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Old railways

Mapping old railways of France, Belgium, Luxembourg, UK and Germany.


At the beginning of 20th century, Europe had a dense rail network. A large part of these railways was abandoned from World War I to nowadays.

Our goal is to retrieve the print of abandoned railways in online aerial and satellite images. We propose a map of these railways that can be displayed on orthoimages. So our work is more Remote Sensing than History, though other information sources can be used to fill out the gaps.

Interactive map

The map shows the drawing of railways superimposed on Google orthoimages.

Display the map

Map screenshot

Legend :

  • red: freight and travellers,
  • orange: freight only,
  • purple: high-speed railway line,
  • blue: abandoned railways (standard track gauge),
  • pale blue: abandoned railways (metre track gauge).

About accuracy

The accuracy of the railway drawings depends directly on the accuracy of the Google orthoimages, that depends on the used DEM (describing the terrain height). For instance, Google uses the SRTM; it has about a 30 m resolution, so it does not take into account sharp height variations, such as bridges or cliffs.

The average accuracy of the drawn railways is about a few meters, plus the orthoimage accuracy, that can be high on montainous regions. The lack of accuracy is outlined when the images are updated: the railways drawn on old images are shifted on the new images.