I like maps. Possibly more than would be considered normal. Living in London, my most ubiquitous map is the Tube map, and being a designer, the history and ideas behind the Tube map provide a lot for me to get excited about.

Like a lot of people, I enjoyed the BBC’s documentary (September 2012) showing what happens behind the scenes of London Underground and my fascination for the things you don’t get to see led me to wonder if there are any maps available for the parts of the network not accessible to the public.

This is how my idea to map the Underground depots developed. There are a few online resources which map the London Underground network geographically and I decided to convert these geographical depictions of the depots into schematic diagrams as the regular Tube map has done since 1933 when Harry Beck’s design was introduced to the public.

Here’s a rough sketch of what Beckton depot on the DLR looks like from a geographical point of view:

Beckton depot geographic view

Beckton depot sketched geographically.

In order for it to be recognisable as related to the Tube map, each road, as they’re known, is drawn either vertically, horizontally or at 45º. You’ll notice that on the Tube map, the only places where two lines cross each other at 90º are where there is an interchange – and since there are no interchanges in a depot, all the roads which intersect are at 45º to each other. I also kept the orientation of the depot as closely as possible; if the depot runs north to south, it runs top to bottom on a portrait postcard.

Here’s the diagrammatic version of Beckton depot:

Beckton depot schematic view

Beckton depot drawn schematically.

Once I’d drawn all 17 depots, I created the postcards and coloured each one to match the colours of the lines on the Tube map. The cards have a slight background texture inspired by the print variation typically seen in handprinted items and old London Underground posters. My favourite depots are Morden and Stratford Market because they have a pleasingly neat shape and nicely fit the size of the cards. I’m also intrigued by Waterloo, the smallest depot for the shortest line, because it appears to have some sort of fun-looking turntable for the trains – due to the confined space, I imagine.

Morden, Stratford Market and Waterloo

Morden, Stratford Market and Waterloo depots.

The most difficult depot to draw was Neasden because it is MASSIVE! And complicated. I considered dividing it over two postcards to demonstrate how much more complex it is than the other depots, but its orientation didn’t allow it.

I didn’t manage to finish the postcards in time for the official 150th birthday of London Underground on 9th January 2013… but better late than never! Royal Mail have released a series of stamps to commemorate the occassion – so if you want something appropriately Underground-themed to post with your stamps, you could have a quick peek at the Drawn By Day shop. The cards are available to buy as an entire set (17 depots) or individually.

You can read more about the project, and see images of the postcards here.

Happy 150th birthday, London Underground!