Home Subway Maps Animated travels through subway history on a map

Animated travels through subway history on a map

by Benjamin Kabak

For the straphanger in 2007, the subway system is one of those parts in New York City that’s Always Been There. We’ve always had the 1 train running up the West Side, the F, N, Q and D trains heading to Coney Island and the B, D and 4 trains going past the House that Ruth Built. The subways are such an ingrained part of city life that it’s nearly impossible to imagine the city without them.

But of course, New York survived without subways and thrived as the subways were constructed in the snaking pattern that we now recognize as the subway map. But much like the subways, the current subway map is a very concrete object. Every line is displayed in seemingly the same level of permanence with no thought to which tracks, stations or lines came first.

But some enterprising soul on the Internet has reconstructed the subway map to show just that information. On the site for Appealing Industries, someone’s personal design Website, I found the incredibly informative (and nifty) animated gif of the subway map pictured below. Through a time-delayed animation, it shows the chronological construction of the New York City subway system.

Starting with the Franklin Ave. Shuttle, remnants of the original Brooklyn El system, and the far reaches of the J line which contain the oldest surviving transit structures still in use in the city, the map moves on to the original IRT lines before extending through time. The subways and the city literally come to life as the map unfolds its stations and tunnels.

So here it is, courtesy of Appealing Industries. Click the image for a bigger version. It’ll hold your interest for a while (and keep in mind that it runs through 2005 so it may not be 100 percent up-to-date as of Sept. 6, 2007 accurate).


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raronauer September 6, 2007 - 10:17 am


Gary September 6, 2007 - 11:23 am

Love it.

KidTwist September 6, 2007 - 3:27 pm

Way cool. Thanks.
BTW: Franklin AVENUE Shuttle.

Gretel September 6, 2007 - 4:23 pm

I enjoyed waiting for the G to appear, which is something I can’t say in real life.

I hope nobody at the MTA finds out about it, because then they will have to take it down (just like “[ ]-Line Bagels.”

Animated subway construction map timeline graphical wondery : SUBWAYblogger.com: Blog from the New York City Subway | Transit | MTA | News September 6, 2007 - 4:41 pm

[…] Avenue Sagas stumbled across a nifty little animated gif image of the NYC Subway map.  One by one, it reveals the segments of the system in the order they were […]

ratherbebiking September 6, 2007 - 5:55 pm


Doobybrain.com » Blog Archive » NYC Subway Map in animated history September 6, 2007 - 10:18 pm

[…] map above look funny to you? It should if you’re a NYC subway commuter. The image above is taken from an animated gif of the NYC subway as lines were added and expanded throughout it’s history (up until […]

Gregory A. Butler September 7, 2007 - 12:08 am

Nice animation – but the person who made this left out all the subway lines that got demolished during or immediately after the Fiscal Crisis of 1975.

I’m talking about the M train’s Myrtle Av extension, the J train’s Jamaica Av extension, the 8 train in the Bronx and the Culver Shuttle in Brooklyn.

For that matter, there’s the whole matter of the old Manhattan elevated lines (2nd Av el, 3rd Av el, 6th Av el and 9th Av el) that were torn down in the late 1930’s – early 1940’s.

If you’re going to cover the expansion of the subway system, you have to cover it’s contraction too.

Benjamin Kabak September 7, 2007 - 12:12 am

Gregory: It’s a photoshop based on the 2005 subway map. The creator deconstructed the subway map to show the order in which the current lines appeared on the then-current subway map. It’s not perfect, and everyone wants it to be a little bit better.

But it’s neat and nothing more than what it says it is: An animated GIF showing the development of the current subway system as reflected on the lines on the map. There’s a lot it could show, and if you have Adobe ImageReady and a lot of patience, go for it.

Tomas September 8, 2007 - 8:35 am

Awesome map!!! I would mention this story on my own blog. Really, really, great!!! Congratulations.

Victoria September 11, 2007 - 9:23 am

Woah, I could watch this forever. Is there a way to slow it down though?? It’s too fast.

DJM October 8, 2007 - 1:59 pm

can you add the year to each animation?

Harry Podder and the Big Apple » Blog Archive » Subway history map October 4, 2008 - 12:24 am

[…] is a fun map i found~ not sure if anyone saw it yet. It’s an animated map of the New York City subway […]

Straphanger history, GIF-style « The Ancestral Archaeologist January 19, 2013 - 4:57 pm

[…] And my oh, my, subway geeks will LOVE this animated map depicting the evolution of the New York City…. […]

Tim March 2, 2015 - 12:08 pm

Here’s a much better map. To scale, as well, I believe.


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