I'm very happy when people comment on here - it makes me feel like people are actually reading, and I'm not just talking to myself. I especially like it when readers pop up with interesting facts, or quirky items (so long as they're not smartarses, obviously).
I was pleased as Punch, therefore, when Jamie contacted me with some relics of Merseyrail past he keeps in his attic. Jamie writes the On The Ration blog, where he's trying to live within World War 2 rations for a month: while I admire his bravery, and I'm in awe of his cookery skills, there seems to be a bit too much reheated cabbage for my taste.
Anyway, following my post about the new in-car line diagrams - a high point for English literature, I'm sure you'll agree - Jamie sent me a couple of pics of Merseyrail's previous efforts in this field. The first, with its groovy red backdrop and general air of flared trousered excitement, is a Wirral Railway diagram from 1967. Dig that font, man. It's a healthy reminder of how limited the network was at that point, and how the next decade's developments opened up a barrage of new journeys and links.
Better still is this map from 1978. First, let's deal with the head scratching strangeness of it - why on earth have they aligned it to go east-west? The Northern Line - a ramrod straight route on the present map, acting as a clean visual cue down the centre of the diagram - is forced to meander all over the place. That route to Kirkby is horrible, and look at the two oddly-placed kinks between Central and Garston. And the Wirral line is splayed in positively undignified fashion, with the river miles away from New Brighton, and West Kirby is about five miles south, somewhere around Shotton.
There are a few basic assumptions about map design, and one of them is that North is up. It's sort of okay for the Northern Line, if over complicated, but Wirral residents are very definitely short changed with their strange representation. I can't work out why they did it this way - it even creates problems for them, as can be seen at Lime Street, which has to be represented with a double circle so that the City Lines can clumsily emerge from them (compare and contrast with the simple interchange on today's map). It just looks weird.
It's still a fascinating insight into the Merseyrail that existed at the opening of the Link and Loop. The old station names (Preston Road for Rice Lane, Upton by Chester instead of Bache, "St Helens Shaw Street"). The interchange at Rock Ferry for trains south - it seems inconceivable now that you couldn't get the train from Chester to Liverpool via Birkenhead, and yet this is a very recent development. Bromborough, on its own, without its Rakish brothers either side, not to mention the absence of Conway Park, Brunswick, South Parkway and Wavertree Technology Park. (Poor Ditton, destined to vanish altogether).
And of course, the ambitions implied in colouring the lines and the future extensions - the Kirkby-Wigan line is blue all the way, because of course, it's only a matter of time. Helsby? Of course there will be Wirral Line trains heading there one day! Curiously though, one extension that did actually happen - Garston to Hunt's Cross (note the apostrophe!) - isn't so much as hinted at, though the alignment of the line seems to be pointing that way.
Lovely stuff. I'm very grateful to Jamie for this little step back in time, and if anyone else has any relics of the past, feel free to get in touch.
EDIT, 4th April: Jamie has sent me much clearer pics of the originals, so I've altered them. Now it's possible to read the Wirral Railway map - including the legend, Hamilton Square for Woodside Station. Marvellous.