I’ve been experimenting with Processing to create a visual I encountered in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, a diagram that displays routes and timetables of trains.

The example in the book is a train between Paris and Lyon, somewhere near the end of the 19th century. It does not have many lines in it, and you can see where the train picks up speed and where it waits for passengers to board.

For my project I used the train between Leiden Centraal and Den Haag Centraal, a length of track that is very busy. My diagram only shows trains from Leiden to Den Haag. Other trains may pass this track (from Den Haag to Schiphol, for instance) without showing up in this diagram because it doesn’t stop at any of the stations.

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What anyone immediately notices is that the schedule is rigid and repetitive. Six trains per hour from 6am to 9pm, and you can see the once-every-hour night-trains as well. The distance between the horizontal lines maps roughly to the geographical distance between the stations (measured in Google Earth), and the diagram shows a single 24-hour period (that of May 7th 2008, to be precise). The little slanted line from Den Haag CS to Laan van NOI at 00:30 (lower left) is more slanted than the others because it makes a stop in Den Haag HS, which isn’t in the diagram.

I hope to find a better timetable that has a more interesting and erratic schedule than this one. The problem is that most railway-tracks in Holland are busy, and that most trains travel at roughly the same speed so that the lines from one station to the next are mostly parallel. But I’m pleased with this one as a first result.

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