The Pleasure of Track Maps

If you’ve never seen a subway track map, I suggest you look at this one, for New York, by “radical cartographer” Andrew Lynch. Most track diagrams are not to scale, and look like they’re meant to make to make sense only to insiders.  But this one is beautiful.
nyc track map b



What’s more, it’s accurate in geographic scale, though of course the separation of tracks can’t be on the same scale as the network.  Still, New York’s subway is both huge and full of details, so this is no mean feat.  Only 22 insets were required, to zoom in on tricky segments.

Gazing at a good track map can give you an appreciation for the heroics involved in moving trains around in this limited infrastructure. Switches and extra tracks are very expensive underground, which is why they are never where you need them to handle a particular incident.  This, for example, is why a track closure at one station may continue through several stations nearby.

Gaze at this piece of the Bronx, and marvel at what a train would have to do to get from Jerome Yard to a station on the Orange (B+D) line.  I presume they don’t have to do this very often, but in a pinch, they can.

nyc track map a

I spent a delighted hour with it.

13 Responses to The Pleasure of Track Maps

  1. Nicolás May 14, 2017 at 2:55 pm #

    I knew about the French website Carto.Metro ( It has a lot of track maps, specially LRT networks in France.

  2. Rob Durchola May 14, 2017 at 3:18 pm #

    The Jerome Yard serves the IRT (Division 1 – numbered trains only). The Concourse Yard is for the BMT/IND (Division 2 – lettered trains). Division 2 trains cannot operate on most Division 1 trackage; so it is highly unlikely that any B/D trains would be stored at the Jerome Yard. (It is possible that Concourse Yard serves both divisions. I don’t know.)

    • ZhEV November 12, 2017 at 12:07 pm #

      It is not the track so much (same gauge) but inter station tunnel heights [A lower than B] and radius basis of curves {car floor widths} Division ‘A’ units may be transported via ‘B’ lines and are used as fare-collection transport on both divisions.

  3. JOHNATHAN BOEV May 14, 2017 at 6:58 pm #

    A very interesting map detailed map can also be found here: I totally agree with Jarrett that looking on these sophisticated track connections, switches etc is fascinating and the time spent would be delightful. If experience the NYC subway system by riding it together with understanding of the map, you can see it is not been used efficiently. I can probably write a book what is wrong with NYCT Subway, but I rather focus on good and it is variety that of routes that the system can offer. Numerous accessible tracks shows “heroics involved in moving trains.”

  4. Mike Robinson May 15, 2017 at 1:45 am #

    Carto Metro also covers the London rail system (underground, overground, national rail, tram) including track maps of about 800 stations.

  5. david vartanoff May 16, 2017 at 11:03 am #

    These maps ARE wonderful. The one you referenced from is available in an up to date hardcopy–including the newly opened Second Avenue stub. That said, there have been government stupidity issues over the years. The NY Transit Museum has at times refused to sell the book as if it would be of use to miscreants. There used to be a similar online map of DC Metro online which was taken down under a bogus threat from some low ranking cop right after 9/11.

  6. Hugh May 18, 2017 at 5:30 am #

    Why doesn’t this track map include Path lines? Otherwise, though, it’s a great map. What struck me was how long the stub tracks were on the new 7 line extension to Hudson Yards. Does anyone know why they are so long? Are they used to store trains?

    • EJ May 19, 2017 at 10:52 am #

      Stub tracks past the terminal station also allow trains to approach the end of the line more quickly (as there is a margin of safety for any potential platform overrun), increasing overall line capacity. The L train suffers from not having stub tracks as its trains must pull into the final station slowly.

  7. david vartanoff May 18, 2017 at 11:17 am #

    About PATH, Peter Dougherty’s book, Tracks of the New York Subways (an obsolete version of which resides at does include PATH and block signal data so one can interpret them. He sells both a treeware and a download version. go here for info.
    About tail tracks at terminals, the longer they are the greater flexibility in storing extra trainsets between peak demand hours. as well as emergency space to park a defective train.
    Ultimately some of us hope to see the 7 route extended to New Jersey so as to relieve bus congestion in he Lincoln Tunnel and PA Bus Terminasl.

  8. Federico May 18, 2017 at 2:05 pm #

    Whoa!! This is porn for engineers…

  9. Hugh May 20, 2017 at 12:51 am #

    I’ve noticed a few mistakes in the service guide of the track map below.

    1. The shuttle between Times Square and Grand Central closes down at night.
    2. The M runs at all times between Metropolitan Avenue and Myrtle Avenue, and during weekends runs between Delancey/Essex street and Metropolitan Avenue Only during weekdays does the route go the whole way to Forest Hills 71st Avenue.
    3. The W and B do not run on weekends.
    4. The 5 does not go to Brooklyn on weekends, and only shuttles between Eastchester Dyre Avenue and 180th street during late nights.
    5. The N runs local in Manhattan on weekends.

    I know that nobody is going to actually use this map to plan a trip, obviously, so it really doesn’t matter that their are all these mistakes, but it’s clear that this cartographer did a fairly sloppy job on the service guide.

  10. usps tracking January 2, 2018 at 12:41 am #

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  11. vex 3 January 2, 2018 at 2:17 am #

    I think there are many other people who are interested in them just like me! How long does it take to complete this article? I have read through other blogs, but they are cumbersome and confusing. I hope you continue to have such quality articles to share! Good luck!

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