How It All Started
I was born in Montreal in 1961 and was raised in a car-culture suburb just west of the airport. The first exposure to any sort of rail system that I remember was at Expo 67, Montreal’s World’s Fair, when I was a wee lad of just six years old. It was the Expo Express, a heavy-rail transit system modeled after the Toronto subway and was built to move Expo visitors between various sections of the park. Soon thereafter I took my first ride on the brand-new Metro system, and I was hooked on railroading!
Montreal’s Metro has significant architectural merit and quiet-running rubber tires, but it was fairly small at the time. My dad often visited NYC on business, and, knowing my fascination with trains, he told me over the years how much bigger and more interesting the NYC system was and how we’d get a chance to ride it some time when I was older.
Fast-forward to 1975. I was doing a grade 10 high school project on urban transportation. I chose to write my work on the topic of the New York subway system (even though I had yet to ride on it). As part of my research I wrote to the New York City Transit Authority asking for any maps or plans I could use in my project. A couple of weeks later I was surprised to receive a huge envelope in the mail stuffed with goodies. Amongst these goodies was a track map that measured 12 feet high by about 4 feet wide, dated 1940, revised to November 1967.
I got an A on that paper, and the following year I visited NYC and rode the subway for the first time. I was mesmerized by its complexity and tried to recall as much detail from that big map that I could when I was visiting, but it was just too overwhelming. That map remained in my imagination for a long time but I could never think of anything much to do with it. Until about October 1995.
I scanned and re-drew the entire map and made it available on the Internet to the nascent online railfan community. Much has been added, some has been removed, and a whole lot has been corrected from personal verification as changes were made. These online maps were very well received by the internet community, but I was being asked repeatedly to make them available in printed form. Thus, the beginnings of this work. I started putting together a printed version around Christmas 1996. By then I was living in Toronto and working full-time, and this became a fun side-project for me.
After much blood, sweat, tears, pleading, moaning and sheer luck, I got everything ready to go. After a few false starts (and a dead printer), at the end of May 1997 the first edition rolled off the presses (well, the Xerox Docutech to be precise). I re-printed 7 or 8 times before making any significant changes. The first few runs were very well received but it was a very sparse book at that time. All it contained was the basic trackwork, station names, and line letters for trains that stopped at each station. In all, just the 55 main map pages that are still in the current book, but with much less detail than you’ll find now.
In 1998 an introduction and several new pages were added, and many corrections made to existing tracks. In 1999 the Second Edition was released, and that included yard maps and a few re-drawn closeups. Releases slowed a bit around that time due to some very positive developments in your humble scribe’s life as I emigrated to the United States, and then got married in 2000. We settled in Maspeth, Queens, and daily subway riding meant increasingly frequent updates to my notes.
Version 2.5 was released in May 2001, the final printing of the 2nd Edition. It was at this juncture that I started adding important route-diverging home signals.
And then September 11th happened.
Entire sections of tunnel in lower Manhattan were affected, and major changes were happening quickly. As a result, multiple new editions were released in quick succession:
Version 3.0 (Dec 4, 2001), Version 3.1 (February 12, 2002), and Version 3.2 (March 25, 2002)
Version 3.3 (Oct. 01, 2002) added the JFK AirTrain track maps, incorporates the return of the 1 and 9 trains to lower Manhattan, the re-opening of the Cortlandt St. BMT station, the closing of three Brooklyn stations and the rebuilding of Stillwell Terminal.
Version 3.4 (November 25th, 2002)
Version 3.5 (November 25th, 2003)
Version 3.6 (March 15th, 2004) This was a major revision to the Third edition, detailing the service changes resulting from the completion of the North Side Manhattan Bridge rehabilitation and the subsequent increase in service between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Note that version 3.6 was a short-lived edition.
Version 3.7 (July 15th, 2004, updated December 21st 2004) Also known as the Centennial Commemorative Edition.
Work on the Fourth Edition continued slowly during the summer of 2005 but the release date was pushed back (my wife and I bought our first home).
Version 4.0 was released on January 6, 2006. This version added a track map of Penn Station, new color signs and signals, new Staten Island Railway signals and an expanded introduction.
Version 4.1 came out in early January 2007.
Version 4.2 was released on September 14, 2007. This was a significant update and included four new pages showing the alignment of the Second Avenue Subway.
