Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
This rail proposal isn't perfect, but it sure beats taking the Eastern Road and getting sacked by a hedge knight.
Winter is coming. And, hey, look—so's the next train!
Thanks to Brooklyn printers Fencing & Archery, there's now a transit system for Westeros, one of four continents of the known world in Game of Thrones. And this comprehensive rail plan is as sprawling as A Song of Ice and Fire (that's, of course,George R. R. Martin's magnum GOT opus)
Scroll down for a look at the entire system (and pick up the poster here), but first, read about how public transit might serve—and could even save—each of the Seven Kingdoms:
Now I know what you're going to say: One does not simply launch a rail system across so many kingdoms. Not with all the money in the Iron Bank of Braavos could you build this.
Sometimes, friends, we must suspend our disbelief about the finer points within a legendarium that pits fire-breathing dragons against ice-blooded frost zombies. But if it helps: Imagine a number of smaller regional lines built over time across the Seven Kingdoms, rail lines that came together, through reciprocity and interoperability, as one continental system under Aegon the Conqueror.
For his part, the print's designer, Eric Swanson, says his inspiration was less Targaryen and more Vignelli.
"I thought it would be fun to try to distill an entire fictional continent down into a city-style subway map, to try to apply a rigid system to an organic subject," Swanson writes in an email. "Visually, the piece was initially inspired by Massimo Vignelli's New York City subway map from 1972. I tried to do what Vignelli did, which was to eschew geographical accuracy in favor of the data."
Now, a transit system that also served the Free Cities of Essos would certainly make it easier to transport a mighty army of Unsullied warrior eunuchs from Astapor across the Narrow Sea. But we'll let the Westros-centrism slide. Same with the small discrepancies between the geographical map of Westeros and the corresponding transit map. "I set some rules in place and as I worked through it, those rules gradually bended to allow the piece to take on its own style," Swanson explains. "It was a fun exercise to be in the battle between making it make sense and making it look cool."
The only real questions worth asking: Would this plan work, and how would it affect Game of Thrones?
The many stops along the Wall reflect the dedication that Bran the Builder, founder of House Stark, brought to this enormous early spending project. So long as you're authorizing massive defense infrastructure construction, you might as well build in a rail line. (Finally, a streetcar project that makes sense.) Of course, ridership along this Silver Line would be next to nothing by the events of A Song of Ice and Fire. That only goes to show how badly the Seven Kingdoms have neglected the region Beyond the Wall since the War of the Dawn.
To the south: No connector between Moat Cailin and White Harbor? Smh. And who is ever going to willingly stop at the Dreadfort? Also, the Twins really belongs on the Red Line. You know why.
Building a subway line through the Bloody Gate into the Eyrie? Who came up with that idea, Hot Pie? The inaccessibility of the Eyrie in the Mountains of the Moon is the whole reason for putting a fort in the Vale of Arryn in the first place. The High Hall is not gonna last if anyone with a MetroCard can reach it.
In the east: The Burnt Orange Line appears to be a massive boondoggle. The ridership just wouldn't justify building rail to Longbow Hall, much less two transfer stations on either side of that stop. The whole line just goes to show how much pork-barrel spending Lord Arryn could pull down as the Hand of the King.
The Iron Islands and the Westerlands
A difficult system to maintain due to high maintenance costs, salt-water erosion, and the constant interference of the Drowned God, the Iron Line suffers from a lack of east–west connectivity. It's a bitch to ride all the way down to Casterly Rock, then make two transfers to get to the major north–south artery, the Orange Line. "What is dead may never die"—including me, if I don't get off this god-drowned train.
The Green Line here replicates the River Road, making it an excellent transit development: Functionally, it replaces a major highway. The only surprise about the Yellow Line, connecting the Lannister strongholds of Casterly Rock and King's Landing, is that there are any stops between them. That's a high-frequency express route if ever there was one.
The Crownlands and the Riverlands
The political and social capital of Westeros is King's Landing. But curiously, it's Crossroads Inn that's the hub of Westerosi rail. The only marker of note at Crossroads Inn is the inn at the crossroads where the buddy-cop duo of Arya Stark and the Hound wrecked some mountain men who were playin.'
Given the fact that the crucial north–south Orange Line intersects with four other lines at the site of this burned-out brothel, Crossroads Inn is due for some intensive transit-oriented development. Bus-rapid transit would probably suffice for the Red Line and Lemon Line—and several other Westerosi lines for that matter.
I'm tempted to say that a ferry system for the islands of Blackwater Bay would be more appropriate than the Navy Line. But I greatly fear R'hllor, the Lord of Light, Heart of Fire, God of Flame and Shadow. He gets whatever he wants.
Does anything ever happen in the Stormlands? No? No.
The Reach is bisected by a lot of tricky north–south lines, including a Pink Line that runs nearly non-stop from Oldtown through Highgarden to King's Landing. Advantage: House Tyrell. Plainly, the funky Blue Line would be better served by a bikeshare system than by rail.
From a transit perspective, Highgarden is not a bad place to be. Access to the Green Line and the Orange Line means it's easy to get from the Reach to almost any place in the Seven Kingdoms (except the nearest kingdom, Dorne, which takes at least two transfers no matter which route you take).
And since House Tyrell transfers loyalties like subway riders transfer lines, this is fitting. Doesn't House Tyrell seem like the biggest bunch of schemers? And bad ones at that. Olenna Tyrell is no Dowager Countess of Grantham.
The one regional transit system that doesn't quite work is Dorne's. The Tan Line takes riders from the sparsely populated Dornish Marshes in the west through the Red Mountains to the valley along the Greenblood River—making the Tan Line a prime candidate for commuter rail.
Yet only a handful of stops service the river valley where most of the Dornish population actually lives. The trip from Sunspear to King's Landing takes so many connections that it would be a wonder that the Dornish don't all drive (or sail).
So it's not a perfect transit system. But it sure beats taking the Eastern Road and getting sacked by a hedge knight.