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).