The development and evolution of railway cartography in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Map Collection of the "Biblioteca Ferroviaria" (Spain's Railway Library).
This map by Francisco Coello, entitled "Plan of the General Lines of Navigation and Railways on the Spanish Peninsula" (1855), is the product of a scheme to create roads, railways, and navigation channels, with the aim of devising a unique transport system for the peninsula.
A combination of radial and transverse lines can be seen in the design of the railway network. The main lines run from Madrid towards coastal areas and borders, while the secondary lines run perpendicularly.
Signed by the Head of the Traffic Office of the Madrid to Zaragoza and Alicante (MZA) rail company in 1867, this map contains a remarkable amount of information. It includes the stations of every railway line of the time, distances in kilometers, prices according to travel class, inns, tunnels, and more.
Cambó's book, "Factors in the Study of the Railway Problem," is an essential work for understanding the history of the Spanish railway in the first third of the 20th century. It explores the legislation and politics that influenced the railways, from the law of 1855 up to the early decades of the next century. The study concludes with a series of 4 maps that aim to illustrate the entire panorama of Spanish railways.
The first of them is this "Historical Map of Operational Spanish Railways," which shows the railway lines built during 4 historical periods. These correspond to the first report on the railways in 1844, and to the main railway laws of 1855, 1868, and 1877.
The 1930s were productive years for railway cartography. The map published in 1931 by Alfredo Forcano Catalán (Investigations Officer for the Caminos de Hierro del Norte rail company), entitled "Map of Spanish Railways in Operation, Under Construction and Planned for the Future," contains information similar to other maps of the time. However, its presentation and execution are extraordinary, with an extensive use of color to distinguish between different rail companies, and between Spanish and Portuguese territory.
At the end of the Spanish Civil War, and following the crisis that had previously affected the various rail companies, the State decided to nationalize the railways and transfer the management of Spain's rail network to the public sector.
In 1941, Renfe (whose acronym stands for the National Network of Spanish Railways) was created and given responsibility for the standard-gauge rail network. The narrow-gauge rail network remained in the hands of EFE (the State Railway Operating Service) under the Ministry of Public Works, later becoming FEVE (Spanish Narrow-Gauge Railways).
At this point, there was a radical change in railway maps: instead of multiple colors representing the different companies' railway lines, now only one color was needed for the standard-gauge tracks and another for the narrow-gauge tracks. This change is evident on this map, published in 1943 by Jesús de la Fuente, in which the railway lines controlled by Renfe are shown in red.
In 1958 the 17th International Railway Congress took place in Spain, for which a number of official events were held, and various leaflets and publications were produced to promote the Spanish railways. One such publication was the book "Railways in Spain, 1848–1958," published in Spanish and French, which gave a brief outline of the situation over that period.
The book included a large-scale fold-out map of the entire rail network, including lines that were under construction.
In 1968 Renfe published a map that was distributed and marketed by the publishing house Paraninfo. It essentially follows the same design as previous ones: a map on a white background showing standard-gauge tracks in red and narrow-gauge tracks in black.
They usually included small maps showing the main urban centers.
This small "Map of the National Network of Spanish Railways," published by Renfe in 1971, is significant because of its modern, groundbreaking design featuring vivid colors, and a red and blue background.
It provides a general outline of the network's main lines, with the type of track specified along each stretch. It also includes information on the main border stations and their international connections, as well as on island transfers by boat.
Demand began to recover at the beginning of the 1980s, especially for specialized long-distance services such as Talgo and Intercity trains. In 1982 Renfe's Commercial Passenger Office published a map for use by its passengers.
It was a small, folded pocket-sized map with a diagram of the rail network, which included the sections of track closed to passenger traffic and 19 maps of Spanish cities.
One year later, in 1986, Renfe's Commercial Management Office published an interesting map that was arranged according to the autonomous regions of Spain. Although simple, it was of a very high graphic quality. The map also shows how severely the network was reduced in 1985, with the closed lines appearing in a different format.
With the arrival of the AVE in 1992, the Madrid-Seville line began to feature prominently on maps, and always in its own color (usually red).
The same year saw the publication of this map, entitled "Renfe: IREN Project (Inventory of the Network's Natural Spaces)," which was later re-published in 1997 and 2000. As well as depicting the newly-opened high-speed line, it shows its relationship with the environment, marking the natural spaces close to the train lines.
It also includes an additional feature for ecotourism: "Green Routes," which are old railway lines that are now closed.
They appear on the map in green, with a different pattern depending on whether they are spaces that are already in use as Green Routes (unbroken line), or could potentially be reclaimed for that purpose (dotted line).
Railway activity at the turn of the century focused on recovering market share in goods transport, and adaptating to European-gauge railways with the opening of new high-speed routes. These included the AVE to Malaga, and the Madrid-Toledo, Madrid-Valladolid, and Madrid-Barcelona lines.
Railway cartography once again reflected an increase in the number of lines appearing on maps. This is the case with the "Map of the Spanish Railway Network" published by the Rail Infrastructure Administration (Adif) in 2006, which was reissued several times.
The maps that appear in the exhibition are part of the collection of railway cartography whose custody is entrusted to the Railway Library of the Foundation of the Spanish Railways and can be consulted in the Library located in the Railway Museum of Madrid.
We thank the Library staff for their collaboration in preparing these texts and materials.
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