WERMA – West-Europe Rail Map Archive


Project duration: 2022 - 2025 Date coverage: 1825 - 2025 Website Contact

Crowdsourcing / Citizens’ science GIS / HGIS Apps / Interfaces for data visualization Landscape reconstruction Maps Photos Platform for data aggregation or retrieval Tools for data enrichment

WERMA: West-Europe Rail Map Archive, a collaborative portal

2021 was the European Year of the Rail: Future must build onto the lessons of the Past.

  • Transportation emits more and more CO2, but the share of clean transports (maritime, rail) continues to decline. Reversing this trend requires a reliable historical documentation effort (cf. The European White Paper, 2011), what draws the Werma horizon: both historic and forward-looking, both local and cross-border
  • Rail was born two centuries ago: a good time span for a variety of social changes and major events. Western Europe spatial extent: rich range of political and cultural behaviors. Thus Werma objective is to carry out the geocoding of rail-infrastructures, as they exist or have existed, and empowering related archives with friendly tools.
  • Thousands of documents exist from countless rail enthusiasts, but such a “treasure” is endangered: some sites are no longer maintained / accessible. Facilitating their access is the Werma ambition.
  • Geocoding the past goes beyond heritage preservation. The making of the “digital twin” of our Planet is engaged: Destination Earth (ESA), Earth System Digital Twins (NASA), or Meta, Google, IBM betting on the “metaverse”. Werma postulate is that a digital twin must share the past of its real “sister”.
  • Rail is the most sustainable mode of land transport, yet it has been largely weakened for several decades. Its rehabilitation is the Werma motivation through high quality data, and user-friendly software.

Rail Historical Landmarks

  1. The Stockton-Darlington railway: first steam engine on iron rail, 1825
  2. Andrézieux – Saint Etienne: first French railway line, 1827
  3. Mechelen: initial center of the Belgian rail web, 1835 (étoile de Malines)
  4. Tourcoing/Mouscron, Liège/Aachen, Saarbrücken/Metz: crossing borders, 1842-51;
  5. Saint-Gottard: first international rail tunnel, 1882;
  6. Gare-de-Lyon / Lyon-Part-Dieu: first commercial high-speed rail (TGV) 1981;
  7. Folkestone / Calais: the Chunnel, 1994;
  8. (planned: night trains yesterday and tomorrow Why sleeper trains are being revived across Europe)

Generic WERMA application (all stations collected so far)

Task plan (ordered by present degree of achievement)

  • To collect and geolocate all stations from the West-Europe main rail lines. So far: mainly France, Germany, Luxembourg-Belgium. Seeking additional European partners.
  • To collect and geolocate stations on lost lines (disused, dismantled), including tramway / metric lines. So far (june 2024): France:95%, Belgium 85%, Germany-Luxembourg < 10% (expected deadline: end 2024?).
  • To code routines for accessing Wikipedia “rail”-pages. So far: Wikipedia-“station”-pages accessed via geosearch-API. Wikipedia-“line”-pages(fr only) are parsed. Adaptations needed for (en,nl,de) versions.
  • To index every rail-related open data, mostly VGI*. So far: a dozen websites identified, four of them partly or totally indexed. Many more expected. (*:Volunteer Geographic Information.)
  • To code routines for VGI data extraction. Some automation is possible, if some “semantic” info is present in a VGI website. So far: about 10000 links to pictures of stations are automatically recorded. Thousands more expected.
  • To build the adjacency matrix of the network: intended as an input to weighed route computations. So far: algorithm coded, data structure adapted. Some datasets must be made compliant with the code + interface in progress: DONE june 2024.
  • To code route computation (shortest path, etc.). Achievement: expected early 2023.
  • To collect the dates (valid-from, valid-to) for lines, and stations. So far: France:80% of lines. Additional routines needed to extract data for stations.
  • To code routines for merging socio-demo-eco information (population, distance to station, etc.). Achievement: expected end 2023 (postponed 2024).

(tiny url for this page = https://tinyurl.com/mt2534df)

We are looking for additional partners (eg. contributor to any rail-website in West-Europe). Mailto:contact with subject=”WERMA”.

Project partners

Other partners

  • Railstation-Belgique
  • Plattform Mobilität Saar-Lor-Lux
  • France Ferroviaire / Groupe d’Études pour l’Histoire Ferroviaire
  • Archéologie Ferroviaire
  • Cergy-Paris Université (pending approval)

Public datasets


The Data Model (either WERMA-CARP or INSPIRE) provides lines connectivity, and stations order by line. The format is GeoJSON. Additional files (JSON by station / lines / country) are designed for joining rail features with information from a variety of sources (a dozen websites collecting pictures, history information).

License: CC BY-SA