Explore the history of London’s transport with 400 cool historic maps

Mindlessly tapping in and out day after day, it’s easy to forget just how historic the London Underground actually is. But whether you live on the brand-new Elizabeth line or you’re a regular at Baker Street (the city’s oldest tube station), tell-tale signs of the network’s history are dotted all around. 

And it’s just become a whole lot easier to learn some more about the history of London’s transport network, thanks to a new collaboration between TfL and Google Arts & Culture. Linking up with more than 200 of the UK’s cultural institutions, the Corporate Archive of the capital’s transport operator is now sharing parts of its collection online. 

Plenty of memorabilia has been digitised, and it’s all organised into themed sections. You can opt to explore the ‘Communities Line’, the ‘Icons Line’, the ‘Origins Line’ or the ‘Design Line’.

Everything from docs and images to do with TfL’s involvement in the London 2012 Olympics to Queen Elizabeth II opening the Elizabeth Line last year have been included. But the collection also includes online versions of more than 400 TfL maps, many of which haven’t been shared with the public before. 

Special commemorative versions of the iconic tube map which were designed for the 1937 and 1953 coronations are now part of the online archive, as are cartoons by Henry Beck (the guy who designed the tube map). You can also have a look at the map from way back in 1904, and compare it to the 2015 version. 

There are extracts from oral histories from people who sheltered in the Underground during the Second World War, as well as interactive aspects like a crossword inspired by a 1932 TfL staff magazine, and some vintage quizzes too. Here’s a sneak peek at what the archive looks like. 

TfL archive with Google Arts and Culture
Image: TfL
TfL archive with Google Arts and Culture
Image: TfL

Compiling this online collection was no small task. Tamara Thornhill, Corporate Archivist for TfL said: ‘We have worked on this online collection for more than three years. This collaboration is a real step forward in preserving culture, making our own collection more accessible, and helping open never before seen content to a wider audience.’

The contents of this online collection will be regularly updated. Keen to explore the archive? You can do so right here

To learn more about the history of London’s travel networks, the London Transport Museum should be top of your list, but there are plenty of weird and wonderful museums all over the city

Did you see that the Bakerloo line extension just got a step closer to being built?

Plus: The surprising history of the Suffragette line.

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