fascination with Airey’s groundbreaking cartography.