WERMA – West-Europe Rail Map Archive


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

Crowdsourcing / Citizens’ science GIS / HGIS 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, and 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). Thousands of documents exist from public or association archives and countless rail enthusiasts. Facilitating access to these amounts of data is the Werma ambition: both historic and forward-looking, both local and nationwide (and cross-border).
  • Rail was born two centuries ago; it is a good time scale to cover a variety of social changes and major events. The West Europe spatial range presents a rich array of different political and cultural approaches. Thus, the Werma objective is to carry out the exhaustive geocoding of all rail-linked European places, as they exist or have existed, and enable archives visualization and simulation with friendly tools.
  • Geo-coding past infrastructures goes beyond heritage preservation. The making of the “digital twin” of our Planet is engaged in Europe (Destination Earth-ESA), in the USA (Earth System Digital Twins-NASA) and by large private groups (Meta, Google, IBM, etc.) betting on the “metaverse” market. Thereby, the 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, including the last two. Its rehabilitation is the Werma motivation by producing high quality data, and by offering ease of use by relevant and user-friendly software.

Places samples (rail historical landmarks).

  1. Stockton-Darlington railway: first steam engine on iron rail line 1825;
  2. Andrézieux – Saint Etienne: first French railway line;
  3. Mechelen (Malines): initial center of the Belgian rail web 1835;
  4. Tourcoing – Mouscron: first international rail crossing 1842;
  5. Saarbrücken – Metz: first German-French rail crossing 1852;
  6. Saint-Gottard: first international rail tunnel 1882;
  7. Paris-Gare-de-Lyon – Lyon-Part-Dieu: first commercial high-speed rail (TGV) 1981;
  8. Folkestone – Calais: the Chunnel 1994;

The project is seeking for additional partners, and volunteers, or any contributor to rail-related website (eg. from UK, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Austria): write to Contact with “WERMA” in Object field.

Task plan.

(ordered by present degree of achievement)

  • To collect and geolocate all stations from the West-Europe main rail lines. Achievement: 99% France, 90% Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium. Full 100% expected end 2022.
  • To collect and geolocate the stations from most other lines (closed, disused), including tramway lines and older metric lines. Achievement: 90% France, 30% Belgium, 10% Germany, Luxembourg. Full 100% expected mid 2023.
  • To build the adjacency matrix for the set of stations of each country, to be used as an input to weighed route computations. Achievement: in progress, then should sync with the geolocating pace.
  • To code software routines for extracting heritage information available on the Internet, about stations and lines. Achievement: Wikipedia (fr), to be adapted to Wikipedia (en,nl,de) versions; partial data extraction from the websites of this project partners, and similar websites.
  • To code software routines for route computation (shortest path, etc.). Achievement: expected September 2022.
  • To collect the dates (valid-from, valid-to) for lines, and stations, if differing. Achievement: 80% of French lines; additional routines to be coded before final completion (end 2023?).
  • To code software routines for merging socio-demo-eco information (population, distance to station, etc.). Achievement: expected end 2023.

Project partners

Other partners

  • Railstation-Belgique
  • Plattform Mobilität Saar-Lor-Lux
  • Cercle Historique du Rail Français
  • Cergy-Paris Université (pending approval)

Public datasets


Set of about 14000 French stations (in 11000 different French "communes"), plus 2000 junction nodes and some additional nodes (viaducts, rail-lines crossings, border crossings). The connectivity of rail-lines is given by the model (similar to INSPIRE). The basic file is a GEOJSON Point format dataset.

License: CC BY-SA