The Electric Tube

[Update – An updated version of this is currently available as a limited edition A2 print.]

In six weeks time, London will have a second orbital railway. The Circle Line has been running for just over 100 years, and on 9 December will be joined by the latest addition to Transport for London (TfL)’s Overground network – a link between Clapham Junction in the south-west and Surrey Quays in the south-east. This means that the West London Line, North London Line, East London Line and South London Line will all be linked up (you won’t be able to travel 360 degrees on one train though – you’ll need to change at both Highbury & Islington and Clapham Junction, and often Willesden Junction, to complete a circuit). Should you travel around the complete loop, you’ll pass through areas as varied as Imperial Wharf, Dalston Junction, Whitechapel and Peckham Rye.

Anyway this was a tenuous excuse for me to produce a diagram – above – of London’s TfL-owned network – the Underground, the Overground, the DLR, Tramlink and the Cable Car. Click the graphic for a larger version. My starting principles for the diagram were concentric circles for the orbital sections of the Circle Line and the Overground network, and straight lines for the Central and Piccadilly Lines, with the latter two converging in the centre of the circles. I then squeezed everything else in. I realised that the Northern Line’s Bank branch passed the Circle Line three times so was going to need something special, so I added a sine wave for this section, and extended this north and south as much as possible.

The River Thames is on there – because any tube diagram doesn’t look correct without the river – and the diagram is topologically accurate – everything connects correctly, and features are in an approximately correct geographical position relative to their neighbours, but not to the diagram overall. Only stations that are designated intersections, or have connections with National Rail stations, are shown. I haven’t labelled anything. It’s art.

I was also thinking about physics when creating the diagram – specifically Feynman diagrams, bubble chamber traces, particle physics collisions, magnetic flow lines and electrical circuit diagrams (as was Beck himself). Hence why I’ve called it the Electric Tube.

The work was also inspired by the likes of Fransicso Dans (more) and Project Mapping, as well as of course the famous Official Tube Map. [Update – I’ve updated the map slightly to add in Tramlink and a few more connections.]

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16 thoughts on “The Electric Tube

  1. Is it my imagination, or does the map miss the Bakerloo interchange at Paddington? It’s actually quicker than the shown Circle/Hammersmith to Circle/District connection.

  2. A beautiful rendering. I feel bad for spotting that the Northern Line is inaccurate at Kings Cross St. Pancras and Euston :-s

    1. King’s Cross is OK – the black line is underneath the others here, so it’s not visible in the vicinity of KX. However, you are right about Euston – it should connect with both branches but doesn’t. I’ll see what I can do…

      1. I’m impressed with the change, very much liking how you’re showing the Bank branch interchanging with the Victoria Line 😉

  3. I am captivated by the way you have called upon mathematics and theoretical physics in creating this work of art. Just a thought – how about rendering this in three dimensions, accounting for lines that cross below and above one another? Not sure how easy it is to find out which lines are above and below, but it would be awesome to have a figure that we can actually rotate on screen!

  4. Hi Oliver,

    I’d love to get hold of this in poster form to give to my girlfriend for Xmas. Is there any way of doing this? thanks

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