Version 4.3 was released on June 1, 2008. The biggest changes were the inclusion of 7 line extension and the new track plant configuration at 74th and B'way on the Flushing line.
Version 4.4 was released on January 1, 2009. This was the last “version-numbered” release.
The 2010 edition was released on December 15, 2009. The big change here was the addition of a track map of Grand Central Terminal, and the two big rebuilding projects in Brooklyn (Culver Viaduct for the F/G and on the Brighton Line, from Newkirk Avenue down to Neck road. The new South Ferry terminal was opened, and the loop station closed.
The 2011 edition was released on December 3, 2010. After service cuts, the V and W trains were eliminated, the M realigned, and service withdrawn through the Montague St. Cut. More station names were changed, major rebuilding projects at E. 180th St. and the Brighton Line and over the Gowanus Canal were documented.
The 2012 edition was released on December 14, 2011. The biggest change was the reconfiguration and resignaling at East 180th St. The Brighton line rebuild was completed, the Gowanus Canal Culver Viaduct project continued and station renaming continued unabated. CBTC became operational on the L.
The 2013 edition was released on Dec. 7, 2012. Hurricane/super-storm Sandy's devastation was first covered in this edition. June 10, 2012: Much of the Sandy-related damages were brought back on line and an interim edition was released. This release also highlighted the ongoing Sandy repairs including the 14-month rehab of the Montague St. tunnels and the upcoming 2014 closures of the Greenpoint tunnel affecting the G train. And the South Ferry Loop station was back in service since the new terminal below it was flooded floor-to-ceiling.
The 2014 edition was released on December 13th, 2013. The 7 train extension was added. Some previously inaccurate trackage on the 2/5 lines south of E. 180th St., and the IND lines from Jay St. to Bergen St and from the Transit Museum station to beyond Hoyt-Schermerhorn were fixed.
The 2015 edition was released on Dec. 16, 2014. The Montague St. Tunnels were re-opened and post-Sandy repair work on the Greenpoint tubes was completed. The Gold St. Interlocking north of DeKalb Avenue was redrawn to scale and the graphical symbols used to denote two- and three-aspect home signals were changed.
The 2016 edition was released on November 19, 2015. For the first time the book was released in both print and electronic versions. The major change for 2016 was the addition of detailed to-scale closeups of several complex interlockings.
The 2017 edition was released on Dec. 5, 2016. Like the 2016 edition, this was a very significant update to the book overall. The major changes for 2017 were the inclusion of the Second Avenue Subway in the main drawings, and the restoration of W train service. Closeup maps for 9th Avenue, Fresh Pond Yard, and Rockaway Park Yard were added, more home signals identified, and the yards section included a car/yard matrix for each facility.
For 2018, the big focus became signals. More home signals were added, and even more closeup maps of complex interlockings. A full page of to-scale maps of the bigger midtown Manhattan interlockings, and added a ton of homeballs on individual pages made the cut for 2018. Closeup maps of 137th and 174th St. Yards were added, and a few sections were redrawn for better clarity. A fair portion of the text was updated as well.
The 2019 edition was released on December 3, 2018. More interlocking closeups were added, including BMT City Hall to Prince Street, Briarwood, 59th St. Columbus Circle, BMT Ocean Parkway and a few others. The opening of a new Master Tower at 34th and 6th meant the 6th Ave. line was re-signaled from south of 42nd St. to West 4th.
The 2020 edition was released on December 2, 2019. Every yard map was redrawn, and tracks labeled more clearly. Coney Island and Stillwell yards were merged, and a combined map of the CIY area and Stillwell terminal was added. All the new yard map artwork is in vector format, so for those who buy the PDF version, you'll be able to zoom right in and see things perfectly clearly. The biggest change was to the PDF edition, which is now fully interactive! Page jumps are linked to make navigation much easier than ever before.
The 2021 edition will be released in October, 2020; about two months earlier than usual. This edition will usher in some profound changes. All maps have now been redrawn from scratch in vector format, along with hundreds of changes and additions (plus many more links in the interactive PDF version). Much of the intro text has been revised and many new wayside notes were added. But the big news is the main maps will be presented in color for the first time ever! Color printing will mean a higher price, unfortunately, and final pricing has yet to be determined. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the cover contest has been suspended for the 2021 edition, since it would not be fair to ask entrants to risk their health to take pictures. Previous runners-up are being evaluated and winners will be announced in September.