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, much to my delight, 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 rather sparse book at that time. After fearing that the first edition's files were lost to time, I was finally able to locate them on an old CD-ROM in the spring of 2020, and I'm now able to offer both a PDF and reprint of that very first book here on the site. I'm still amazed how far along this project has come since 1997!
The 2024 edition went to press on October 18, 2023 and orders started going out to customers during the first few days of November. There was no price increase for the 2024 Edition. The first printing sold out over the 2023 Thanksgiving weekend, and the second printing was ordered immediately thereafter.
There are six new pages in this edition. The biggest addition is the trackwork for the Grand Central Branch of the Long Island Rail Road, from the bumpers south of Grand Central Madison to the portal in Long Island City, Queens. Also on the same page you'll find the LIRR's Atlantic Branch terminal and Vanderbilt Yard layouts, along with a description of that branch's operation west of Jamaica.
Also new in 2024 you'll find historical track maps of the original IRT 147th St. Yard, the initial configuration at Chambers St.,including the built-but-never-used ramps to the Brooklyn Bridge, and a detailed closeup of the DeKalb Ave./Gold St. interlocking plant as it existed prior to 1959. The final two new pages show planned but never built extensions to various IND Lines and the Sheepshead Bay Racetrack spurs from the early 20th century.
As has been the case for the last few years, hundreds of updates and a handful of corrections were made to existing content, and many new notes were added detailing previous track configurations. Chaining line changes are now more completely documented, and for the first time are illustrated on the main map pages
The 2023 Edition went to press in late October 2022 and deliveries began during the first week of November. Another 14 pages were added to this new edition documenting the former IRT Manhattan and Bronx elevated networks and the never-built IND second system. IRT marker lights were added, photos of certain abandoned stations are now included, and for the first time in 26 years, there's now an two page table of contents!
There has also been another pricing change. Paper costs are spiraling ever higher, and combined with 26 new pages in the last two years I've had to boost the price of the printed book to $64.95. To help offset that higher price a bit the PDF version is included at no additional charge this year. Higher shipping prices across all mail types are also going into effect as the book is readied for press.
The 2022 Edition (THE 25th ANNIVERSARY!) was released on November 5, 2021. The biggest changes for 2022 are 12 new pages depicting the early-to-mid 20th Century Brooklyn els: The Fulton St., Lexington Avenue, Myrtle Avenue, and Fifth Avenue lines, plus their service patterns, along with detailed maps of both the old Park Row terminal in Manhattan and the mammoth Sands Street complex in Brooklyn. Also included are two pages for the South Brooklyn Railway, showing it's customer sidings and interchanges.
While these were the big changes for 2022, hundreds of new notes and a handful of new signals were added to the current track maps. The only major change in the system was the reconfiguration of the 42nd St. shuttle and the corresponding abandonment of 3 Tk. and the Times Square platform rebuild. More hyperlinks were added, and fleets were updated as well. Initially it appeared as if there would have to be a slight price increase due to the scarcity of good paper but I was able to keep the old 2021 prices for another year by absorbing the slight increase per book from the printer. The US Post Office implemented a rate increase for the holiday period, and Priority Mail shipping costs went up a little bit as a result.
The 2021 edition was released in October 2020, about two months earlier than usual, and ushered in some profound changes. All maps were 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 was revised, and many new wayside notes were added. The big news was the main maps being presented in color for the first time ever! But color printing comes at a higher price; print editions increased to $54.95, and the new fully-interactive PDF increased to $29.95.
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 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.
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 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.
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 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 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 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 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 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 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.
- Version 4.4 was released on January 1, 2009. This was the last “version-numbered” release.
- 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 4.2 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 4.1 came out in early January 2007.
- 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 3.7 (July 15th, 2004, updated December 21st 2004) Also known as the Centennial Commemorative Edition
- 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 3.5 (November 25th, 2003)
- Version 3.4 (November 25th, 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 3.0 (Dec 4, 2001), Version 3.1 (February 12, 2002), and Version 3.2 (March 25, 2002)
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.
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.