Articles

3D Station Maps

View the maps at stations.aeracode.org!

Inspired by people claiming that they have no idea how London Underground stations are actually laid out, and after being unsatisfied with the few (and old) 2D drawings of them, I sat down and made a 3D viewer as well as modelling eight different stations - including the two most complex ones, Bank and Kings Cross St Pancras.

While being interested about stations perhaps isn't everyone's favourite pastime, I think you'll still find it interesting to have a look at quite how they fit together underground - especially if you live in London and have been through them without any idea about how they are laid out!

The Process

Each of these stations was chosen because I was familiar with it - some, like West Silvertown, are simple and so well-known to me that I can model them entirely from memory. Some, like Bank, are much more complex and hard to grasp even after many trips through it over the years.

For the more complex stations, I drew from pre-existing 2D maps if they existed (like the ones seen here), as well as walking around them taking my own notes on angles and positioning.

Then, I modelled each of the station layouts in Blender, naming the individual meshes after their components. This is possibly the most time-consuming part, but I chose Blender over a CAD program for a reason - the resulting models are much more about being clear maps than precise accuracy, and so Blender provides better tools for quickly moving things around to make them better.

Finally, each Blender file is accompanied by a YAML file full of meta information, such as the camera angles and tooltips for various parts of the model. This is then all compiled down into JavaScript files by a post-processing step I run over the entire set of assets.

Problems & Future Plans

My sources for these layouts aren't exactly the most accurate, and so some of the models may be inaccurate or missing features - if you notice anything, please don't hesistate to tell me! I'd like to work on these to make them accurate representations of the stations themselves, and to eventually add the hidden areas (staff corridors, maintenance rooms) to give a more complete picture.

It's only a start - I'd like to have a few more models in there, but as you've seen it takes time to construct the models and information files. Contributions, especially of plans or other layout information, are welcome - there's more on the project page.

You can see the viewer at stations.aeracode.org, and the code and data behind it on GitHub.