Baedeker, Railway Plan for London (1908)

When this map was published in 1908 by the esteemed German guidebook publisher, Karl Baedeker, a second wave of construction of railways beneath London had reached its climax. Baedeker’s editorial decision to include a separate map of London’s railway system underscores the importance of the railroads to urban transportation at the turn of the twentieth century. The map’s bold colors also make clear the distinction between the underground system (in blue) and the surface mainline railroads (in red). By the time this map was completed the underground railways were almost entirely electrified, and the surface railroads were still steam powered. The simplicity of the map, with all but the most important surface features and streets stripped away, helped tourists to sort out the profusion of lines and stations. An alternative form of construction, by deep tunneling, opened the way for expansion in the densest parts of London without the disruption caused by the cut-and-cover method. The following railways were also electrified, an innovation responding to the difficulties of ventilating coal exhaust from the “tubes”, and the health consequences for passengers: the Central London Railway (today’s Central line); the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway (Northern); the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway (Bakerloo); and the Great Northern, Piccadilly, and Brompton Railway (Piccadilly). Competition from the electrified Central London Railway encouraged the Metropolitan and District railways to electrify shortly before this map was published. Finally, the consolidation of control of the what would become the Northern, Bakerloo, Piccadilly, and District lines under the control of the United Electric Railways Company in 1902 gave birth to the name and the idea of the Underground as unified identity. The formation of the United Electric Railways Company was engineered by Charles Yerkes, who a decade earlier had some success consolidating electric railway service in Chicago during the 1890s. Among his successes was the construction of the famous downtown elevated Loop, which provided for easy connections among the city’s elevated lines. Yerkes, however, was forced to leave Chicago because of alleged corruption in his business affairs.



Barker, T. C. and Michael Robbins. A History of London Transport, 2 vols. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1963.

Leboff, David and Tim Demuth. No Need to Ask!: Early Maps of London’s Underground Railways. Harrow Weald: Capital Transport Publishing, 1999.



The Guardian. 100 Years of the Underground.

Transport for London. “London Underground.”

"Railway Plan for London," in London and Its Environs: A Handbook for Travellers  (Leipzig: Karl Baedeker, 1908). The Newberry Library, G435.0612