The Map Tells a Tale

A few weeks ago I found this: National Rail Network Map (PDF, <1Mb). It's a map of the entire UK railway network, with each station, and each train operating company that runs routes along that line. It doesn't show the routes, just the routes that lines take - for example, you could find a direct line on the map from Aberdeen to Blackpool North station, but no train does that direct route.

What it does is show the utter and sheer complexity of the UK's extensive railway network, which is actually incredibly impressive considering it's age. The part that I like looking at the the areas of the country that I am not so familiar with and comparing them to Scotland's fairly easy to handle railway network.

Scotland has one railway franchise, ScotRail, that is operated by First Group. The way the UK railway is organised is that each part of the UK network is split into a franchise that is then bid on by a company who then runs it, taking the profits and according to the agreement reinvesting them back into the railway. Scotland is one franchise, despite being spread over a large area - this means that if you want you can ignore the fact that the UK network is ran by loads of different companies, and only notice it when you go down south.

The map highlights this by having all the companies in different colours - ScotRail is grey, by the way. It makes Scotland look really boring, only having a few colours where the Inter City trains (Virgin, First Transpennine Express, East Coast, CrossCountry) meet the main stations, like Glasgow and Edinburgh.

I find this all extremely interesting.

Can you find Frodsham?

In the new year I am going to two places in England - London, somewhere I have been before, and Manchester (actually, Frodsham) a place I have never been before. I spent a few minutes locating firstly Frodsham (just south west of Manchester, across from Liverpool) and then secondly locating London and the route that we will take to get to Shepperton Studios (a post that is forthcoming will explain in detail) and the intricate connections that the networks.

Maps have always fascinated me - as a child I started sketching maps of cities here and there and in Texas I developed an astonishingly detailed map of a fictional city that had been built from the ground up as organically as I could muster, with train lines and motorways. It feels like I am unravelling my brain when I do things like that, engaging my problem solving mindset but also zoning out of the other stresses of my life (not that I have many, natch, but it still feels good).

A full post explaining this particular fact will be coming along soon, once I have decided how to approach the subject of my rather strange brain and how exactly I created a full size city, with stations, Universities, airports, roads, rivers, lochs and other details that surprised and shocked many that have seen it.

And the final thing I enjoy about maps is that they tell a tale - all it would take to distinguish where the most people lived in the UK was to look at the above railway map, as the areas around London are fabulously complcicated and dense, whereas up on the Far North Line to Wick and Thurso there are so few stations for a large area that it's obviously very remote.

Maps fascinate me. Expect further posts about maps in the future.