Time-travelling in Glasgow (without a Police Box)

It’s quite appropriate one of my recent blog posts was about Glasgow’s TARDIS-style police boxes, because this one is about a new way I’ve found to travel in time.

The oddly named MakkaMappa is an app for the iPhone (and soon Android) that lets you upload abitrary maps or diagrams – and even not especially geographically sensible maps – to their website, geo-reference them, and then use them in real life via your phone’s GPS.

Sound complicated? Not really – here’s a simple example.

The London Underground map is notoriously non-geographic, and yet you can use it to navigate round the city.

SImilarly, here’s my current location on the equivalent Glasgow Subway map, for example:


I started to wonder what you could do with other types of input, and uploaded a couple of historic old (and out of copyright) maps I had lying around.

While wandering around town earlier this evening,  I was standing outside Glasgow’s fantastic Central Station, and fired up MakkaMappa.

Here I am standing there if I was in 1820-odd, before the station was even built:

Photo 2

Or again here, having travelled forward to the 1890s, when it was the Caledonian Central Station…

Photo 1

I then thought, what if you hypothetically had access to high-res archive aerial photograhy of the city from the early 1960s, you could see where you were wandering down roads that don’t even exist any more – or stand in the middle of the St Enoch Centre, and see yourself in the late lamented St Enoch Station – so here I am, if I did have access to such aerial photography, in the same spot as in the earlier screenshots…

Photo 3

If you want to try this out for yourself – and you should! – the 1820s and 1890s maps are available to download through MakkaMappa here – the light version is free to download for up to a couple of maps; the full version is just £1.19 in the App Store at the moment, and well worth it in my opinion. You can either choose to upload your own maps or diagrams, or just make use of the ones that other people have already uploaded, from the Glasgow Uni campus map, to snowboarding details in the USA.

It’s a fantastic little program, and the possibilities of how it could be used to explore the past, present and future of any city – or any spaces that can be mapped – are endless….




About Gordon Barr

Old buildings fan, ex-scientist, software dev, old cinemas buff, occasional boffin & cow-wrangler. Too many books, too few bookshelves.
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